The European Cyclo-Cross Championships were held in Pont Chateau, France last weekend. ‘A Flatlands Fest, no doubt’ I hear you say. Well, the Ladies’ race was won by Thalita De Jong of the Netherlands; the U23 Men’s went to Quinten Hermans of Belgium and in a tactical Elite race former past and present World Champions, Mathieu Van Der Poel (Netherlands) and Wout Van Aert (Belgium) finished second and third respectively behind Toon Aerts of – Belgium. But to break the Benelux monopoly, the junior race was won by an English rider, 17 years-old Tom Pidcock from Leeds.
Pidcock was fifth in the 2016 Junior World Championship earlier this season so his win isn’t ‘out of the blue’ – especially after a road season which saw him perform well on the European junior scene including a win in La Philippe Gilbert UCI 1.1 junior road race in Liege, Belgium and a top 10 in the prestigious Trofeo Karlsberg, Nations Cup (Junior World Cup) stage race in Germany.
A product of the GB ‘Cycling Academy’ where track racing is the bed rock with road racing then built upon that, he’s their first big cyclo-cross success and must be viewed as one of the favorites for the Junior World Championships in Biele, Luxembourg at the end of January 2017.
VeloVeritas was on the case the day after his win to hear what he had to say.
A fine win, Thomas, congratulations – the basics first please; how old are you, from where and how did you get into the bike?
“I’m 17 from Leeds in Yorkshire. I got into cycling because my dad has been a cyclist since he was 16 and I always rode to school and so it’s evolved from there.”
You had a nice result in the big race at Hoogerheide – second place, later last ‘cross season, did that get you thinking about what was possible?
“I knew I had the ability to be up there in World Cups last year but the grid positioning (based on a nation’ standing in the overall world rankings, ed.) held me back.
“Hoogerheide was amazing because it was a wide course meaning I could overtake and get to the front.”
And you were eighth in the Euros last year so it must have been a big target, this year?
“Well, yes of course any championship is a big goal but this year it’s the just a stepping stone to the Worlds.”
What was the parcours like – what tyres did you ride?
“It was fairly up and down and bone dry. I rode the Challenge Dune T.E.S 33 mil. sand tubulars.”
Tell us about your bike.
“It’s an English Paul Milnes frame with Shimano Dura Ace groupset and Forza components.”
Talk us through the race.
“Well, the start straight was the longest I have ever seen and so I knew it would be fairly difficult to stay near the front at the end of the straight.
“Standing on the start line for 10 minutes is actually a horrible experience especially on the front row because there are all these cameras and people all looking at you and you’re trying to keep focused to the race.
“In the race the French tried to control it from the gun because they always ride well at home.
“But I stayed back out of trouble and did what I needed to in the first lap.
“Then it came back together and a French rider countered over the line.
“I went with him and then that was it, I dropped him and then I had a camp and controlled it to the finish.”
You must have the Worlds in mind now?
“The Worlds has been on my mind since I finished fifth in it last year behind the Dutch rider, Jens Dekker.”
British Cycling perhaps have a name for not giving the best support to ‘cross riders…
“It could be better budget wise but they are very supportive allowing me to do cross and sacrifice some things on the program.”
How have you settled in to the Academy routine?
“The structure of BC means that no step up is a big step. I was also on it last year so it’s just routine now.”
Isn’t it hard to juggle ‘cross/road/track?
“It’s hard switching bikes but apart from that, no because I like doing all of them and they all help each other.”
And it’s been a long season – you won the Clayton Velo Spring Classic back in February.
“It has been a long season but I’ve had a rest so now it’s like a new season. Clayton was a good start to the season and it took me a while to have another win after that.”
Tell us about La Philippe Gilbert – a nice result.
“Yes, it was mint because you go into these road races abroad that are point to point with no real idea of what’s going to happen and who the good riders are.”
A top 10 in the Trofeo Karlsberg – were you happy with that one?
“Yes, it was a hard race and pleased with a top 10 while working for my team mates.”
Those two races apart which road result gives you most satisfaction?
“That would be winning the final stage of the Junior Tour of Wales after being given an unfair three minute time penalty the day before.”
And 2017 is about?
“The World ‘cross champs then road racing – the junior Paris-Roubaix especially.”
Here at VeloVeritas we have the feeling it’s not the last time we’ll be speaking to this young man – GB’s first junior World Cyclo-Cross champion since Roger Hammond in Leeds in 1992 Watch this space…