The extremely versatile Tom Pidcock, the reigning Olympic mountain bike champ and a former cyclocross world champ, has long been seen as a Grand Tour GC rider of the future for the Ineos Grenadiers. A strong climber who won the Baby Giro as an up-and-coming prospect back in 2020, he has mainly focused his road racing efforts on one-day races or smaller stage racing prizes thus far in his career, but that may be starting to change.
Earlier this week, Ineos team principal Rod Ellingworth said that the goal for Tom Pidcock at the upcoming Tour was to go “a step further” after his debut in the race last season.
Exactly what that next step forward might be was left unclear, but considering the success the young British star had in 2022, it certainly sounded like a lofty goal. Later in the week, Pidcock himself clarified where that step might take place.
On the heels of a strong Tour de France debut at last year’s race, where Pidcock stormed to an impressive stage victory on the iconic Alpe d’Huez, the 23-year-old Brit is back for a second Tour start hunting for more stage wins –but he does have the general classification on his mind this year too.
“I think I want to try and achieve both. I want to make a step in riding GC,” Pidcock said at an Ineos press conference this week. “Personally, I want to go for stages as my main priority, but yeah, without losing [time] and still focusing on GC.” How does that dual focus work? For Pidcock it’s a matter of how those stage wins might come.
“I want to try and win from the lead group or the favorites group and not from the breakaway, which keeps me on GC,” he said. “I think last year I started quite well. And then, yeah, in the mountains, I think is where I can make the step and that’s where I’d like to see myself improve,” Pidcock said.
“I’m a light rider. So it should suit my characteristics. But yeah, longer efforts are where I think I can make the biggest step. In that case, I can make a step in the GC and and also my general performance in the Tour so that’s what I would like to see the next three weeks.”
In other words, Pidcock is keen to see how well things go when the overall contenders are really battling it out on their favored terrain.
Last year, focusing mainly on stage wins and also on helping teammate Geraint Thomas land on the podium, Pidcock was already strong enough to land 16th overall in Paris. With a more concerted focus on the general classification this time – while still being very much in the hunt for stage wins – Pidcock’s next few weeks will be a particularly interesting storyline to watch.
For the first time in recent memory, the Ineos Grenadiers are without even a second-tier contender for the yellow jersey at the Tour de France this year. For one thing, it’s Egan Bernal’s first Tour back since a devastating crash at the start of 2022 nearly ended his career. Bernal and his team are still hopeful that he can work his way back to the form that made him one of the sport’s brightest stars only a few seasons ago, but Ineos is putting no public pressure on him this year, so it seems unlikely that the squad will pour all of its efforts into supporting one GC hopeful through all three weeks.
That anomalous state of affairs for the team that dominated this race for so many years could give Pidcock, a Grand Tour hopeful of the future, a bit more freedom to ride his own race and see how well he can do against the Grand Tour contenders of the present.
While the high mountains later in the race will be the real test, Pidcock won’t have long to wait for an early chance to mix it up with the yellow jersey favorites. The Tour’s Basque Country start features plenty of punchy climbs, and Pidcock could be in the mix right away on the opening stage.
As the Tour start looms, Pidcock seems ready to put his form to the test, and at the very least, the past few weeks have not featured a COVID-19 positive and recovery the way they did in the run-up to last year’s race.
“I know from trainings I’ve done the last week that I’m doing pretty good,” he said. “Going into the first stage of a Grand Tour is always a bit of a question mark, but I think my preparations have gone better than last year because I managed to get through without getting COVID. It could be worse.”
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