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Tokyo Olympics: Heat chamber helps Tom Pidcock to 'best possible shape'

Tom Pidcock will compete in the cross-country mountain bike race for Great Britain at Tokyo Olympic Games
Tom Pidcock will compete in the cross-country mountain bike race for Great Britain at Tokyo Olympic Games (Image credit: Michal Červený)

Although his preparation hasn't quite been perfect, Tom Pidcock feels he's in the "best shape possible" as he targets Tokyo Olympic Games gold on the mountain bike early next week.

After swapping out his slick road tyres in the wake of a successful Classics campaign debut, the 21-year-old British all-rounder has similarly impressed at the elite level of cross-country mountain biking this summer.

However, after winning his first World Cup in Nové Mesto, he suffered a setback when he was hit by a car while training in Andorra in early June, breaking his collarbone in five places. He had an operation soon after and was back on the bike in less than a week, but it nevertheless left its mark.

"I don't really feel it all now to be honest, apart from in the airport with the rucksack, where it's quite irritating," Pidcock told reporters in a virtual press conference at his Tokyo hotel.

"I've done the best I can in my rehab and training to come back from it and I think I'm in pretty good shape now. I'm in best shape possible going into the race as I can be, and that's the best I can do."

Pidcock added that the crash was the first time he had ever broken a bone, saying that he found the recovery and healing process to be a learning curve.

"The biggest thing I found was the energy it took for the bone to heal. That was a big learning curve for me because it's the first time I've broken a bone. I only had a week off the bike but still I couldn't train like I could before – for two or three weeks I could still feel the effects. For sure it has a bigger impact than just the obvious things.

"To be honest I've been pretty positive about it. It is what it is. I've learned you just have to get on with things after setbacks. I've never had a major one, but I had a big crash before Worlds in Yorkshire as well.

"That time and this time I've had limited time to get back to full fitness so it's about going full gas to get in shape as quick as possible."

Dealing with the heat

A key part of Pidcock's preparation has been geared around the conditions expected in Tokyo on Monday. Temperatures are forecast to exceed 30C, which, coupled with high humidity, is set to make for a draining race.

"It's the biggest factor," PIdcock insisted, explaining that he had set up a temperature-controlled tent in his spare room to simulate the conditions in the build-up to Tokyo.

"I've been doing a lot of heat work, which I'm happy to tell everyone now, but before I didn't want to advertise it in case someone downplays the heat.

"Basically, At the end of training I jump in heat chamber for 30-45 minutes and sit in a really hot box pedalling very slowly. My spare room has a tent in it. It keeps tripping the electricity actually, that's the only problem."

When it comes to preparation, Pidcock suggested that one of his main rivals, Mathieu van der Poel, had been compromised slightly as well, although not by injury but by the Tour de France. The Dutchman, who Pidcock faces in cyclo-cross and on the road in the Classics, had a successful Tour debut, winning a stage and wearing the yellow jersey for a week, but left just before the first rest day.

"It was sponsor obligation, so he didn't have any choice. It shows it's not ideal preparation the fact he pulled out after one week," Pidcock said about Van der Poel racing the Tour.

"But he had a really good Tour. He's going to be 100 per cent going into this, I expect. It's a big target of his – he's not going to give anything but his best."

Pidcock arrived in Tokyo on Saturday, staying in the Team GB hotel for the first few days before moving on to the 'cycling village', which he says has mainly been "full of mountain bikers" and "just like a World Cup".

He has been training but only today and over the weekend will he head out to get to grips with the Izu MTB course, which is 4 kilometres long with around 180 metres of elevation gain per lap.

"I haven't seen it yet. There's a video but I didn't really watch it. You can get the wrong perception and overthink it so I prefer to see it myself in real life," Pidcock said. "But it's hilly, it's got short steep climbs, and from what I can tell it's quite technical."

Pidcock described his first Olympics as a "crazy" experience so far, although he acknowledged that it's "not a very normal" Games, given the coronavirus pandemic, which has led to reduced mixing in the Olympic village and a ban on spectators.

"It's cool being at a Games and getting to represent my country," he said.

It seems he's already got a taste for it, and it's perhaps a mark of the 21-year-old's ambition that he's already looking ahead to Paris 2024.

"I was thinking about it today, and I want to go for the mountain bike and the road race in Paris – and the time trial as well, if they want me."

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Deputy Editor - Europe. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2021 he has been Deputy Editor - Europe, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.