Tom Pidcock stands at the forefront of British Cycling’s bid to diversify at the Tokyo Olympics.
With the dominance Great Britain have enjoyed in the velodrome since Beijing under increasing threat, there has been a greater emphasis placed on BMX – expanded at this Games with the introduction of freestyle events – and mountain biking, where Pidcock and Evie Richards offer medal potential.
Cyclocross, in which Pidcock and Richards have won world titles at junior and under-23 level, may not be an Olympic sport – not yet, at least – but its growth at home in the wake of their successes shows what could happen if either of them finish on the podium in Izu next week.
“For sure I think in the past cyclocross has grown quite a lot in popularity, and that’s partly down to me as well as Ben Tulett and also Evie,” Pidcock said.
“If in this Olympics we come away with a medal, either me or Evie, I think we are going to start a trend in mountain biking. There is a lot of potential.”
When Pidcock races on Monday he will be up against a field that includes Mathieu van der Poel, the Dutchman who enjoyed a remarkable cameo at the Tour de France – spending six days in the yellow jersey before pulling out of the race after a week to switch attention to the Games.
Pidcock has been racing his mountain bike in recent weeks, but his own preparations for Tokyo were hit when he suffered a broken collarbone in a training crash at the start of June.
Remarkably it was the first broken bone of Pidcock’s career – “I usually land on my feet,” he said – but one he shook off in short order, getting back on his bike within days of an operation, and he played down any impact it might have on Monday.
Instead, like so many athletes across different sports, Pidcock is more concerned about the heat and humidity.
The Yorkshireman is among several riders who have set up their turbo trainers in indoor tents to try to replicate the conditions.
“Basically for half an hour or 40 minutes I sit in a really hot box pedalling very slowly because it’s so hot,” he said.
“My spare room has got a tent in it, and the heat keeps tripping the electricity.”
To race in these Olympics, Pidcock is breaking off from a remarkable debut season on the road with the Ineos Grenadiers. He came within millimetres of winning the Amstel Gold Race, took victory in De Brabantse Pijl, and finished on the podium in Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne
“I think I’ve gone pretty well,” said Pidcock, who is planning to make his Grand Tour debut in the Vuelta a Espana next month. “I’ve shown I can compete at the highest level on the road and until the crash I was going pretty well.”
But Pidcock has no intention of giving up the other disciplines to focus exclusively on the road – his future targets are in pretty much every area.
“Next year I want to try and win the mountain bike worlds,” he said. “That’s certainly a big target, cross will also be there but maybe just a few races.
“Then in the next few years I want to focus on a Grand Tour to some extent, and at the next Olympics in Paris I want to go to the road race, the mountain bike and time trial as well if they’ll have me.”
Pretty much everything except the track, then?
“Yeah. Track’s boring,” Pidcock said. “It’s just riding around in circles.”