Starting well back in the field was not enough to slow down Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) in his first elite mountain bike World Cup at Albstadt, nor was a slowly deflating tyre, with the multi-discipline rider slingshotting to the front of the race within the first two laps and holding firm to deliver an impressive fifth place.
The 21-year-old rider stepped up to the elites this year, after winning the U23 mountain bike World Championship in 2020, with the change in level setting him well back in the all-important XCO start order, where the narrowing of the course often causes bottlenecks aplenty further back in the field.
However, Pidcock, rider number 100 and in 76th position on the start line, found a way through. By the end of the first lap of six, he’d already worked his way up to 14th, by the end of the second lap he had latched onto the front group, and by the start of the third he was leading it.
The huge task of moving up through the field on the climbs of Albstadt didn’t intimidate the Briton; in fact, it even had its benefits.
"Mentally it was easy because if you are always passing people it makes you feel good. Once I got to the front, I had to change my [tactics]. I couldn’t just keep going because it was a long race in the heat," said Pidcock in a post race interview on Red Bull TV.
The pace early in the race and the chase for positions took a toll, with the Ineos Grenadiers rider not able to hold his position at the very front of the field. It came down to Nino Schurter (Scott-SRAM) and Victor Koretzky (KMC-Orbea), who ultimately sprinted it out for the win, with Koretzky taking his first World Cup victory. Then it was Mathias Flueckiger (Thomus RN Swiss Bike), Ondrej Cink (Kross Orlen) and Pidcock. Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) finished another two spots back in seventh.
Pidcock started the year racing cyclo-cross – where he came fourth at the World Championships – then shifted onto the road – where he won De Brabantse Pijl – and now has turned to mountain biking in preparation for the Tokyo Olympics.
The fifth place finish at the first World Cup of the season means Pidcock should now be able to vie for a much better start position in the next XCO round, Nove Mesto, during the short track event.
"Hopefully I can aim to get a front row start from the short track and I think I’ll be in a much better situation for the last few laps, not having to overtake so many riders," said Pidcock.
He will also enter the race with his first elite World Cup behind him and the confidence of knowing that even when things don’t go his way, he can still find his way up to the front of the race.
"I was super happy with how I went to be honest," he concluded.
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