2022 in Review: The Elegance of Tom Pidcock

2022 in Review: The Elegance of Tom Pidcock

St. Etienne
15 / 07 / 2022 /
45.4397° N
4.3872° E

Yesterday was a big day, in more ways than one. It began with driving down the mountain to park the car a few kilometres from the foot of the climb as part of our evacuation plan. This also meant having to ride back up on our Bromptons, Ned had joined me, it took us an hour and a half, bit longer for me as I was stopping taking pictures the whole way up. I should have saved them for today's email, yet I had to write yesterday's email during commercial breaks as I had run out of time and Ned and I commentated the whole stage. As soon as the stage was finished we jumped back on our Bromptons and headed down the mountain. Little clip here. It was mayhem, as it always is post Alpe d'Huez. We still didn't escape the traffic jams, we ended up getting to our hotel at 11:30pm. We recorded our Never Strays Car podcast on the way, it's become the #1 Sports Podcast in the UK, listen here: APPLE / SPOTIFY

Everybody is scared of Jumbo-Visma. Yesterday was the first day we've seen the peloton properly controlled, the previous week of racing has been brutal and at times chaotic, the main reason being that UAE haven't been able to stamp their authority on the race. When I turned professional in 1997 the dominant stage racing team was Banesto, they'd spent the majority of the 1990's controlling races on behalf of the great Miguel Indurain, they had mastered the art. Although Indurain's last year racing had been 1996, the team remained, and its skill and discipline were ingrained. 

When Banesto took control of a race there was relief throughout, they were clinical, they did what needed to be done and they were respectful in doing so. There were other teams you didn't want to take the front. Back then ONCE were in their pomp, when they took the front everybody knew it was going to be a bad day because they'd make it hard for all of us, they took joy in ripping the peloton to pieces. It wasn't cool. What's even worse than that though is a team that can't control a race, because it creates anarchy, and that's what we've been seeing thanks to the crumbling UAE team, and it's what Jumbo took advantage of when they went on the offensive on stage 11. Now that Jumbo-Visma have the race lead there is an air of relief in the peloton, and that's what we saw yesterday, and it's what Tom Pidcock took advantage of...

Only a few years ago it was considered that cyclo-cross specialists couldn't convert to elite road racing. It was a niche discipline within the sport of cycling. There were racers who would dominate the cyclocross scene, and occasionally there'd be great excitement and hope that they could switch to road, but it never worked. They'd be crushed, and return to cyclocross with their tail between their legs. That's changed, Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel are the first to make the transition and dominate, Tom Pidcock has done the same. They're next-gen bike racers, and yesterday, we got to see what this new type of bike racer can do...

When Pidcock appeared from nowhere on the descent of the Galibier the energy of the whole race changed. I've never seen a racer descend as beautifully, it was poetry in motion, and what was most striking was the elegance with which he rode. Everything about it was familiar yet subtly different, he looked fast in a way I've never seen before, the angles he leaned his bike, his body position, the tilting of his head, it was more like watching a Moto GP racer than TdF rider. It was sublime. 
He controlled the whole day, in fact he seemed to be in control of everything, on the early slopes of Alpe d'Huez he casually threw his bottle into a bin at the side of the road, with effortless accuracy - his level of lucidity was absurd for that point in the race. Then he just rode away from everybody and into the annals of cycling history. In less than twelve months he's become Mountain Bike Olympic Champion, Cyclocross World Champion, and now the winner of the Tour de France queen stage, on Bastille Day, atop the most famous mountain. He's ridiculous.