The multi-talented Tom Pidcock tells us about his ambitions for another gold medal, growing up riding BMX, and why Red Bull Rampage is on his bucket list.
Ever since Tom Pidcock became the first UK winner in men’s XC World Cup since 1994 we’ve been hounding him down to pick his brains about his Olympics chances. Pidcock did not disappoint in this typically confident conversation.
Where are you now?
“I’m in Andorra, I live here. It’s mostly good weather for training, but I got caught in a storm today and had to get in the car. But my excuse is I’m not allowed to ride in the rain yet as my shoulder can still get infected.”
How’s the shoulder, after your collarbone break at the end of May?
“It’s been two weeks since I had surgery and it’s really good. The stitches came out yesterday, and movement is really good. I can do everything, it’s just the posture on the bike.
“Everyone’s amazed how quickly I’ve recovered and been able to do things with my shoulder. The surgeon did a really good job putting it back together, it was broken in five pieces that you couldn’t even see on X-ray. I think I’ve got 10 screws. It was big surgery but they did it really well, the cut is super neat.”
“Yes, I did 24 hours last week. But I was just too tired yesterday and took a full day off, it [surgery] does make you very tired, much weaker. It’s weird as I’ve never experienced it before, it’s my first break. I’ve had hairline fractures, my knee, femur, hip… but no proper breaks. I also feel like I need to eat loads, I’m losing weight even though I’m eating.”
What will this do for your Olympics preparation?
“I should be at my best still. I’m only going to ride my mountain bike the week before the Les Gets World Cup, it’s all up the road at the moment so I don’t jar the shoulder. The only thing is I might lack a bit of confidence at Les Gets but that should be fine.”
Where do you think you’ll finish in Tokyo?
“At first when I had the option to go for the mountain bike or road races I was thinking I should commit to the mountain bike as I have a good chance of getting a medal. But now after the last World Cup in Nove Mesto I’m going to win. That’s where I’m aiming for.
“I’ve had a setback that I need to overcome, but it shouldn’t really affect me. I think I had five days off, and another one with the Covid vaccine and it was horrible, so I lost five or six days. But I was going to have five or six days after the Tour of Swiss anyway, which I would have ridden. So actually it didn’t affect the planning too much.”
After winning the World Cup at Nove Mesto you said you were “born to do mountain bike.” Are you better off-road than on it?
“I did say that! I was definitely raised to ride mountain bikes, I’ve ridden them my whole life – I rode to school every day on my BMX through the woods. I had a line that I took every day, it was downhill on the way home and I took the same line and the same jumps every time. My parents didn’t wrap me up in cotton wool, when I was younger I’d go mountain biking with my dad, we used to go downhill super fast together.
“We’d go to Dalby Forest too. With the family every year we’d go on holiday for two weeks in Morzine, mountain biking and then I always came back and won the road race National series in Scarborough. Five years in a row or something. I’ve always loved mountain biking and now the stars have aligned and I can compete on it.”
So it’s BMX, cyclocross, track, and XC… any other two-wheeled disciplines to add to that list?
“In Morzine I always went downhilling four or five times over the two weeks, I also go to the dirt jumps – last year in lockdown I knocked myself out, there’s a video on my Instagram. I’m always doing things to improve my skills. On my bucket list it says ride a DH World Cup, and it also says ride Red Bull Rampage, it looks small on TV…”
You’re racing World Cups and the Olympic XC, but in normal years you’re committed to road and track. What made you pivot that way?
“The road and track was just where I went, then cyclocross in the winter. I still rode a mountain bike of course but I never really thought about racing it because there was not the UK scene or other riders to look up to. Whereas on the road: Wiggins, Cav, coming home from school and watching them.
“The mountain bike scene in the UK is probably the least developed [of the disciples]. I was on the road and track with British Cycling, and mountain biking just wasn’t as serious. So I just faded away from mountain biking and it was only last year when I did international races, World Cups, that I was like, this is really cool.
With cyclocross, I was introduced to the scene internationally and it’s a completely different sport in the UK – you ride a cross race or an XC race in the UK and there aren’t the same spectators, it’s not the same atmosphere.”
You won the E-MTB Worlds last year, will you defend that jersey?
“Maybe. If someone wants me to do it, I’ll do it. It’s the bike brands that push that. As cool as e-bikes are – and I genuinely think they’re really cool, they make things so much more accessible – I wouldn’t go to the Worlds and ride it if it was just that, I’d focus on the XCO. The e-bike race is not the most serious World Championships, there are people there riding in baggy shorts. The XCO race is pure physical and technical whereas the e-bike race is a bit more of a fun version of the Worlds.”