Thomas Pidcock will get his first full season of elite-level cyclo-cross underway at the weekend, riding in the new colours of Trinity Racing. The team, launched at Red Bull Studios in London on Tuesday evening, is based on the same structure as his last outfit, TP Racing, but this season will be a lot different for the 20-year-old.
Speaking to Cyclingnews at the team launch, Pidcock laid out his ambitions for the winter, stating that he hopes to be in the battle for podium places throughout the season, his first after making the step up from the U23 ranks.
After a long road season, which culminated – eventually – with a bronze medal in the U23 road race at his home World Championships, Pidcock will get back into the rhythm of 'cross racing at Poldercross in Belgium on Saturday, before heading to the first round of the Superprestige trophy across the Dutch border in Gieten on Sunday.
"For the first few weeks I just want to be getting into it - just no stress at all. But then I want to be mixing it for the podium," Pidcock said.
"Then, obviously, the World Championships, like every year, are the main goal, and I want to try and get on the podium there."
He has experience in doing just that, of course. He won the junior cyclo-cross Worlds in Luxembourg back in 2017, and earlier this year he added U23 gold to his laundry list of achievements, comfortably beating Belgian talent Eli Iserbyt in Denmark.
Iserbyt has also made the step up to the elites this season and, having already started his season with the World Cup double-header in the USA, has proved that U23 riders can do what Pidcock is hoping to achieve right away.
The 21-year-old comprehensively won both races in Waterloo and Iowa City, beating more seasoned campaigners such as Toon Aerts, Laurens Sweeck and Lars van der Haar by around a minute on each occasion. Pidcock maintains that Iserbyt's campaign so far is proof that youth is no barrier to success at the top level.
"At the end of last year, I got in the elite races a couple of times [including Diegem and the GP Sven Nys – Ed.], and then this year Iserbyt is leading the World Cup," Pidcock said.
"I was racing against him and beat him at the World and European Championships last year. That gives me confidence, that he's done that."
Pidcock won five Superprestige races and four at the World Cup last season en route to taking the overall titles at both, as well as winning the World, European and British U23 titles. Having had the beating of Iserbyt quite handily last year, he would, logically, be the favourite in upcoming match-ups between the two.
That probably won't be the case right away, given that the Yorkshireman last turned a 'cross pedal in anger back in February. In fact, he only got back on a 'cross bike this week.
"I've just finished the road season," he said. "I went on holiday and I've been running and that's it. I rode my 'cross bike for the first time today."
Once he's up to speed, an even bigger challenge will rear its head, with the dominant force in cyclo-cross, Mathieu van der Poel, set to return in the coming weeks. The Dutchman won 32 races last season and is expected to dominate once again this time around, especially with Wout Van Aert recovering from his Tour de France injury.
That pair have become dual-discipline pioneers in the past season, transitioning seamlessly to the road and taking big wins in the Spring Classics and at the Tour de France. Pidcock has achieved similar feats at U23 level, this year combining his impressive 'cross palmarès with wins at Paris-Roubaix Espoirs and the Tour Alsace, among others.
"It's not as such that they're role models setting that sort of path," said Pidock of the duo. "I think I would have done it anyway, but they're certainly leading the way in terms of multi-discipline riders.
"To be honest, I don't know if they are beatable," he added, noting that he's just at the start of his journey. "They're older than me and better than me. But I'll certainly give it a good go, and in the next few years I will be racing against them. This year is [about] finding my feet in the elites and doing what I need to do."