Tom Pidcock’s race programme has yet to be fully confirmed but with cyclo-cross, the Spring Classics, Tour de France, and the 2024 Paris Olympic Games to factor into consideration, his coach Kurt Bogaerts is well aware of the complexities at hand.
Reports stemming from the Belgian media on Friday stated that Pidcock would skip the UCI Cyclo-Cross World Championships at the start of next year and race a limited ‘cross programme. Bogaerts has told GCN that while the Worlds is unlikely to feature on the rider’s schedule, a ‘cross campaign will start after mid-December and that a top-five in next year’s Tour de France is a realistic ambition ahead of the Olympics.
“I can’t confirm that he doesn’t race cyclo-cross Worlds. If I say the chances are small, it doesn’t mean he’s not doing it. I said in the media that it was very unlikely but that’s not confirmed. There are a lot of factors in play that we want to weigh up and the road is a big focus, we all know that,” Bogaerts told GCN in a call on Friday – before the news of Rod Ellingworth’s departure from the team.
“There are three disciplines, and it’s a puzzle that will take time. I’m not really in a hurry but I get questioned a lot. There’s no urgent decision. We’re in a planning phase, and it’s a complicated one. It’s a puzzle that needs to be done right, and we’re far from there but we’ll do it step by step.”
What can be confirmed at this stage is that Pidcock will link up with his Ineos Grenadiers teammates in December for a training camp. At that point, 2024 goals will be finalised, and Pidcock has made no secret of his desire to target the Tour de France in July before racing road and mountain biking events in Paris at the Olympics.
Bogaerts was able to confirm that Pidcock would only race cyclo-cross after the Ineos Grenadiers camp, which finishes on December 15, and that the rider’s schedule would be based at around eight to 12 ‘cross races.
Tour de France ambitions
Pidcock’s Tour de France aims remain unresolved at this point but there’s no doubt in Bogaerts’ mind that the all-rounder can improve next year. Pidcock made his Tour debut in 2022 and he made an instant impression with a memorable stage win atop Alpe d’Huez and a top-20 in the general classification. This year he missed out on a stage win but finished 13th after holding down a top-10 place for a healthy stint of the race.
It’s not clear if or when Pidcock will decide to fully focus on his Grand Tour ambitions, and Bogaerts is certainly not going to add to the already existing pressure.
When asked if Pidcock is ready to lead a team at a Grand Tour, the Belgian coach replied: “It’s a difficult one to say. You can’t say it until you’ve done it so when you start riding podium in a Grand Tour you can start talking about leadership. I know that from a physical point of view he can still make massive steps, and it is an unknown territory for him. I think he’ll make another step in the coming year and then we’ll see where he’s at.”
According to his coach, Pidcock could realistically aim for a top-five result on GC at the Tour in 2024.
“Progression from this year would be good. Like a top-five, a stage win with the GC contenders. That would be a healthy ambition. If you can ride top five then you’re close to the podium, but this year he was 13th, and well behind, so there are some serious steps that need to be done and we need to work hard at limiting losses,” Bogaerts told GCN.
“Tom has shown good progression with the Tour. In my opinion, his Tour de France in 2023 was better than his first one, he just missed a stage win but his general progression was better. He was a stronger bike rider so hopefully he can make that curve continue in the right direction. Tom rode the majority of the Tour hard, he had two off days, and was really strong coming out of the Tour.”
Ineos Grenadiers are still searching for the next Tour winner within their ranks having gone four years since their last win courtesy of Egan Bernal in 2019. Geraint Thomas and Richard Carapaz have both made the podium since then, while Carlos Rodríguez finished fifth this year and won a stage on his debut. Jumbo-Visma and UAE Team Emirates have become the most successful Grand Tour teams in the last few seasons, and while Bogaerts is determined to close the gap on Ineos’ rivals, he’s also well aware of the challenge he and the rest of the team are facing.
“On paper, you’d say no,” he said when asked if Ineos had a Tour winner in their ranks for 2024.
“But when Jonas Vingegaard was second in the Tour de France I think he’d only won Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali before that. We saw good progression with Carlos, Geraint did it in the past, Egan has had an amazing recovery with a solid year behind him, and then with Tom, he is also progressing.
“I’d say no but you can’t predict. It would be a bit arrogant to say yes if you look at the dominance of Pogačar and Vingegaard in the last two years. Several times they were better, and there’s a gap to be closed but we’re working on that with the team. I’m confident that we’ll close that gap.”
Find out more about the 2024 Tour de France on our dedicated race page.