Britain’s Tom Pidcock says winning Strade Bianche is the greatest achievement of his career.
The Ineos Grenadiers rider took a commanding breakaway victory at the famous one-day race across Tuscany in Italy on Saturday.
Pidcock, 23, also won a stage of the Tour de France on Alpe d’Huez, one of cycling’s legendary climbs, last year.
“This one feels special because it’s been the hardest step to make,” he told BBC Sport.
Pidcock won Olympic mountain bike gold in 2021 and became cyclo-cross world champion the following year.
He was also runner-up in a photo finish in the 2021 edition of Amstel Gold, another of cycling’s ‘classics’ along with Strade Bianche.
“The Olympics was probably the biggest win,” Pidcock said. “But what I’m capable of on a mountain bike is not as ground-breaking.
“This is super special in that sense because I feel like I made a big step in my career.”
Strade Bianche is a 184km race across sections of uneven gravel on Tuscany’s famous white, chalky roads.
Pidcock was praised for a brilliant descent on a dusty section, passing a motorbike at high speed on loose gravel to open up a gap on his biggest rivals.
“You can thank the helicopter for creating some good cinematics,” he joked.
He said descending is “a strength of mine”, adding: “But it’s also about not being stupid. A lot of different things go through my head when descending, but it’s all calculated.
“The biggest thing is I raced off instinct, which was one of my strengths when in younger categories.
“When you turn professional, you get a radio and a power meter – it’s all much more regimented – but here I raced off instinct. It could have all gone wrong, but you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
Another element of Pidcock’s success was his use of caffeine – or lack of.
“I don’t drink coffee, which is a bit of a thing if a cyclist doesn’t drink coffee – they all do,” he said.
“So I feel it when I do have caffeine gels. In Strade, I had 200ml of caffeine – the most I’ve ever had.”
Pidcock is currently competing in the Tirreno-Adriatico stage race across Italy, and will attempt to win the sport’s first prestigious ‘monument’ one-day race of the season, Milan-San Remo, on 18 March.
He is aiming to win stages at this year’s Tour de France, which begins on 1 July in Bilbao, and the mountain bike World Championship which alluded him last season.