Tom Pidcock wins Paris-Roubaix U23 two years after his solo in the U19 version
On the 2nd of June 2019, Tom Pidcock lived up to his role of favourite in Paris-Roubaix U23. Having taking his training fairly 'easy' in his first year on the road as an U23 road cyclist, 2019 was the year where he wanted to excel. And so he did, despite competition of amongst others a firm Lotto-Soudal squad, he managed to reach the Roubaix Vélodrome solo, raising one hand in the hot air. Temperature had been high throughout the whole 170 K ride.
The Young Peloton went to the Vélodrome to talk to four of the main contenders right after they crossed the finish line: Tom Pidcock (1st), Johan Jacobs (2nd), Ward Vanhoof (4th) and Daan Hoole (11th after a crash in the group riding for 3rd place).
Tom Pidcock (Great Britain, Wiggins - Le Col) – Winner
Tom, you look absolutely tired. Was it really hot today?
Tom: “Yeah, it was unbelievably hot and I just kept drinking all day. I played it right and I stayed at the front the whole race. Everyone was working against me and chased me down when I attacked. So I had to keep it together. At the end I was together with Jacobs. I said to him: ‘just work with me’, and luckily he did work with me cause otherwise...”
But you decided to attack him in the end?
Tom: “Yeah, he was working with me, but then his team car came and told him to sit on the wheel.”
Early in the race, your teammate of Wiggins – Le Col, James Fouché, was up the road. Was that part of the team tactics?
Tom: “Yeah, that worked quite well. Corentin (Navarro, Ed.) was at the front as well, but he was struggling with the heat a bit. So it was just me and Fouché, but I don’t know what happened to him."
How important is this victory for you?
Tom: “I’m happy I can win one of the classics, because I have had a lot of bad luck. In Flanders I crashed (in the sprint, Ed.) and in Liège (Bastogne-Liège, Ed.) I was still suffering from that crash. Now the hard work finally pays off.”
How bad was that crash in the Tour of Flanders seven weeks ago?
Tom: “Well, I can still feel my hip hurting. The cut was deep and it still feels pretty sore, but it’s almost perfectly healed up. But the pain has definitely been with me for a few weeks.”
You won the U23 Paris-Roubaix two years after winning the junior editition.
Tom: “By now I knew where the crucial points were.” (laughs)
Is this Roubaix one of the races you’ve suffered the most on a bike? You almost seemed like you had to throw up after you passed the finish.
Tom: “It’s certainly up there. It’s different, going by yourself with 20K to go rather than a short effort, but today it certainly felt like that the last few kilometres.”
Did you feel like you were the strongest of all the riders today?
Tom: “I think so, but it’s never certain in this type of races.”
Coming into the race as the big favourite, did you get a hard time on the road?
Tom: “The Lotto-Soudal team kept working as teammates, they let the wheels of their teammates go for example. So I just tried to keep the front group together until I did a successful attack. I couldn’t just chase all day, I needed to try something.”
Is it your biggest victory yet?
Tom: “It’s definitely one of my biggest victories. Last year I knew I still could race on the road and get good results. But I had been messing around, I was having a break. This year I’m taking it serious. So it’s good to get this result and to get the bad luck out of the way.”
Johan Jacobs (Switzerland, Lotto-Soudal U23) - Second
Johan, you finished second in Paris-Roubaix. Would you have expected that result at the startline?
Johan: “I wouldn’t say I expected it. Paris-Roubaix is always an unpredictable race, so it’s important not to have bad luck. But I did think I would be riding well here, because it’s a race that suits me. Well enough to finish second, that’s not something I expected.”
You have a history in cyclocross. With you and Pidcock, two cyclocross riders are on the top spots of the podium. Is your experience an advantage? I heard Pidcock was able to ride on the border of the cobblestone street, on a line of a few centimetres.
Johan: “Yeah, I also have that advantage. I can also ride on the edge of the road, where others have to ride on the cobblestones. Maybe you don’t go faster there, but it does save you energy. Maybe we also manage not to get nervous too quickly. We’re more relaxed and don’t waste energy by being too tensed on the cobblestones.”
What is your story of the race?
Johan: “From the beginning, I was pretty active in the race. I actually wanted to get into the early breakaway, so from the first kilometres I was in different attacks and I stayed in the front. From the first cobbled sector onwards, I was never outside the first twenty riders of the peloton.”
If I'm correct, the race really opened up when you and two other riders attacked from the remaining peloton of 25 riders?
Johan: “Yes, I attacked. After a cobbled section the speed in the peloton decreased. So I went for it. In the bunch of about 25 riders, there were still about 4 riders of our team Lotto-Soudal. So I attacked and Jens Reynders (Wallonie-Bruxelles) and Jake Stewart (Fdj continental) followed my attack. We didn’t work too well together and my legs weren't feeling great. As it seems, nobody's really did. Jens Reynders said he didn’t have the legs to do much work and only Jake wanted to take turns. Pidcock came from behind and joined our group. I looked behind and saw three-four other riders coming back.”
Amongst the riders who were coming back, there were two teammates from Lotto-Soudal: Ward Vanhoof and Brent Van Moer.
Johan: “Yes, so I didn’t have to push at the front anymore. They joined our group and from then onwards everyone looked at our team to do the work. But nobody would really commit to it. Sometimes we were almost standing still, the other moment there was somebody attacking. The pace in the group went down again and the teamcars joined us. Everyone went to get something from the cars, but the same moment there were new attacks. Again, nobody got away. Then I tried and managed to get away, and a few moments later Tom Pidcock joined me. By that moment, I was actually really tired.”
But you took turns with Pidcock? After you crossed the finish line, he gave you a hand to show his appreciation.
Johan: “Yes, I couldn’t do a lot and only did a few turns. I wasn’t riding fast when I pulled. He rode 46-47 km/h, while I did turns at about 40. Pidcock was really strong. Then on the cobbled sector of Camphin en Pévèle, Pidcock accelerated. I couldn’t hold his wheel. He took about 30-40 seconds advantage on me. I had a pretty bad time at that moment, so I just tried to keep my pace as high as possible until the finish. And for a moment, I came closer again.”
So you started believing you could close the gap again?
Johan: “For a moment, yes. But I also knew Pidcock isn’t just any rider.”
You are a Swiss rider, but you speak Dutch perfectly. How is that possible?
Johan: “My father is Flemish, and at home in Switzerland I was raised bilingual. I went to school in Switzerland and was born there, but always spoke German to my mom and Dutch to my father. Now I live in Belgium with my Flemish girlfriend. I moved to Belgium for her, while ages ago, my father moved to Switzerland for my mother.”
Two years ago, I talked to Bjorg Lambrecht about his favourite victory in the youth categories. He mentioned a race in Harzé in the Ardennes which he won as a junior in 2015. He told me he was in the break with you and his Dutch friend Kevin Inkelaar (now Bahrain-Merida). He had told Inkelaar that they would be riding for second place, because ‘the Swiss rider’ was riding way too strong and there was no chance he would keep up with you, but suddenly you were dropped because you ran out of fuel. Bjorg won the race with a huge gap on the other riders.
Johan: “I remember that.” (laughs) “In my first year as a junior, I had already ridden well in Harzé, and at that moment I was in my second year, so my expectations were high. But I rode a bit too fast in the beginning. So when we went into the circuit at the end, it was game over for me. The weather was the same as today, it was really hot and I was dehydrated.
Did you finish that race on the podium?
Johan: “No, not at all, I even had to exit the race.” (laughs) “After I had dropped, I was really standing still. But that’s the kind of experiences you learn from. Anyway, it’s good to hear I wasn’t the only one who suffered in that race, because Bjorg didn’t look like he did."
Ward Vanhoof (Belgium, Lotto-Soudal U23) – 4th
Being only in your second year as an U23, fourth place is a really good result.
Ward: "Yes, I actually have the same age as Pidcock. When me and him were juniors two years ago, Pidcock did exactly the same. He rode away from a group with me and Daan Hoole, just like he did today. Pidcock is an incredible talent. Also technically, he can ride on the 2-3 centimetres next to the cobbles. Van Moer tried to do the same on Carrefour de l’Arbre, but he fell."
What is the story of your race?
Ward: "My teammate Johan (Jacobs, Ed.) rode away with Pidcock, and I was in the group behind of around eight guys. On Camphin-en-Pévèle, my other teammate Van Moer accelerated and rode away with me and Daan Hoole. We worked together well until Carrefour de l’Arbre, and there Brent (Van Moer, Ed.) went for it on the side of the road, but crashed and me and Hoole couldn’t avoid crashing into him. The three of us went down. At that moment we had a gap on Jens Reynders, so Reynders could ride past us to third place."
A rider's worst nightmare, that must have been.
Ward: "My chain came off and I had to stand still for a long while. When I was finally back on the bike, I had no clue what result I was riding for. I hadn’t payed attention to how many riders had passed us, I was only trying to fix my chain. After I got that sorted out, I managed to get back to Brent Van Moer, who had just managed to get on his bike as well. Also someone from Hagens Berman Axeon (André Carvalho, Ed.) was in our group. We just kept the pace high and reeled two guys back in. And then ultimately I managed to drop the others, so I came into Roubaix by myself. But the rider from Axeon stayed within fifty metres behind me, so I had to give my everything I had left."
And you managed to hold him off. But you didn’t have a clue about how many riders had finished before you?
Ward: "I had no idea, I thought I had finished eighth. Now they say I got fourth, so I’m really surprised. But I’m happy with my race. It’s a pity that we crashed, but there’s nothing to do about it."
Without that crash, would you have managed to close the gap to Pidcock?
Ward: "No, absolutely not. He had looked the strongest rider everywhere. Whenever he attacked, we had to give 100 percent and cooperate with a few guys if we wanted to see him back. We knew he was superstrong, so when in the end he rode away with Johan Jacobs, we knew Pidcock would probably beat him. But still, we wanted to defend Johan’s breakaway."
Daan Hoole (Netherlands, SEG Racing Academy) – 11th
You were riding for a spot on the podium with Brent Van Moer and Ward Vanhoof, but then all of you crashed.
Daan: "Exactly. On Carrefour de l’Arbre, Brent Van Moer was pushing really hard. After a corner, we were riding on the side of the rode to avoid the cobblestones, but Van Moer's front wheel slipped. I couldn’t manage to avoid crashing into him. I had to change bikes and that took a long while. I also had pain in my wrist. Unfortunately, I was too far back to get onto the podium."
You must have felt really good today, as you were battling for the podium spots.
Daan: "I felt incredibly strong all day long. I had the plan to attack on the cobbled sector after Carrefour de l’Arbre. I wanted to go solo to get the last podium spot. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen in the end. But now I know I can come back here to win."