Tom Pidcock. He’s young, he’s brash, and most importantly, he’s fast. And he’s the next big thing that no one’s heard of — at least beyond the English Channel.
Right now, the 20-year-old is happy under the radar. So much so, he’s spurning offers from the WorldTour. That’s bound to change, but only when he wants it to. With 2020 ambitions that include world championship cyclocross, road racing, mountain biking, and gravel, he’s in no rush to be constrained by the first WorldTour contract that comes his way.
“My long-term direction is all pretty up in the air at the moment,” he told VeloNews in a phone interview. “I’ll just see how it goes this year and let what I experience decide for me. There’s no rush for me to have a set direction or to step up to WorldTour.”
For those in the know among UK cycling circles, Pidcock is already a name. Racing for the Trinity team that was set up around him, the multi-discipline star is a U23 ‘cross world champion also boasting a bronze medal at the U23 road worlds, a U23 Paris-Roubaix victory, and a whole cabinet overflowing with awards.
This British Mathieu van der Poel is the star that many hope will be keeping British cycling burning bright long after the names Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas have waned in the memory, but he’s in no rush to hit the big time.
“I had interest from WorldTour teams this season, but my long-term plan doesn’t require me to go to the WorldTour yet,” he said. “My trajectory is exactly where I want it to be and it doesn’t require me to be in a WorldTour team. You can’t do MTB and gravel in a WorldTour team. I think being flexible and trying different things while I’m young will let me develop into a better rider in the long-term.”
Velonews spoke to the Yorkshireman the day after he’d been left disappointed with eight-place at the senior European cyclocross championships in Silvelle, Italy. Having beaten Eli Iserbyt in the U23 world cross championships in February 2019, the 20-year-old opted out of sitting pretty in the junior ranks for the 19-20 season.
Instead, this ‘cross season sees Pidcock embarking on his first full calendar at senior level. And so far, he’s proven more than comfortable ripping it up with his grizzled ‘crossers with more than 10 years’ experience. The Brit placed third in his first race of the season at Superprestige Boom, and followed that up with a fourth-place at Gavere – results that gave him the confidence that he had the cahones to be in the mix at the European championships.
“I felt sort of dead-legged and not myself,” he said of the boggy slog around the Silvelle course. “I did a lot of traveling in the week and it wasn’t the ideal run-up to the race, so I didn’t feel brilliant. Considering how I felt, I think I did a pretty good ride. On my day, I’ve got better in me.”
Having missed out in Silvelle, Pidcock is already turning his mind to the next challenge – the world championships.
“The ‘cross worlds is the biggest target of the year for me,” he said. “I want to get a podium there. I don’t think I can beat van der Poel this year, but I think I can get on the podium.”
The reigning U23 cyclocross champion clearly isn’t intimidated by going toe-to-toe with Dutch wunderkind van der Poel. His addition of ‘this year’ when he discusses beating the seemingly unstoppable Dutchman is telling – as far as Pidcock is concerned, one day, he will knock Mathieu from his perch.
Yorkshire-born Pidcock is the son of two keen cyclists, and by the age of 10, had already decided he was going to be a pro rider. After dominating the junior European cross and road scene through his teenage years, he started hitting the big time in 2017 with a junior world time trial championship win and first place overall at the U23 cyclocross world cup.
And then the ball was rolling. The following years saw him take the U23 world championship ‘cross title, Paris-Roubaix U23s, third in U23 road worlds, and a host of other successes. Placing ‘only’ third in the Harrogate road worlds in September this year left a bitter taste after he started as one of the favorites.
So, where does Pidcock see his career headed after such a stellar start? He’s not sure yet, but that’s not an issue for him.
“The ‘cross worlds are the big target for 2020. Then I’m going to ride Cape Epic mountain bike race, then Tours of Yorkshire and Britain, then I want to win the elite nationals. That’s all that’s decided so far,” he told VeloNews of his 2020 plans.
“As well as the road and cross I want to do some MTB and gravel, and just do stuff that helps me develop,” he continued. “I’d like to do Dirty Kanza, but it clashes with one of the other races I’m planning on doing. I’m looking at other big gravel races in the US for sure.”
The desire to race across four disciplines in 2020 drove Pidcock’s decision to race for team Trinity – a road and ‘cross outfit set up around him and run by his management team, Trinity Sports. Racing for his own team will allow him to compete domestically on the road with Trinity, and join the Great Britain team for the Tour of Britain and Tour de Yorkshire. More importantly for him, riding for Trinity will able him to dip his toe into mountain bike racing and the US gravel scene.
Riding ‘cross, road, MTB and gravel in one season may seem a lot for someone barely out of their teens, but he’s got the motor and motivation to try. And although he’s out for van der Poel’s scalp at the ‘cross worlds, the Dutchman is a source of inspiration too.
“Van der Poel and [Wout] van Aert certainly are role models,” he said. “They give me confidence that it’s possible to race at the highest level at the WorldTour and at the top in cyclocross.”
And if his ventures onto the gravel or trails of Cape Epic give him a passion for pursuing something wilder? Then so be it.
“I don’t think I’m developed or have enough experience yet to know where my strengths will be and what the long-term holds,” he said. “I’ll just race and let the legs decide.”
Whichever direction 2020 takes Pidcock, get used to the name, because by the end of the year, it’s going to be far more than just the Brits that are raving about him.