Face still caked in the stuff, Tom Pidcock (Trinity Racing) was well aware of the significance of what he’d just done over the course of an hour in the Gavere mud. "Today I think I came of age," he said in the aftermath of his Superprestige victory on Sunday.
This was Pidcock’s first major international victory as an elite cyclo-cross rider. There were plenty of encouraging performances from his debut campaign in the top level, not least his second place behind Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) at the World Championships in February, but Sunday’s victory marked a major step in his career.
The 21-year-old was best of the rest behind a peerless Van der Poel at Worlds, but in Gavere he dismantled the three-time world champion, as well as putting the rest of the field to the sword. Toon Aerts (Telenet Baloise Lions) and Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) were the only other riders to finish within a minute.
"To be honest, I don’t know what to say," Pidcock offered in his post-race interview. "Today, I think I came of age."
Pidcock made a blistering start to the race, finishing the first lap alone out front. It was something he was out to put right.
Not only had he started the season slowly, with 17th at the Tabor World Cup and ninth at Superprestige Boom, but he’d also identified his slow starts to the races themselves as a problem.
"The past years I’ve been bad at the starts so I’ve been working on them and trying to improve there. I know if I can do a good first lap and not already be in the red, then I’ll have a lot more for the finish. I’ve been training hard and now it pays off," he said.
"Every race I’m getting stronger. After Tabor, the important thing that I told myself was that no one will remember this if you get a result later on, so maybe everyone can forget about that now."
Pidcock’s early charge didn’t last, as he settled into a lead group with Van der Poel and Aerts, and even found himself dangling off the back as they neared the halfway mark. However, he muscled his way through to the front as they finished the fourth of eight laps and reasserted his dominance.
Aerts soon fell away and Pidcock, aided by a couple of mistakes from Van der Poel on lap 6, rode clear and was never seen again.
"Honestly, the part where I thought I was best were the technical parts," he said.
"Also, the second part of the climb was good for me. The first part in the mud was not so good but then when it got less steep I was stronger."
Pidcock will now head full of confidence to the next round of the World Cup in Namur next Sunday.
"I’ve been training specifically for the climbing races," he said. "I’ve trained at Beringen this week and will go next week as well."
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