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Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) seemed slightly lost on Sunday after struggling through Gent-Wevelgem, saying he didn’t know when he’d be back to his ‘normal self’. On Wednesday, he found some answers, finishing on the podium at Dwars door Vlaanderen to give himself a major confidence boost ahead of the Tour of Flanders.

“A massive improvement” was how Pidcock described his day, speaking to reporters in Waregem.

Pidcock has been hampered by stomach issues in recent weeks, forcing him to skip Strade Bianche and miss Milan-San Remo. He made a surprise return to action at Gent-Wevelgem and managed to finish, but down in 67th place.

At Dwars door Vlaanderen, he was back to his influential best, playing a key role in prizing the race open on the Berg Ten Houte with 70km to go. With Ben Turner for company in a lead group of eight that went all the way, he was in strong position but was forced to watch Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) and Tiesj Benoot (Jumbo-Visma) slip away before sweeping up the final spot on the podium.

“It seems to be alright today, doesn’t it,” Pidcock said when asked about his stomach issues. “I don’t know. I think I’m OK, I’m not sure. It’s not a thing you can really say is affecting you or not. I think it’s fine now, yeah.”

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Pidcock, who has undergone blood tests to get to the bottom of why he wasn’t digesting his food optimally, suggested he’d been drawn into under-fuelling at Gent-Wevelgem. “I didn’t eat enough, was one of the issues on Sunday, but today I ate enough,” he added.

Pidcock described the winner, Van der Poel, as the strongest rider in the lead group, but he was unable to convert. Despite the numerical advantage for Ineos, Turner was said to be slightly below his best, leaving Pidcock vulnerable on the tactical final circuit around Waregem.

There was a volley of attacks, and Pidcock himself threw one in the final two kilometres, but as soon as he was brought back, Benoot went, Van der Poel followed, and no one else responded. 

“It was cat and mouse in the end. That was just the last move and the elastic snapped. Every other move someone closed it, and just that time, Stefan [Küng] hesitated a bit, he was guy who should have gone, and that was it.”

Still, Pidcock outsprinted the rest to claim what will no doubt be a confidence-boosting podium ahead of Flanders on Sunday. 

“I’m happy with the podium,” he said. “I was enjoying racing there at end and getting stuck in. I did a pretty good sprint myself but it was just how the cookie crumbled today. I felt really strong. I raced without hesitating today and just got stuck in and that’s important to gain confidence for Sunday and future races.

“Sunday is a different kettle of fish. It’ll be full gas like this but with another 100km added on. It’ll be a long hard day but if I have legs like today I’ll be happy with that.”

Pogačar

While Pidcock was turning at full throttle in the lead group, the presence of Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) didn’t pass him by. The Tour de France champion was making his cobbled Classics debut and was under intense scrutiny ahead of a title at what would be a third Monument title at Flanders.

Pidcock effectively produced the acceleration that put the Slovenian out of the race, and he seemed to take pleasure in having done so, and perhaps in the fact that the Tour de France champion didn’t just waltz onto the cobbles and have it all his own way.

“Seeing him and how he was riding, he doesn’t fully understand where the key points are yet, which is completely understandable. He’s never ridden these races yet,” Pidcock said. 

“It shows it’s his first race because the positioning is just as important as the legs. He clearly had good legs. I heard on the radio twice he was coming across the gap. But when you have to position for climb, it’s not necessarily at the bottom, it’s five kilometres before. Ben didn’t have good legs but we were first into Ten Houte, and we took race on – that’s just as important as legs.

“Also, when you have a bunch full of massive guy, you’ve got to get your elbows out a bit, or go under them. Once he gets grasp of that, there’s no reason why won’t be in the front group.”

SOURCE: CyclingNews   (go to source)
AUTHOR: Patrick Fletcher
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