Ahead of his Ineos Grenadiers debut at the Tour des Alpes Maritimes et du Var, British neo-pro Tom Pidcock has spoken of his excitement at making the step up to the pro ranks, saying that he has no problem with riding in the famous Ineos 'train', even if team boss Dave Brailsford is looking at a new racing strategy in 2021.
Speaking to The Telegraph, Pidcock said he recognises that many of Ineos' riders are aggressive racers who should suit the more adventurous style Brailsford said he's looking to implement in the wake of Tao Geoghegan Hart's Giro d'Italia victory last year. However, as a neo-pro, he's happy to work in the train if called upon.
"I've got no problem riding in a train," Pidcock said. "But they kind of know and understand how I want to race. I think they're very much wanting to change their riding style and Dave has been in the media saying that. It's good to hear.
"A lot of the new riders' styles are quite aggressive and real racers, so I think there's a good group. I mean there's still the Grand Tour riders in the team, but there's a good group of racers as well. With me and Ethan [Hayter] at Ineos, there's a good few guys that can race. I think the Classics team at Ineos needs... there could be more success with the riders that Ineos have. Yeah, that's what I'm going to say."
Pidcock has long been linked with a move to the team, last year opting to form his own Trinity Racing team for what would be his last year in the under-23 ranks. He'll form part of the strongest team in cycling, filled with leaders and big race winners, but expressed no lack of confidence in fitting in right away and competing at the highest level.
"I’m finally in the position to compete in the races that I've always dreamed about," Pidcock said. "I'm excited about it; it's been a long time coming. I've been kept back in the under-23s with an eye on the long game, but I'm happy now I'm finally stepping up.
"I think I'm capable of properly racing. So, I think that yes, I can hopefully win a race or two this year. I feel like we've kind of made up for 2019, there were a lot of 'what ifs'. So, it was nice to make up for [those disappointments] in a small way."
Pidcock, who at 21 is the second-youngest rider at Ineos Grenadiers, already has a glittering palmarès across multiple disciplines and age groups, with world titles at junior and U23 levels in cyclo-cross and cross-country mountain bike to his name as well as victories at the junior and espoirs versions of Paris-Roubaix, and the U23 Giro d'Italia last year.
This year he's set to ride a limited spring calendar including the 'Opening Weekend' (Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne), Strade Bianche and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, before switching to the mountain bike for a tilt at the Tokyo Olympic Games, and likely making his Grand Tour debut at the Vuelta a España. A debut at the pro Paris-Roubaix is not on the cards just yet, though, but he is looking forward to racing against 2018 winner Peter Sagan.
"You can't do everything in your first year. You need to build up a bit," Pidcock said.
"I think it will be pretty cool, I don't think I've actually raced with [Sagan] yet. He's one of the biggest names in the sport — he is the biggest name of the sport — so it will be cool. I don't think he knows who I am."
While he's aiming for a win in year one, Pidcock isn't going to be a Remco Evenepoel or a Tadej Pogačar, he said. While the two talented youngsters started winning at the sport's biggest races as neo-pros, Pidcock isn't feeling the pressure to match them, instead saying that his first-year palmarès will pale in importance to his end-of-career honour roll – one which he hopes will include another rainbow jersey.
"There's a lot of publicity and pressure on being the youngest rider to win this or the youngest rider to do that, but I'm not in the game to be the youngest to do anything. All that matters is what is on the palmarès at the end of your career," he said.
"I'd like to become an elite world road champion; I think that's the biggest thing to me. Whether I'm going to try and win the Tour de France I don't know, but I would definitely love to win the World Championships."
Pidcock will be joined at the Tour des Alpes Maritimes et du Var by Geraint Thomas, Tao Geoghegan Hart, and Rohan Dennis. Cyclingnews will have full coverage of the race, which runs from February 19-21, as well as a guide on how to watch the action.
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