Tom Pidcock played down expectations ahead of his cyclocross season debut and he was proven accurate, crashing and finishing in seventh place at the Superprestige event in Merksplas on Sunday.
The multi-discipline star was making his first appearance since becoming world champion in the USA back in January, but had warned there might not be any immediate fireworks in the rainbow jersey.
Noting that he usually takes a couple of weeks to get up to speed, Pidcock indeed appeared a little rusty on a cold and technical Merksplas course.
“It was beetje moeilijk,” Pidcock said in his post-race TV interview, showing off his Flemish language skills in a phrase that means “a bit difficult”.
Pidcock started strongly enough, riding much of the race in a stalwart group of contenders. Laurens Sweeck took flight early on and was never seen again, and Lars van der Haar went clear in pursuit, but Pidcock was part of a battle for third place for the first half of the race.
However, he started to lose ground on the fifth of eight laps, and any hope of a top result disappeared when he slid out on an innocuous-looking section ahead of a staircase.
“It was maybe not the best race to start with,” Pidcock said of the technical Merksplas course. “On the corners I was losing so much time. My level was OK, but I was losing time in a lot of places.”
He once again showed off his Flemish, calling it “a Laurens Sweeck presentatie” – or exhibition – before declaring himself content with his own showing.
“I crashed, and there were just a few too many mistakes, but I’m happy. I was not bad.”
In any case, Pidcock got his cyclocross campaign underway with the rainbow jersey on his shoulders and a custom white and rainbow Pinarello underneath him.
“It was good to wear the jersey. All the public were supporting and that was nice. Even if I wasn’t in the front, it was nice to be wearing these colours again after quite a few years.
“To win in this jersey would be nice,” he added.
He’ll have another opportunity at the World Cup in Overijse on Sunday, after which his task is complicated by the return of four-time world champion Mathieu van der Poel next weekend, and three-time world champion Wout van Aert the weekend after that.
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As well as the rainbow jersey, Pidcock was also debuting his new special-edition world champion’s bike.
Pinarello developed its first performance cyclocross bike, the Crossista F, last year ahead of Pidcock’s first ‘cross campaign with Ineos Grenadiers.
He rode a navy British champion’s version last season but he now has a new paintjob to celebrate his status as world champion.
The frame is white, with rainbow flashes on the fork and seat tube. The colours appear in a jagged formation on the fork and at the rear between the stays.
The top tube also features a thin strip of rainbow colour, along with the motto ‘play your cards right’, which once again accompanies an image of playing cards within his eye-line.
It appears Pidcock has made no major changes to his set-up, choosing Shimano Dura-Ace groupset and wheels, which are paired with Challenge Grifo tubular tyres that also feature a rainbow pattern on the tan wall.
Tom Pidcock’s Pinarello Crossista F full bike specifications
- Frameset: Pinarello Crossista F
- Groupset: Shimano Dura-Ace R9170 Di2 11-speed
- Brakeset: Shimano Dura-Ace R9120 hydraulic disc
- Wheels: Shimano Dura-Ace C40 carbon tubular
- Tyres: Challenge Grifo tubular (choice may vary on the day)
- Cockpit: Most Talon one-piece bar and stem
- Saddle: Fizik Arione 00
- Pedals: Shimano XTR