Reigning World Champion Tom Pidcock won't be present in Hoogerheide this weekend in an attempt to try and defend his title, he's talked about the decision and has hinted at who he believes is the great contender to take the rainbow title.
"I've never thought in terms of 'I have to defend the rainbow jersey'. I started cyclocross with the big dream to become world champion with the big boys one day. And I won that title in America," Pidcock said in conversation with Het Nieuwsblad. "Suppose I do start in 2024, then I will try to take a shot at gold. You don't defend a title. In my mind you are trying to win a title.”
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The decision had been made early on as Pidcock decides to focus on the spring classics on the road fully in the upcoming months. Combining both disciplines isn't easy, but the lack of time between the World Championships and the started of the cobbled classics campaign meant it was not possible to combine the two goals with the best form possible.
“Also because the World Championships this year only falls on February 5 and the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad follows twenty days later. The first moment I was quite sad because I wasn't riding. We waited a very long time to communicate the decision. Just in case I change my mind," he explains.
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Other than the timing, he has on multiple occasions hinted that the Hoogerheide track would suited the powerhouse riders better. Having failed to beat both Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert this winter at their best - although he was close - further confirmed his initial decision. The INEOS Grenadiers would end his season at the Benidorm World Cup, however in reality his block of racing ended in the first of January at the GP Sven Nys.
“After the evening cross in Diegem. A nice course. I was really happy, even though I lost to Wout van Aert," he details what was one of the highlights of the season. "I knew where I had made the mistake. With a little more experience I could have won Diegem. Or at least one against two. Loenhout wasn't bad either. Last year was different. I was sick too much. Maybe due to covid. My immune system was also a bit less.”
And for the rainbow stripes, Pidcock has a clear name in mind after having battled with the very best on multiple occasions: "Wout. The big racer. But you can tell very little in advance about such a World Championship that makes sense."
"Wout is the best in terms of pure power, but in the end such a title is decided after one hour of cross. It is not just about strength, but also about the tactics set out to become world champions," he concluded.