Although his preparation has not been perfect, Tom Pidcock believes he is in “the best possible shape” as he aims for gold at the Tokyo Olympics in mountain biking early next week.
Having replaced his slick road tires following his successful debut in the Classics campaign, the 21-year-old British all-rounder has also impressed at the elite level of cross-country mountain biking this summer.
However, after winning his first World Cup in Nové Mesto, he suffered a setback when he was hit by a car during training in Andorra in early June, breaking his collarbone in five places. He underwent surgery soon after and got back on the bike in less than a week, but it still left its mark.
“To be honest, I don’t really feel all of that now, other than at the airport with the backpack, where it’s quite irritating,” Pidcock told reporters at a virtual press conference at his hotel. from Tokyo.
“I did my best with my rehab and training to come back and I think I’m in pretty good shape now. I’m in the best shape I can to get into the race, and that’s the best. that I can do. “
Pidcock added that the accident was the first time he had broken a bone, saying he considered the process of recovery and healing to be a learning curve.
“The most important thing I found was the energy it took for the bone to heal. It was a big learning curve for me because this is the first time that I’m breaking a bone. t train like I did before – for two or three weeks I could still feel the effects. Of course, that has a bigger impact than the obvious things.
“To be honest, I’ve been pretty positive about it. That’s what it is. I’ve learned that it’s enough to do things after setbacks. I’ve never had a big one, but I had a big accident before The Worlds in Yorkshire too.
“This time and this time, I had little time to get back into shape, so it’s all about refueling to get back in shape as quickly as possible.”
Coping with the heat
A key part of Pidcock’s preparation focused on the conditions expected in Tokyo on Monday. Temperatures are expected to exceed 30 ° C, which, along with high humidity, should lead to a drain stroke.
“This is the most important factor,” insisted PIdcock, explaining that he had set up a temperature-controlled tent in his spare bedroom to simulate the preparation conditions in Tokyo.
“I did a lot of thermal work, which I’m happy to tell everyone now, but before that I didn’t want to advertise it in case someone downplayed the heat.
“Basically, at the end of the workout, I jump in a thermal chamber for 30-45 minutes and sit in a really hot box, pedaling very slowly. My guest room has a tent. the electricity keeps going, that’s the only problem. “
As for the preparation, Pidcock suggested that one of his main rivals, Mathieu van der Poel, had also been slightly compromised, not by an injury but by the Tour de France. The Dutchman, whom Pidcock faces in cyclocross and road in the Classics, made a successful Tour debut, winning a stage and wearing the yellow jersey for a week, but left just before the first day of rest.
“It was an obligation of the sponsor, so he had no choice. It shows that it is not an ideal preparation that he retired after a week,” Pidcock said of Van der Poel participating in the Tour.
“But he had a really good Tour. He’s going to be 100 percent in that, I think. He’s a big target for him – he’s not going to give anything other than his best.”
Pidcock arrived in Tokyo on Saturday, staying at the Team GB hotel for the first few days before moving to the “cycling village”, which he said was mostly “full of mountain bikers” and “like a World Cup”.
He has trained but it is only today and this weekend that he will tackle the Izu mountain bike course, 4 kilometers long with about 180 meters of elevation gain per lap.
“I haven’t seen it yet. There is a video but I haven’t really watched it. You can get the wrong perception and think about it too much, so I’d rather see it myself in real life,” Pidcock said. “But it’s hilly, there are short steep climbs, and from what I can tell it’s pretty technical.”
Pidcock has described his first Olympics as a “crazy” experience so far, although he acknowledged that they are “not very normal Games” given the coronavirus pandemic, which has led to a reduction mixing in the Olympic Village and a spectator ban.
“It’s cool to be at the Games and to be able to represent my country,” he said.
It seems he has already tasted it, and it may be a mark of the ambition of the 21-year-old that he is already considering Paris 2024.
“I was thinking about it today, and I want to go mountain biking and road racing in Paris – and time trial too, if they want me.”