The first day of the 2017 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Bieles, Luxembourg kicked off with a clean sweep for the British team. The 17-year-old top favourite Thomas Pidcock lived up to the high expectations placed upon him and completed a long solo on the icy course.
"I just made sure I didn't crash, really. I just stayed upright and I let my legs do the work," Pidcock said in the post-race flash interview.
The best teams in the world are keen to attract Pidcock, including some WorldTour teams and the best cyclo-cross squads, such as Sven Nys' Telenet Fidea Lions. With his splendid ride in Bieles, his price will not have dropped. Pidcock is often referred to as the new Sagan. As far as these comparisons go, Sagan fell just short of the world title at the 2008 UCI Cyclo-cross World championships on a fast course in Treviso, Italy.
Pidcock joined race leader Maxime Bonsergent (France) at the end of a tumultuous opening lap. The French rider was unable to keep up and Pidcock was alone for more than three laps. Halfway through, during the third of five laps, he briefly halted to fix his brakes but still enjoyed an advantage of more than 20 seconds. During the penultimate lap, Pidcock was flying. He clocked the fastest lap time of the day while including a Mathieu van der Poel-style sidekick jump at a fly-over. He dealt perfectly with the icy conditions, showing off brilliant technical skills.
Multiple riders struggled on their bike on a difficult off-camber descent with a 180 degrees corner. Pidcock couldn't be bothered and ran the whole section, throwing his bike sideways in the corners. At the finish, he was high-fiving with the crowd before coming to a stop and lifting his bike over the finish line. From there, Pidcock sat just beyond the finish to see if his compatriots would be able to join him on the podium. When that worked out, Pidcock burst into tears, joining runner-up Daniel Tulett and third-placed Ben Turner.
"It's history, it's amazing, all three of us on the podium," Pidcock said, bursting into tears.
Pidcock is only the first British rider to win the junior men title at the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships since 1992 in Leeds. Back then, Roger Hammond won the rainbow jersey. Hammond currently is manager at the Team Dimension Data WorldTour team.
During the days before the event, it was freezing cold and snow covered the challenging course in Bieles, Luxembourg. On Saturday morning, temperatures went up and it started to rain, making the course even more slippery. Pidcock was informed by his older compatriots that it was much more slippery than anticipated. "Before the race, some of the U23 riders went out and said it was sheet ice. I did a last-minute tyre change onto file treads. I guess that paid off. They were perfect for the conditions," Pidcock said.
Pidcock is considered as a massive talent. On the road, he won the junior edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the 'la Philippe Gilbert juniors'. He also captured the title at the European cyclo-cross championships in Pont-Château, France. He won two out of three World Cup rounds this season, being confronted with mechanical problems in the third.
Having one nation dominate the podium at the World Championships in cyclo-cross has happened before but it's rare that a nation other than Belgium has done so in recent years. In the junior men category, Belgium dominated the Hoogerheide podium in 2014 and the Czech did it as well in Tábor back in 2001.