The fact that Tom Pidcock trailed home in 42nd place in the road race at the UCI Road World Championships in Imola only told one side of a race that demonstrated once more that the British rider has a bright future at the top of the sport, and that British Cycling should remain committed to building a team around the 21-year-old.
The winner of this year’s Baby Giro, and the future Ineos rider, was a constant presence at the front of the peloton for the majority of his elite Worlds debut before eventually cracking on the final lap of the 258km race. This was by far the longest race of his career and under normal Worlds conditions he would have found himself in the U23 field, but with COVID-19 restricting the championships to Elite-only events, the British rider was allowed dispensation to move up a category.
The British team built their modest hopes around Pidcock and Luke Rowe shepherded his future trade teammate around the race, often keeping him out of the wind and well protected. On the final lap, however, when the winning moves were made Pidcock ran out of gas but at the finish, he understandably focused on the positive aspects.
“It was a mega experience to be fair. I didn’t have the legs. I could have said that before but I went in with confidence and rode as if I was there to be in a position to win. I was, and Luke put me in that position, and I just didn’t have the endurance or the legs but what can I say,” he told Cyclingnews at the finish.
"There was no pressure coming into it, and I was here to learn. That’s what I did. It’s good for the future. Every climb it was a little bit more on the legs and then 260km is a really long way. In the last lap, all I could do was ride. That was as full gas as I could go. There’s plenty of positives to take because I’m 21 and I should have been riding the U23 race but here I am leading in the elite race. It was a good day and a great experience. It will help me in the future when I do have the legs to try and win."
Pidcock’s continued rise in the sport has been nothing short of sensational over the last few seasons. He has combined his passion for cyclo-cross with his abilities to mix in road and mountain biking, but in 2021 his focus will switch closer towards his future as a road rider. His complete programme has yet to be announced but he will likely focus on the spring classics during his debut WorldTour campaign.
“I’m going to try and come out of the winter and then go into the Classics with those races as my goal. That’s going to be my goal. I’ll just try and build my endurance."
Rowe, who captained the British team, and who ensured that Pidcock remained on contention for as long as possible, was full of admiration for his young teammate.
“I hope he’s not disappointed because for a young lad to go to the World Championships of 270k and blow up after 250km, there’s no shame in that,” Rowe said.
“This is a team for the future and I think that he can be proud of what he’s achieved. He’s tested himself there and up until the moment he exploded he had done everything right. My job was to stay with him as long as possible and nurse him around and I think that we worked well together. He can hold his head high.”
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