Why Tom Pidcock’s World Cyclocross Title Will Stand The Test Of Time

Call it a fast forward, not an erroneous entry.

It was inevitable that Tom Pidcock would win a world cyclocross title at some point, with or without Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel.

Pidcock’s crushing world cyclocross title race this weekend swept away pre-race dithering over what a medal would mean without the dominating duo who share the last seven rainbow jerseys.

Pidcock won the Junior and U23 World Championships. He repeatedly beat his longtime rival Eli Iserbyt in the top ranks. The Briton looked set to claim the fate-filling elite title that would complete his set of ever-widening rainbow jerseys.

And when the only two riders likely to stop him failed to line up in Fayetteville, Pidcock carefully dispatched a whole group of Belgians and fought his way to the rainbow jersey.

This weekend was the 22-year-old’s chance to fast-forward fate and usher in a new generation of ‘cross champions’, and he didn’t waste it.

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“It was always going to be a super tough race. The Belgians were trying to make a tactical race. I found an opportunity and made it happen,” Pidcock said on the finish.

“I think it has become more difficult to win the race,” Pidcock said of van Aert and van der Poel’s absence. “We came up with a plan and a process. We stuck to the process and it was fine in the end.

So what would have happened if Mathieu or Wout had been there?

Perhaps more importantly, does it really matter?

The daredevil downhill that earned him the winning gap was Pidcock riding the rainbows in full right. The commitment to attack when and where he can has seen him beat van Aert and van der Poel in the past, and it works no matter who is on the starting line.

“We knew Tom would be in the best possible condition at the start and we knew it was going to be very difficult,” said fourth-placed Michael Vanthourenhout. WielerFlits after the race.

“We tried to make it as difficult for him as possible. At one point, he made a move that bothered us all a bit, but it was wrong. He was simply the best.

“You can only beat the one who is on the starting line”, right?

Pidcock made an early lead at Fayetteville.

Pidcock’s cross country title now sits atop his trophy cabinet alongside his Olympic gold in mountain biking as the pinnacle of his young career.

And six months after that day, he beat a stack of mountain bike specialists in Tokyo, what do we remember?

First, this van der Poel crashed, sparking a whole different narrative that is still playing out. And two, which Pidcock crushed those who remained, beating Mathias Flueckiger by 20 seconds. The asterisks and the “what ifs” have already been forgotten.

Just as history is written by the winners, the record books do not note the absentees.

And the reasons for Sunday’s race absences tell their own story.

Just as a grand tour is a test of staying safe, staying healthy and seizing opportunities, winning a one-day championship is all about being fit for the day and seizing the moment.

Pidcock overcame a knee injury that plagued him last summer, while van der Poel couldn’t resolve his back problems.

Of course, van Aert may have beaten Pidcock several times in his shortened crossover winter. But it was a headlong, “YOLO” crop of all the races he could find before retiring for the spring classics. Meanwhile, Pidcock said he wanted to peak for ‘Cross Worlds’, and he did – while keeping tabs on a planned departure on the Classics’ ‘opening weekend’ more later this month.

Read also : Pidcock and his mission to crush the classics

Pidcock’s world title was won as much in the months leading up to his assault on Arkansas as when he raced down the descent at high speed to drop the peloton.

Now that Pidcock has secured his first world title, he has 12 months to think about how to beat van der Poel and van Aert in 2023.

If he falters and fades next year, maybe it’s time to reevaluate what his Arkansas medal means. But given the way it’s raced this winter, there’s a feeling that won’t be needed.

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