At 19, Joe Pidcock is already making a name for himself in Europe, having joined Groupama-FDJ’s development team at the start of the year. The British rider is the younger brother of Ineos Grenadiers’ Tom Pidcock, and while he has dabbled in cyclo-cross and mountain biking, he firmly believes that his future is on the road.
Cyclingnews caught up with Joe in between races in France to talk about his development, why he moved to a French team, and dealing with the pressures and expectations that come with racing with the Pidcock name.
What we found was a well balanced young rider with both ambition and a sense of maturity that should hold him in good stead over the coming years.
Cyclingnews: So how did you get into cycling?
Joe Pidcock: I’ve been cycling since I can remember. My dad did it, and still does, and my brother does it too and I guess I followed from there. I was racing when I was an under 8, so for as long as I can remember I’ve been cycling and racing, and to be honest I don’t really know anything else.
Growing up in that environment helps if you want to be a good cyclist but we’re not completely mad about it. Of course we watch most races on television and I’ve known since I was young that I wanted to be pro rider but to be honest I never really wanted to do anything else.
CN: Did you start off in cyclo-cross and then move onto the road or was it the other way around?
JP: My first race was on the road but the truth is that the family never originally planned on racing ‘cross. My dad didn’t like it because it meant you needed two bikes and one of them would get destroyed after a year. I did some mountain biking when I was little and I might start up again in the future but cyclo-cross was never that big for me and I never really enjoyed it. At a certain point, I don’t feel the need for it anymore. It’s cold, it’s wet, it’s dirty and it would always mean sacrificing some of my road season. I’m not as adaptable as Tom in that sense.
CN: The age gap between you and your brother isn’t that big so has that acted as an inspiration in the sense that you can see what he’s doing in the here and now?
JP: The gap is just two and a half years and it’s definitely helped. It provided me with reassurance that I could be good enough to be a cyclist. We’re made of the same stuff but there’s also a negative side to it as well. He’s one of the best cyclists in the world and I expect myself to be at that level sometimes, which I’m not.
CN: So is there pressure that you put on yourself or does it come from outside with people saying ‘well Tom is really good, so Joe will be too’?
JP: I think it’s a bit of both because of course I put pressure on myself but then there’s also all the people that I feel expect something from me. I joined this team to mainly get away from it. I mean if I’d joined a team like Trinity, where Tom raced, them I’m Tom’s brother but if I join FDJ, which has nothing to do with Tom then I’m just myself. I don’t feel like I’m Tom’s brother at all on this team.
CN: So how did the deal with Equipe Continentale Groupama-FDJ come about then?
JP: One of the coaches messaged me on Instagram and around the same time I was emailing teams and looking for a ride for the year. The coach messaged me, I emailed the boss and we just set up a meeting. That was pretty much it and Groupama-FDJ sounded like the best option at the time, and still is. It’s great here.
CN: What were your options at the start of the year and what were you looking for?
JP: I just applied to all the teams that I knew. Jumbo, SEG, Trinity and Lotto, I think, but this was the best option. The boss here seemed like a really nice guy and everything just seemed to be well run and put together. It’s the third year of the team and all the riders stay in the service course so I don’t have to travel much unless I’m going to a race. When I met the team we didn’t really talk about specific races but it was more about explaining to me that I’d be paid to do a good amount of races and that I was going to live inside the team. I was just sold on the team instantly.
CN: Did you look at a rider like Jake Stewart, who has come through the system on Groupama-FDJ and is now tearing it up in the WorldTour and see that as an example of a British rider making it on a French team?
JP: Definitely. There’s also Lewis Askey on the team at the moment with me. I asked Lewis about it and he explained how good the team was and that was really important to me because obviously I was quite nervous about the idea of joining. It’s a French team and I didn’t speak any French before I came. The French still isn’t great. I’m dyslexic but I’m really trying, but it is hard. The team has been great though and really helped by setting up lessons for me.
If I’d gone to a team like Trinity I think it would have been a really comfortable set-up for me. It’s a really good team but I know all the guys and wanted this next step to take me away from that so that I could learn, develop, grow up and learn to live on my own. I’d still live at home if I was on Trinity. I still get to go home, I’ve been home once this year and I’ll go again next week but I really like it.
CN: How have you found the racing this year? I think you’ve had about two weeks of competition in total.
JP: I think I’m on 10 days so far. It was really hard at first, especially having only had five days of racing last year. The first few days were so hard for me to finish in the front group but I’ve improved over time. At the recent race, the Tour de la Mirabelle, I was 14th in the prologue and then I got second on the second stage. On the third stage I didn’t feel good and I’ve been sick since.
CN: Do you feel like you’re starting to settle though now in terms of finding your feet in racing?
JP: I’ve gotten used to it. The first race was such a shock to the system and I was thinking that this couldn’t be what racing was like. But six races later I was on a podium, so I’m more comfortable. That second place came as a real surprise and I wasn’t expecting it. It’s done a lot for my confidence and it’s taken a lot of pressure off me. Before I was feeling the pressure of needing to do something but that’s been lifted.
CN: Is the name Pidcock a pressure?
JP: Sometimes. I did a big race a couple of weeks ago and before the start I was scared and I had the feeling of just wanted to take my name off my bike. I don’t know why. I think that I just felt so much pressure with it. I don’t think that I should be scared of it.
CN: Well you’re clearly doing well. You’ve settled in, you’ve got that second place, and it’s only your first year.
JP: I think that I just never really felt that confidence in the sense that I’m not full of myself. I maybe should have more confidence in myself and I sometimes don’t have enough belief in myself. That’s a bit of a problem when you need to win, and you don’t think that you can do it.
CN: Well the team clearly has faith in you, in that they gave you a chance and you’re repaying them.
JP: Of course, yeah.
CN: You’re only 19 and you’re still developing but Procyclingstats tell me you’re a sprinter. Is that accurate?
JP: Well I’m more of a sprinter than a climber but to be honest I don’t really know yet. If you ask what is Tom, I don’t know either. He’s next to Wout Van Aert in sprints in the Classics but he won the Baby Giro. Even someone like Pogacar, he’s a climber but then he goes and wins Liège, so there are just good riders and if you’re a good rider then you can do everything. Of course, some riders specialize but I don’t know what I am yet.
I want to stay in this team for a few more years but I think I just want to see what happens. When I just relax and let things take their course I seem to go well, like last week with that second place. I’m not going to sit here and say I’m going to go out there and win World Championships in a couple of years. That doesn’t mean much because everyone says that.
CN: Tell me what you like doing outside of cycling?
JP: I’ve always liked art and I studied it at school. So in the last few years, I’ve been painting some of my race shoes. I don’t think I’ll really wear them though, because they’re too nice. I’ve got a few of them posted on Instagram but I’ve started doing some for other people as well now. I didn’t think that it would turn into much but it’s something I really enjoy. George Bennett’s wife does the same thing but she’s really, really good. I’m not that good but it’s just something I’ve enjoyed doing. I wanted mine to be original.
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