Tom Pidcock has cemented his status as the rising star of British cycling, as well as its most versatile performer, by winning the men’s elite race at the UCI Cyclocross World Championship in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
The Ineos Grenadiers rider, a former junior and U23 world champion in cyclocross, will be the first Briton, male or female, to win the elite category. It is the latest victory in what is already an extraordinary career by any standards.
Last year, Pidcock, 22, won mountain bike gold at the Tokyo Olympics. And he has already won a one-day semi-classic on the road at Brabantse Pijl. Many expect the Yorkshire man to one day ride around the yellow jersey of the Tour de France, such is his versatility.
Pidcock was the bookmakers’ favorite for the race with the Dutchman Mathieu van der Poel and the Belgian Wout van Aert – who together have shared the last seven world titles – both absent. Van Aert because he wanted to fully prepare for the road race season and Van der Poel with a back injury.
In their absence, Eli Iserbyt, one of a large number of Belgians in the race, and the Dutchman Lars van der Haar, were expected to provide the stiffest test of Pidcock’s credentials. But he always looked after their goals. Pidcock began testing his rivals’ legs early on, before making his decisive move towards the end of round four out of nine, finishing it with a six-second advantage over the field.
Iserbyt desperately tried to close the gap on their own, but by the end of the following inning, Pidcock had gained an advantage of 22 seconds, with Iserbyt falling back to the chasing group.
Pidcock ran away to win by 30 seconds after almost exactly one hour of running, celebrating it with a trademark “Superman” pose – lying flat on his saddle with his legs stuck out behind him. Van der Haar was second and Iserbyt third.
“The Belgians tried to run a tactical race, but I went a little out there as if I was going to war,” Pidcock said. “I did not have any of it.”
Asked about the absence of Van Aert and van der Poel, Pidcock argued that it did not necessarily make things easier, with the pressure on him increasing as a result.
“When Wout and Mathieu were not here, I think it almost made it harder because everyone expected it would be easier [for me]”he said.” But you can not come in with that mentality. We came in with a plan, and it turned out well in the end. But a week in a hotel in America … the stress is definitely rising. “
Britain’s Ben Turner finished 14th and newly crowned national elite champion Thomas Mein finished 20th.
Pidcock’s victory ended a successful weekend for the British team, with 17-year-old Zoe Backstedt winning the women’s junior title on Saturday and third place for Nathan Smith in the men’s junior race.