pro cycling

Strade Bianche 2023: for Tom Pidcock, time is a game

Tom Pidcock Cyclist

As the race played out there was talk of time. The currency of a bike race. Seconds here, minutes between groups, this is the time, that was the moment. And in Tuscany, as we were, for another exquisite edition of Strade Bianche, time hits different.

The roads, the white gravel sterrato, are centuries old. The landscape, the rippled folds of a great Tuscan bedspread, echo with conquest, art, and wine. History everywhere. Each town and village a capsule of passing time.

For our winner, Tom Pidcock, who crossed the line alone having attacked like a gambolling lamb fifty kilomtres earlier, time is his to play with. Not the tedious continuum that most of us deal in but a game. A series of moments, linked through tears in the fabric, portals through which to squeeze when the moment is right.

“When did you feel you’d won?” asked Laura Trott, on reporting duties, post-race.

“Last Tuesday” he replied.

Embed from Getty Images

A few minutes earlier the usually chippy, chirpy Yorkshire lad looked visibly aged by the experience of holding off the chasing group of five riders who, but for total lack of cohesion in their pursuit of the miniature Ineos Grenadiers rider, may have reeled him in and forced an excruciating sprint up the final ramp of Via Santa Catarina: for the record, the single best-looking final kilometre of any bike race ever.

Having lassoed him, at one point, to within seven seconds, they trailed by half a minute at the finish.

Lapping up the adulation Pidcock’s usually youthful, energetic pallour appear grey and puffy, his shoulders, so supple and springy upon his initial attack pulled taught and tense, his face lined. Not so much no-nonsense Yorkshire lad as careworn hill farmer, ready to don a flat cap, tie up his raggedy trousers with a bit of old rope and spark up a woodbine.  

Maybe it was just a fine layer of white dust picked up from the roads?

Either way, he appeared suitably dilapidated. Reassuring, in a way, that this great race will push even this rider who appears to take every herculean challenge in his stride somewhere close to the edge.

In the closing kilometres, when it was in the balance, we were reminded that this, should he take the win, would be just the fourth of his career on the road: a World and Olympic champion in other disciplines, of course, at just twenty-three years old, and so already a massive success, but still. Not yet prolific.

A spell of “close but not quite” for a rider can easily become “lacks the killer instinct”, “not a race winner”, and before he knows it he’s the supporting act to a clinical teammate instead of the stone cold killer he knows himself to be.

All of which is me projecting the potentially mildly disappointing road career of a rider who is merely very good as opposed to great. Pidcock probably never entertains such negative thought. The win came.

“The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once,” said Einstein, doing that thing he does where he makes the most complicated things in the world seem whimsical.

A bit like the very best bike riders.

Of which Tom Pidcock is undoubtedly one.

(Top Image: Tom Pidcock via Adam Bowie at Flickr CC)

1 comment on “Strade Bianche 2023: for Tom Pidcock, time is a game

  1. It was a magnificent race with a very worthy winner


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