In praise of Thomas Pidcock

Is there any more versatile cyclist in the world at the moment then Tom Pidcock?

From the Flemish Berg’s to Valkenberg, and with cyclo cross in between, Tom is continuing his dominance of the mountain bike scene with two wins in the opening World Cup.

Fortunately his last lap tail whips in this race ended wheel side down (unlike a cyclocross faux par earlier in the year). The short course event, which I’d never seen before, blew me away as an event. Twenty minutes of watts and mud which made the old city centre criterium events look pedestrian in comparison.

He also won the longer form cross country event.

Such is the impact of mountain biking on me at the moment, my time trial bike is sold and gone, and I’m in the market for a hard tail.

Now that might say a little bit about me, as much as it says about Leeds is finest.

But in Pidcock there is a cyclist who does it all and can pretty much make anything on two wheels sing. In fact, my daughter asked on the school run this morning, could Tom Pidcock beat me to school on a scooter? The answer is probably yes. Although I suspect his wouldn’t be pink and covered in LoL doll stickers.

Pidcock burst on the scene through the UK Trinity/Wiggins setup and has been always focused on multi-discipline.

You could argue that with mountain bike in his repertoire. He is more diverse than Wout Van Aert or Mathieu Van der Poel.

I love Tom Pidcock because he’s not afraid to get it sideways. He’s not afraid to jump. He’s not afraid to fall. Even in yesterday’s race in the Czech Republic. He was down after a crash, allowing fellow cyclo crosser Joshua Dubau of France to get ahead.

But Pidcock hunted him down, chased him and got the win. It was brilliant.

And whilst the Giro and the upcoming four days of Dunkirk will dominate my TV viewing this week. There is a mention for the fact that GCN are now showing the UCI mountain bike series. It’s different. It’s fresh, and for a 30 year veteran roadie like to think I want to have a crack at this, then something must be being done right.

So good luck, TP. Enjoy your break. And let’s hope that the summer road season yields more results, such as your Alp D’Huez win of 2022.

For me, soon, there might be even fatter tires on a bike that I will be chugging around the fens on so keep an eye out for that.

Tour of Cambs RIP

As of 2023, the Tour of Cambridgeshire is no more.

An event like no other. Its a fondo, a time trial, sportifve.

A bit of everything that left cyclists happy and residents sometimes unhappy.

My history with the event was mainly linked to the fact that I was resident in Yaxley at the time it was launched and even took a bit of stick from people who knew I was a cyclist. I even had a knock at my front door complaining about their roads being shut for a few hours, one Sunday every year.

The event itself was great. A time trisl on closed roads up to the transmitter at Morborne (Anyone who has drive the A1M past Peterborough will have seen it off on the west side). Then coming back around past areas where my family had farmed for generations was an emotional feeling

That was the Saturday of the first year the Sunday the road race/sportive/gran fondo.This was equally as emotional with it being the first time I’d pinned a number on and ridden through the village I was born and raised in.

Riding along Yaxley Main Street past the school I went to as a four year old, my nan and granddad’s farm where I lived with them with them and the pub, the three horseshoes, where I have drunk for quite a few years (even before I was 18). It is something I recall with great fondness to this day.

The event though, is now leaving the area or disappearing altogether. The organisers say that it’s run its course. The local residents groups say that their pressure and their claims for loss of earnings for their shops being closed or not being able to get out of their driveway has had a successful bearing.

The truth feels like the East of England Showgrounds sale for property development means there’s no base big enough to start and finish the event.

With Peterborough Speedway and events like Truckfest also going this feels like it’s probably the reason,

So I’ll leave with mixed memories event. Mixed insofar as the emotions that it drew the unpleasant behaviour, and anger from residents who felt that they were being attacked by militant cyclists, but good memories, good memories of riding with people that are still follow on Strava.

Some came from the New Forest, sharing tyre levers and helping out with punctures. Most especially of 2015 a time of great darkness for my family.

But where even though I didn’t get to fulfil the dream of going to Copenhagen I still made it in a group that qualified. Maybe that chance will come up again sometime.

So where does local cycling go from here?

Well, we’re back to time trials on the old A1 and local events smaller in scale and stature. I hope though, that everyone will take something out of the experience. even those that have been bitter and argued for its demise.

So wishing luck to all the riders who are in the final event, and good luck in getting to qualify for Great Britain and represent your country in Scotland. The Tour of Cambs may be no more, I hope something will pop up in its place.

Post cycling ‘Holy week’ slump

Maybe its the fact my bloodstream is 99% chocolate this week after Easter or maybe its the fact that the UK weather has been so shabby my running shoes have looked appealing (they take less time to dry than a bike and cycling shoes)…

Whatever the reason I am firmly in a post cycling Holy Week slump.

Motivation to ride my bike has been sorely diminshed with every fat juicy raindrop that has smashed the window.

Even watching cycling and following it has been slow going after the heights of the Oude Kwaremont and Carrefore D’Labre.

The Tour of Sicily has just annoyed me with its sun kissed beaches. I went to Skegness for the afternoon on Tuesdat (and it rained).

I am warming back up enough to consider entering the club 10 next Wednesday, and the Coupe de France always makes me reach for the ‘Gites des France’ app to plan future trips that may or may not happen.

What I really need is a classic race with all the big names. Something with a hilly finish through a town that has some wonderful kerbside restaurants and brilliant caves to explore.

Thank goodness for the Amstel Gold Race !

2023 Tour of Flanders review

The Tour of Flanders 2023 was a ‘Pog’ fest. There was nothing that could stop it. And you knew that it was coming. But it made the race probably now a little bit less of a standout for me.

I wanted a good race, but I also wanted a different winner than the man who is dominating racing in this season.

That’s not to say Tadej Pogacar didn’t deserve it. That’s not to say he wasn’t the best rider. It’s just to say I would have chosen a different outcome.

Don’t get me wrong. come July I’ll probably be rooting for Pogacar on the roads of France.

But April is the domain of the Vans… Wout Van Aert and Mathieu Van der Poel.

And if they don’t win, the biggest classic of the mall you wonder what the future holds.

The race itself was packed with the usual amount of drama. Although we’ll probably be remembered for a bunny hop that went wrong causing most of the peloton to crash.

The big climbs themselves saw what bombs dropped by the big three. Although Van Aert and Thomas Pidcock faded a little bit sooner than anticipated.

When Pogacar attacked on the Oude Kwaremont on the penultimate lap he looked pretty dominant but that was brought back by a combination of riders.

On the last ascent he was gone, and he was gone for good.

You look at his Strava times on the last two climbs, and even though they’re less than two miles in length, he put nearly 10 minutes into my best efforts.

Now I’m not the best rider in the world. and he is but that is a massive gap. It won’t be long before questions start being asked about his dominance.

 In fact, you only have to look at social media to see they already are.

But for now, let’s enjoy what was a brilliant occasion with a frothy beer and a bag of chips and look forward to the second instalment of Holy Week when Paris-Roubaix hits the road this weekend.

Enjoy it for what it is…

Cycling has been in the headlines again this week with safety at domestic level events being scrutinised after some bad accidents.

You can have the best race organisers in the world briefing the riders, have the course well marshalled and put up brilliant signage. However, if you don’t have the buy-in from other road users then you are done for.

I used to ride some events in the lanes south of Peterborough. They were roads that I trained on week after week without any other traffic. On race day there was always horses on the course and there was always some words and drama.

I asked someone I met who rode both horse and bike and they confirmed my fear that the riders came out when they saw the “Cycle Race in Progress” signs as an attempt to make a big deal and get cycling cancelled.

During lockdown one of the pubs on our local course killed off their car park to have more outdoor seating (as you could meet outdoors socially). It has proved so popular that they haven’t changed it back meaning time trialists having to hurtle towards the busiest t-junction on the course passing parked cars.

It has made the course a lot more tricky as a result.

The amount of traffic seems to be increasing again and again and I look back on my time riding dual carriage way Saturday afternoon time trials as an age that will never be back.

I wouldn’t even think about riding dual carriage way nowadays.

I think and plan any riding on A roads and only use them when absolutely necessary.

But… is my cycling relationship more negative as a result?

I am going to venture no.

This lunchtime I clipped in and after 4 minutes through the centre of town was out on the country lanes with a smile on my face… despite a howling cross wind.

On the single track I had to stop for a dog on a long lead and a walker who didn’t hear me coming but it didn’t bother me. I was out in the fresh air enjoying spring time and some miles.

Maybe its the evolution of my cycling career that makes me feel like a good ride doesn’t have to be arguing with traffic or belting down roads that probably are a bit too busy for me to cut loose.

But I feel a better rider and human as a result.

(Waits for tomorrow when I end up arguing with a driver now)

Is there too much tinkering with time trials?

It’s been a week of time trial musings for me, culminating in this post.

I watched the revised Paris-Nice time trial with a keen eye. It was really enjoyable to see how the tactics evolved and rather than weaker teams being handicapped by having to get four riders from gun to tape, they could ride it like a team sprint on the track.

What it also did was stop a dominant TTT team from monopolising the GC top 10.

Think Jumbo in an event where Primoz Roglic, Wout Van Aert, Jonas Vingegaad and Christophe Laporte could have taken the top 4 places in a race with an early shared race against the watch.

This changes that emphasis and I think (despite the domination of Tadej Pogacar) it made the race more interesting.

Would David Gaudu have been so influential in the latter days of the race had he shipped a minute in the time trial? probably not.

So its a positive and a big tick from me.

At a slightly different level to the World Tour (although in my view not much!) my own club started their seasonal calendar with a come and try it road bike 10.

We do operate on a sporting course (one for the older folk there) so with only a couple of straights there is limited impact a top time trialling rig can provide. But a look at the spread of times over a season its still enough.

This event saw juniors, seniors and masters take part with a decent spread of times but a close finish and narrower time spread over the podium.

(Picture from Fenland Clarion cc social media)

For me it was the chance to get that restored Bianchi into competition and despite its age it performed brilliantly under the stress of a block headwind on the 2nd quarter of the event.

What was great though was that the legs decided the result. And whilst to be fair, the same people topped the leader board as would have done if tt bikes were allowed, there was a real purity to this and it felt more competitive.

(Could just be my perception of course)

I am looking forward to having another crack in a couple of weeks where hopefully the wind will have died down a bit and the road might be dryer.

So in answer to the question “Is there too much tinkering with time trials”?

So far in 2023, for me the answer is definitely not.

The changes have been enhancements.

The true “classic” of the opening week of the Flemish season

I know its a controversial viewpoint, but instead of focusing on the opening weekend of the classics season, I like to stretch it out to a full week. Well, until the Tuesday at least.

Trust me, I have nothing against Omloop Het Nieuwsblad or Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, but its Le Samyn all the way for me in these early Belgian exchanges.

But why?

Well first off the opening two races come with the sort of excess hype that a Premiership football match has nowadays.

I get that the end of the last road season (despite a lot of Spanish, Southern French and Middle Eastern racing) was a long time ago, but, for me, the Oude Kwaremont matters in the Ronde. We don’t need hours of coverage diluting the excitement of the big climbs when April arrives.

Any other race it features in is just a tune up for the real thing.

Kuurne struggles from the climbs being a bit too infrequent or too far out. Although it does have the Muur to upweight it.

No for me Le Samyn has a true uniqueness despite being a spring cobbled classic.

It has a different shape and feel about it, and I love it all the more for that.

Every edition I have seen has had those wonderfully Belgian slate grey skies. And whilst quite often opening weekend is dry (and sometimes unseasonably warm), Le Samyn always seems to be muddy, rainy and windswept.

There is the wonderfully named finishing town of Dour with its uniform housing and perma-shut looking shops which just add to the brooding atmosphere around the race.

I also love the finishing circuit (and people don’t say that about too many races do they?) with that little climb up around a village green past a gothic building house a bar. A bar you just know serves wonderful frothy beers in elaborate glasses.

Throw in the section past the police station before heading back to the finish on one of those block concrete roads so typical of Belgium and this race has absolutely everything.

Sure, enjoy the gun to flag tv coverage of some of the bigger name races this spring, but please do not shun this one. It’s guaranteed to be good.

Procyclingstats preview

A fond farewell to Cyclo Cross season 2022/2023

It’s been a good one !

I have been captivated from the moment Eli Iserbyt got off to a fast start in the opening rounds of all of the main competitions.

I loved Laurens Sweeck settling into his new team post transfer and starting to lay gloves on Pauwels Sauzen.

Sadly, from a British perspective, I will remember Tom Pidcock’s season for his last lap crash in the GP Sven Nys as much as the wins. A lesson learnt about showboating for Tom.

In the womens division Shirin Van Anrooij show most a clean pair of wheels looking on occasion good enough to lap the entire field.

Namur and Koksijde were my favourite races once again but for optics Val de Sole (even if some riders don’t take to the ice that well) was the most scenic.

Let’s enjoy the break and the road season before getting started again in the autumn!

Charity shop wins…

I was trawling the local charity shop Friday evening, ideally looking for some ornaments for my daughters room.

My eyes however were drawn to a shelf in the corner and some beer glasses on a shelf.

I snapped up two ornate looking Westmalle Trappist glasses for £3 in total and went home beaming.

Keep an eye on your local charity shops and you might cop a bargain.