At just 21 years of age, Tom Pidcock has already ascended through the cycling ranks to become a true phenom of the sport. He’s winning races on the road, in cyclocross, and in cross country mountain biking, but still he’s keen to expand his horizons – he wants to try his hand at downhill mountain biking.
“I’m always doing things to improve my skills,” Pidcock said in an interview with mountain bike magazine mbr.co.uk. “On my bucket list it says ride a DH [downhill] World Cup, and it also says ride Red Bull Rampage. It looks small on TV …”, the young professional added, likely with a bit of dry British humour about the world’s most extreme mountain bike event.
2021 has been an eventful year for Pidcock. On the road he made his WorldTour debut with Ineos Grenadiers and soon nabbed his first win at Brabantse Pijl. He also took a painfully close second place at Amstel Gold Race.
A few weeks later Pidcock rode his debut elite cross country Mountain Bike World Cup, starting from the back of the pack and making up over 100 places to finish in fifth place. The next week he dominated the World Cup round at Nové Město ahead of Mathieu van der Poel. Pidcock has subsequently taken the only male Olympic cross country spot for Great Britain, and quite deservingly earned a target on his back.
“At first when I had the option to go for the mountain bike or road races I was thinking I should commit to the mountain bike as I have a good chance of getting a medal,” he told mbr.co.uk. “But now after the last World Cup in Nové Město I’m going to win. That’s where I’m aiming for.”
In that same interview, Pidcock speaks about his upbringing in BMX and mountain bikes, and that he faded away from mountain bike competition as the local racing scenes were strongest in road, track, and cyclocross. Now it seems Pidcock’s abilities on a bike are allowing him to pursue avenues of the sport that perhaps were previously thought to be not financially viable.
While it’s been a long time since a top cross country rider successfully crossed over to downhill racing (we believe John Tomac in the 1990s was the last real example), Pidcock’s statement shouldn’t be dismissed as a joke. A look at Pidcock’s Instagram account offers a number of examples of him jumping a downhill bike over a car or riding the downhill tracks of Morzine.
There’s little denying that Pidcock has the natural ability to dip his toes in the more extreme ends of the sport, but the decision may not be up to him. Surely the team principal of Ineos Grenadiers, Dave Brailsford, wouldn’t be so keen for one of his star riders to do such extreme competitions that would require training unrelated skills (not to mention the safety concerns).
Then again, the press from simply entering such events would be huge and beneficial to the team’s sponsors. But first, let’s see what Pidcock does at the Olympics as a first-year elite mountain bike racer.