Scrutinizing the Tom Pidcock project, through three (mis)beliefs: "I would rather have a few watts less" Cycling

Scrutinizing the Tom Pidcock project, through three (mis)beliefs: "I would rather have a few watts less"

Scrutinizing the Tom Pidcock project, through three (mis)beliefs: "I would rather have a few watts less"

Tom Pidcock is a phenomenon, but even though he has been winning on three different types of bikes for years, there is also regular criticism of the 24-year-old Brit from INEOS Grenadiers. "Not good enough to be among the world's best," "only world-class when standing on the pedals," and volumes written about his ambition to one day win the Tour de France. sought out his coach Kurt Bogaerts and presented him with all the critiques.

Does Pidcock lack 'seated power'?

Not so long ago, Pidcock was a hot topic in Belgium. Analyst José De Cauwer noted that the Olympic and World Champion mountain biker is world-class when standing on the pedals but delivers less power when seated on the bike. "What strikes me about Pidcock in the Flemish classics: he has a lot of ‘standing power,’ but much less ‘seated power.’ On cobblestone climbs like the Muur or Paterberg — where decisions are often made – he struggles more. You see Van Aert pulling on his handlebars going uphill, really drawing power from his body. Pidcock can not do it that way."

Bogaerts nods. "We are working on that. Tom needs to improve his power in the saddle," says Pidcock's Belgian coach. "It's not about emphasizing the ultimate watts in an effort, but focusing on the technique of the execution. With Tom, one of my comments is that he’d better do a few watts less, but ride from the saddle. This way, he can improve his seated technique and get more accustomed to it."

The classification ambitions in stage races and grand tours discussed next are meant to aid Pidcock in his style of cycling. "It's also a continuous process, where he will benefit from longer climbs, being able to maintain a good cadence while seated for longer periods. It’s great that he has these areas for improvement, and that we can focus on them. But at the same time, we need to preserve his strong points."

Scrutinizing the Tom Pidcock project, through three (mis)beliefs: "I would rather have a few watts less"
Pidcock at his best: standing on the pedals

Does Pidcock fade beyond 200 kilometers?

Another critique of Pidcock, who has also become a cyclo-cross world champion and claimed victory in Strade Bianche on the road. Cyclo-cross races last an hour, mountain bike competitions ninety minutes, and Strade Bianche was 185 kilometers. In races exceeding 200 kilometers, Pidcock sometimes faded in the finale. Is there an issue with the 200-kilometer mark? "I completely disagree with that assertion," states Bogaerts. "If you look at last Saturday's Strade Bianche, Tom was very strong beyond 200 kilometers. He posted some of his best values there. We were up against an exceptionally strong rider (Tadej Pogacar), who made a long-range attack. However, Tom rode a very strong finale."

The examples don't stop there. "In last year's Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Remco (Evenepoel, ed.) was stronger, and Tom tried to keep up. In the finale, he recovered and finished second, in a race exceeding 250 kilometers. Eventually, such long races will even become his strength. Compared to Pogacar and Evenepoel, Tom might need a bit more time to reach the ultimate point of his career. However, we know there is room for progression, and he is steadily working towards it. He is following the normal curve from the past when riders reached their ultimate peak at a later age and excelled in longer races."

In the spring of 2024, after Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Pidcock won't ride any more Flemish classics. We will see him in long races like Milan-San Remo and Liège. "He's fresher than last year," notes Bogaerts, attributing it to a new approach. "Doing longer efforts, laying a better foundation, and having a more progressive build-up. We didn't put the same emphasis as last year when Tom was already excellent in Strade Bianche. He was good now, but still has a lot of room for progression towards the Olympics. That's where it should culminate. We hope he can grow with each race and make steps forward. He's on the right track and has always been competitive in races that suit him, despite the work we've done. He was strong uphill in the Algarve and better in Omloop than last year. In Strade, he wasn't bad either; it's just unfortunate we missed the podium. He learns from that finale."

Scrutinizing the Tom Pidcock project, through three (mis)beliefs: "I would rather have a few watts less"
Pidcock finished fourth in Strade Bianche after a strong finale

Can Pidcock win the Tour de France?

Finally, the Tour de France. Pidcock and INEOS Grenadiers have made no secret of his ambition to aim for the overall victory. In his debut in 2022, he finished seventeenth and won the stage to Alpe d'Huez. Last season, he ended up thirteenth in the general classification. The gap to riders like Pogacar and Jonas Vingegaard was still significant in both editions, but that doesn't concern the team at INEOS. "Tom is in good spirits and making great progress. He wants to continue advancing in the Tour, although it won’t be a rapid development. It will be steady, and I see it coming together if we stay calm and don’t skip any steps," Bogaerts explains.

That means every year he takes a small step towards becoming a GC contender. But it's also why Pidcock will still be on the mountain bike at the Olympics in 2024 and continue cyclo-crossing in the winter. Slowly but surely, step by step. "We shouldn’t create an unrealistic expectation. I won’t put a number on it, but for instance, he’s making advances mentally, especially during times when he’s physically weaker. The lesser days became less troublesome in 2023. Tom needs to trust that it’s normal to decline a bit when you’re pushing hard day after day. Everyone feels worse then, but you still want to win races on your off days. He’s handling that well and is already quite mature in that respect. He voices his ambitions but also has the patience."

Pidcock isn't there yet, but Bogaerts emphasizes that there are still so many areas to improve. Time trialing is also a key component. "He has improved a bit, although there’s still a lot of room for progress. He needs to find confidence in the bike and the position and let himself be guided. Maintaining that ultimate position as well as possible is a significant challenge for him. Once he masters it, he will ride great time trials. Tom is a rider who constantly observes and picks his lines on the road, on the MTB, and in cyclocross. Time trialing is different; you have to be guided by the car and trust in that. That’s the big focus, and you can’t put a timeline on it. The positive aspect is he’s slowly transferring his road bike power to the time trial bike, but that hasn’t yet resulted in very good times."

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