Before the 2023 edition of Strade Bianche, riders buzzed around the team buses. Mechanics made adjustments to tyre pressures, they added sandpaper in bottle cages to stop them falling out, riders discussed team tactics, some looking more nervous than others. Some had stem notes spanning halfway down their top tubes, with notes about when crucial sectors would pop up, or when it was time to eat and drink, or possible moments to attack. Cycling is becoming more and more about this crucial attention to detail and leaving no stone unturned when it comes to preparation, relying on science and numbers to dictate team tactics or race preparation.
For Tom Pidcock, who won this year’s Strade Bianche, his confidence ahead of the race relied, quite simply, on two black cats that had crossed the road in front of him, two days in a row. “I don’t know if that’s good or bad luck,” he said after the race, “but it gave me this feeling.”
It’s a feeling that Pidcock explains he’s had before, one that tells him that there are good things to come. “I used to get this feeling a lot when I was a junior where I just know the headspace I’m in, the state of mind I’m in and the shape I’m in is all just going to play out right and this week I had that. I felt good, I felt confident and happy. I knew that today something good was going to happen.”
Image: Chris Auld
When asked how he knew that attacking with 51.5 kilometres of the race remaining was the right decision, Pidcock replied: “I didn’t really mean to attack. I was just pushing and I found myself alone.”
Attacks aren’t really supposed to be made by accident, but Pidcock appeared to have a such a feeling in Strade Bianche that he didn’t really need to think, it’s like he had a true belief that he would take victory, despite the fear of the chasing group closing in on him later in the latter kilometres of the race. “There were a few times where I thought maybe that it was stupid, especially when it came closer to the finish. I thought that I might have shot my shot too early, but it worked out,” Pidcock explained.
The British rider’s move was reminiscent of Tadej Pogačar’s brave solo attack at Strade Bianche last year – in fact, he started to accelerate just one kilometre after the Slovenian did in 2022. Naturally, comparisons are being drawn between the two riders, though Pidcock is quick to silence any questions about this.
“Considering he probably could have…
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