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Strade Bianche the first goal of Tom Pidcock's all-action Spring

LAGOS PORTUGAL FEBRUARY 16 Thomas Pidcock of United Kingdom and Team INEOS Grenadiers competes during the 48th Volta Ao Algarve 2021 Stage 1 a 1991km at stage from Portimo to Lagos VAlgarve2022 on February 16 2022 in Lagos Portugal Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images
Tom Pidcock at the Volta ao Algarve (Image credit: Getty Images)

Shortly before the start of the opening stage of the Volta ao Algarve, the speaker was growing increasingly anxious about whether the final team in the running order would arrive on time for their slot in the pre-race presentation. "Ineos, please, Ineos to the podium," he announced with polite urgency.

At the third time of asking, the British squad emerged from their bus and soft pedalled towards the podium on Portimão’s elegant marina to the almost palpable relief of the speaker, not that there was any doubt that Ineos Grenadiers would eventually report for duty. Indeed, their lineup in Portugal this week includes a man who appears to be perpetually on call.

Last year, Tom Pidcock found time in his first season at WorldTour level to win mountain bike gold at the Tokyo Olympic Games. This winter, he became cyclo-cross world champion. Now, barely more than two weeks later, he begins his road season at the Volta ao Algarve.

His 2022 schedule is set to include a full Classics campaign, a Giro d’Italia debut and tilts at two more rainbow jerseys, but over the coming days in southern Portugal, Pidcock’s principal aim is to familiarise himself all over again with the demands of the road after a winter on the cyclo-cross circuit. 

Pidcock spends his cycling life toggling between disciplines, in the manner of Deion Sanders or Bo Jackson flitting between baseball and American football, and he rarely seems to miss a beat during the transitions. The switch from cyclo-cross to road, he explained on Wednesday, is mercifully more benign than the reverse. 

"The hardest is going to cyclo-cross, for sure," Pidcock said. "With this one, the only thing is the endurance, but that comes. And I already got good a base from the training camps in the winter, so it shouldn’t be a problem really." 

Nothing ever seems to be for Pidcock, who last year went directly from mountain bike gold in Tokyo to a Grand Tour debut at the Vuelta a España. In the days since he claimed the cyclo-cross Worlds in Fayetteville, Pidcock found time for a short break in New York before returning to Europe for the third dose of his COVID-19 vaccine. 

He then spent the week before the Volta ao Algarve training in the region, initially alone, and later with teammates Geraint Thomas and Dylan van Baarle.

"I’m good. I had a short break, I did some good training this week in Algarve and I’m looking forward to racing again," said Pidcock, who added that he had no designs on the general classification at the Volta ao Algarve.

"Dani [Martinez] is our GC leader and I’ve kind of got a free role, just to see where I am. I did some pretty decent training, but I’ve had a break and I haven’t raced yet on the road. It will be interesting to see where my level is." 

The 32.2km time trial on the penultimate day is likely to decide the final overall standings, and while his teammates Thomas and Martinez will expect to be to the fore in Tavira, Pidcock has designs on testing himself on this race’s two summit finishes, on the Alto da Fóia on Thursday and atop the Alto do Malhão on the final stage.

"I’ve done no preparation in time trialling so it doesn’t make sense to push in the time trial, but on stage 2 and stage 5 I can test myself," he said. "I think I’m in good shape, but I think stage 2 will see where I am. I think it’s about finding the road legs now."

He at least found the road shoes from where he last left them. As Pidcock stood by the podium area, someone pointed to a scuff on his footwear. He shrugged. "That’s from my crash when I broke my collar bone [in June - ed.]," he said. "The cleats are in the right place, so I still wear them." 

Strade Bianche the first target

After the Volta ao Algarve, Pidcock travels northwards for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, where he last year underscored his obvious potential on the road with third place. 

While Pidcock suggested he might still be finding his road legs come this season’s Opening Weekend, the first firm objective of his campaign comes a week later when he takes on Strade Bianche, where he placed fifth last year.

"The first goal is Strade," confirmed Pidcock, who will have plenty of them across the spring, with Milan-San Remo, Dwars door Vlaanderen, the Tour of Flanders, Amstel Gold Race, Brabantse Pijl, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège all on his provisional schedule. 

The one concession to rest comes when he forgoes E3-Classic and Gent-Wevelgem in favour of a short spell at altitude, but less than two weeks after Liège he will be back into the fray at the Giro d'Italia.

"Tom sees that as his first Grand Tour, because he rode the Vuelta last year without specific preparation," his coach Kurt Bogaerts told Het Laatste Nieuws this week.

Most riders would take a rest after such a flurry of activity, but Pidcock will settle for a change. In late summer, he is scheduled to ride the mountain bike Worlds in Les Gets and he is among the favourites for the road Worlds in Wollongong a month later, though he downplayed his prospects of simultaneously holding rainbow jerseys in three disciplines.

"That is a goal…" Pidcock smiled. "But everyone is saying this year. I didn’t say this year; I just said at one point."

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Barry Ryan

Barry Ryan is European Editor at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation (opens in new tab), published by Gill Books.