Tom Pidcock may be a little too cocky for some tastes but as his track record shows, he delivers. The 22-year-old from Leeds has rapidly transferred his mountain biking and cyclocross expertise to road racing and is the coming force at the Ineos Grenadiers team.
But even though he has won world and Olympic titles, he still struggled to explain the intensity of racing through the huge crowds on Alpe d’Huez on Thursday to win the most prestigious summit finish in cycling.
“I can’t explain,” Pidcock said after claiming his first Tour de France stage win. “You have to just pray that everyone is going to move out of your way and that is the most ridiculous experience ever.”
Pidcock’s stunning descending skills drew swoons from onlookers, something that he attributed to his ease riding his bike at speed. “I just have become very used to riding a bike in situations where it’s on the limit of control,” he added.
“I grew up riding my bike. I rode to school every day. I’d detour through the woods, drifting in the mud and I’d come home and my uniform was completely dirty.”
Having briefly looked back, the ambitious Pidcock is planning ahead. “I’ve won a stage of the Tour so I’m pretty satisfied. But yeah, I compare myself to [Tadej] Pogacar and these guys. I have bigger ambitions in this race in the future after this.”
Chris Froome finished third on the Tour’s 12th stage, enjoying his best race stage result outside of time trials since winning the 2018 Giro d’Italia.
“I’ve been feeling better and better, and have been wanting to target a stage like today,” the four-times Tour winner said. “I tried my luck in the breakaway and I gave it everything that I had. I had no more to give on that final climb.
“Tom seemed like the strongest in the group,” Froome added. “He was flying on the descents today. His mountain biking came in handy, and there were a few points where I backed off because he was pushing the limits.
“I have no regrets today. Naturally I would have loved to have put my hands up and I tried to win the stage. I gave it everything. Where I’ve come from over the last three years, battling back from my accident to finish third on one of the hardest stages in the Tour, I can be really happy with that. I’m going to keep pushing. I don’t know what my limits are, I’ll keep trying to improve and hopefully get back to them again.”
Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma), forced to repel a resurgent Tadej Pogacar, leader of the UAE-Emirates team, 48 hours after the Dane had ridden clear of the defending champion on the Col du Granon, retained the race lead. Pogacar’s attacks put Vingegaard under pressure but ultimately failed to make an impact.
Huge and boisterous crowds closed in around the riders as they rode up the climb but Vingegaard seemed unperturbed. “Of course it’s a big risk to get Covid when there are a lot of spectators shouting in your face,” he said. “That’s obvious. But I guess that’s how it is. We hope that nobody gets Covid. That won’t be a nice way to leave the Tour.”
Vingegaard cited the respect shared between him and Pogacar, which was evident when after a fierce attack from Pogacar through the packed crowds, the pair turned to each other and smiled. “We didn’t speak to each other,” he said. “He just smiled at me. I smiled back. That’s it.”