Tom Pidcock says he wants cyclo-cross to have “three kings” rather than two as he prepares to take on Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert at the world championships in Ostend on Sunday.
Dutchman Van der Poel and Belgian Van Aert have between them won the last six elite world titles and will be heavy favourites once again in Belgium this weekend. But Britain’s 21-year-old rising star Pidcock who becomes a WorldTour rider with Ineos as of Monday did beat Van der Poel at an event in December and feels the gap to the leading duo is closing.
“I don’t think I am on their level, not yet,” Pidcock said. “I’m certainly close. But that’s my ambition. I want to join their league. At the moment they’re the two guys of ’cross. When I do well, people say ‘Now there are three kings of ’cross’. But then I do a race where I’m not as good, and then there’s only two. I want to try and confirm my place with those guys at the top.”
Pidcock was a surprise runner-up at the world championships last year but so rapid has been his progression through the ranks — despite his tender years, he led the British team at the world road race championships last autumn — he will have no chance of taking anyone by surprise this year.
Like Evie Richards, who goes in the elite women’s race on Saturday after finishing sixth in Switzerland last year, Pidcock says the sandy course in Ostend is not ideal for him. But he says he plans to race his own race and see where that leaves him.
“It’s probably the worst course for the worlds [for me], but I think at the end of the day the fittest guys will be at the front come the finish line, unless I make many mistakes, which I hope I won’t,” he said.
He added: “For me, if I take the lead, I ride much faster, ie if I ride my own race, that’s always been the best way for me to race.”
Pidcock added that he was looking forward to joining Ineos full time, although he was non-committal on his racing programme for the rest of the year. A first grand tour at the Vuelta a España has been mentioned, and the road worlds again, while he is openly targeting Strade Bianche this spring.
Pidcock also confirmed that he wants to race mountain bike for Team GB at the Olympics in Tokyo this summer. Qualification will depend on what other nations do but Britain are close to securing a place and Pidcock hopes the selectors look favourably on him if they do.
“They [the selectors] like a story — me — coming to mountain bike, so it’s quite probably… it’s quite a good chance,” he said. “But I’m trying to stay focused on the weekend.
“It’s the end of the journey with Trinity. I want to do myself and the team proud. It kind of feels like now this is the moment… everything I’ve done so far in cycling, it’s like you have two phases in your career and I’ve done phase one now as of Sunday. And then phase two is actually being full pro in an elite team. And that starts as of the 1st Feb.”