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Triple threats aren’t limited to the entertainment industry — they exist in the sporting world too. There are many examples of triple threats in cycling, those riders that seamlessly transition from one discipline to another while eating the specialist riders’ lunch in the process.
Mathieu Van der Poel (MVDP) and Pauline Ferrand-Prévot are perhaps the most obvious examples of the current-day cycling triple threat. But they aren’t alone: Peter Sagan is obviously in a similar realm, as is Marianne Vos, while Aussie mountain biker Jared Graves has stood on the podiums of BMX, enduro, downhill, 4x and even cross country events. But there’s another name that should be on this list of versatile elites, an up-and-comer who’s been following a similar trajectory to MVDP for a number of years: the young Briton, Tom Pidcock.
Just 20 years old, Pidcock has had a brilliant few seasons. In the past three years he’s worn multiple national and world champion’s jerseys across a spread of road, time trial, criterium, cross country mountain bike, cyclocross and even track events. In 2019 alone, he won Paris-Roubaix Espoirs (the U23 edition) and the U23 British cross country mountain bike national championship, he held the U23 Cyclocross World Championship, British national, and European Championships jerseys simultaneously, and then finished third at the U23 Road World Championships while still recovering from a rather brutal crash.
And while not much racing has happened in 2020, Pidcock forfeited his chance to defend his U23 cyclocross world title, and instead elected to line up in the elite category alongside MVDP, who’s five years his senior. Pidcock won the silver medal.
He was then scheduled to make a Cape Epic debut alongside Swiss mountain bike veteran and Olympian Florian Vogel: an unexpected, but no doubt rapid, pairing. Of course, current world events meant that Pidcock never took to the startline of the gruelling multi-day race.
Today, we have the opportunity to take a close look at a few bikes from Pidcock’s stable: his 2020 road, cyclocross and cross country race machines, plus his current gravel bike.
Road: Specialized S-Works Tarmac
Previously a star rider of the now-defunct Team Wiggins Le Col, Pidcock now leads the U23 British-based Trinity Racing team, an outfit run by the pro cyclist agency of Trinity Sports Management. Trinity Racing is sponsored by Specialized and SRAM (including Zipp and Quarq), and almost every component, barring pedals and the K-Edge Wahoo computer mount, is supplied between those two brands. As a result, Pidcock is unsurprisingly riding a fleet of S-Works frames covered in the latest 12-speed wireless shifting, Zipp wheels and Quarq power meters.
Standing at 170 cm (5’6″) and weighing just 58 kg (129 pounds), Pidcock rides a 52 cm Tarmac. Currently, the bike is setup with SRAM Red eTap AXS, using 50/37T front rings and a 10-28T in the back. His handlebar and stem are alloy variants in the form of Zipp Service Course SL, with logos matching his current Zipp 303 wheels. Speedplay Zero road pedals are a carry-over from his Wiggins racing team, while tyres are supplied by Specialized.
Currently, the bike is setup for training, and so those wheels are shod with Specialized Roubaix Pro clinchers in a 25/28 mm size. Pidcock says when racing his road tyre pressures are between 4.1 – 5.8 bar (60-85 psi), typically matched to the surface of the day.
Pidcock’s saddle height is 701 mm, and that’s the same across the four disciples of bikes featured here. However, the young athlete from Leeds does change up his saddle set-back between bikes, with the road bike setup with a fairly lengthy 96 mm setback. The mountain bike is the shortest at near 50 mm and the cross and gravel bikes are somewhere between the two.
Saddle wise, Pidcock chooses the snub-nose Specialized Power saddle regardless of discipline. And it’s a similar story for his choice of 170 mm crank arms, although his time trial race bike does feature an even shorter 165 mm crank to enable a lower riding position.
Cyclocross: Specialized S-Works Crux
While it’s been suggested that Mathieu van der Poel uses the exact same bike fit dimensions between his road and cyclocoss bikes, such a thing is actually quite rare. For Pidcock, the different demands of the different disciplines do lead to some subtle, but important, tweaks.
Aerodynamics were cited as perhaps the most important performance factor that influences how Pidcock sets up his road and time trial bikes, but it’s a different story off the road. “I try to look after my back more because it’s harsher on the whole body and if your back isn’t 100% you can lose a lot of power,” said Pidcock of his different positions for his cross and mountain bikes.
For this, and compared to his road bike, the drop from saddle to handlebar is reduced, and the reach is shorter. Additionally, while Pidcock races on the road with impressively narrow 36 cm handlebars, he moves up to 38 cm on the cross bike.
Pedals are another big change when swapping from the road to off-road, with Pidcock moving from Speedplay Zeros to Ritchey WCS, a lightweight dual-sided mountain bike pedal based on Shimano’s SPD system.
Like many multidiscipline athletes, such as Marianne Vos, Pidcock tends not to mix between the two pedal systems until the season changes. “In the winter I train on my CX bike and MTB so I’m always on xc pedals,” said Pidcock, before revealing that there’s a little more to it. “I’ve positioned all my cleats across bikes in the same place to accommodate bottom bracket width etc. to make bike-swapping easier.”
For CX, Pidcock uses SRAM’s Red eTap AXS group, setup in a 1x configuration with a 10-33T cassette. Chainring sizes vary based on the course, but 42T is the common pick. These bikes are setup with smaller 140 mm brake rotors, and as on his road bike, the Zipp 303 Disc (tubular) is the common pick for cross, although Pidcock opted for the shallower 202s at Worlds.
Tyre choice is a constant point of obsession for many cyclocross racers. Pidcock races with Challenge tubulars for cross, setup between 1-1.4 bar (14.5-20 psi) depending on the course. “I’m riding a Challenge Limus when it’s muddy so I’m going to go lower pressure,” he said. “But it does differ on course to course. In the sand, I also run lower pressures similar to mud, like 1.1 bar (16 psi).” Come drier conditions, Pidcock often chooses the Challenge Griffo, run at about 1.3 bar (18.85 psi).
XC Mountain Bike: Specialized S-Works Epic
Arriving just in time to not race the Cape Epic, Pidcock’s new Specialized Epic offers 100 mm of travel front and rear in a 9.5 kg package. The Epic, by far the most popular bike at the race it’s named after, continues to use the same (albeit refined) Brain suspension technology as the original Epic from 2003. In this, the bike’s suspension remains locked out until there is an impact from below (at the wheels), at which point the suspension damping is opened and the suspension can behave as normal.
Pidcock’s bike is setup with SRAM Eagle eTap, offering a 10-50T cassette at the back, matched with a large 36T single chainring on a XX1 Quarq crankset. The brakes are matching Level Ultimate, featuring titanium bolts with a nice oil-slick treatment to match the cassette and chain.
Wheels are Roval’s all-new top cross country racing model, the 1,248 g (claimed) Control SL Team. The carbon hookless rims offer a 29 mm internal width, which hosts some plump 29 x 2.3″ tubeless rubber in the form of a Specialized S-Works Fast Trak on the front, and a Renegade on the rear.
While Pidcock’s time in South Africa with Florian Vogel was brief, they still managed some riding time together. Lessons learned from a veteran of the sport? “It’s better to be slower than stuck by the side of the track fixing a puncture,” said Pidcock, likely in reference to being smoother, but not faster in marathon racing. “Also he helped me get my tyre pressure down to what it’s supposed to be and not the 1.4 bar I started with like a chopper.”
And thought Pidcock’s cyclocross tyre pressures were low? Since gaining a few tips from Vogel, he now has just 1.1 bar (16 psi) in his mountain bike tyres. However, before you follow suit, do remember that Pidcock tips the scales at just 58 kg.
Gravel bike: Specialized S-Works Diverge
The latest addition to Pidcock’s fleet is the newly released Diverge gravel bike. Lockdown has seen Pidcock spend a bunch of time aboard the new bike, and that makes sense given it sits somewhere between the Crux and the Epic.
Pidcock’s new Diverge is setup with the equally new SRAM Force eTAP AXS Wide group, from which the young Briton is using the 10-36T cassette and longer-cage rear derailleur. A single 44T chainring features on the front.
Going slightly against the advice of Specialized, Pidcock’s Diverge features a Zipp Service Course SL stem mounted to the FutureShock 2.0 while the saddle and pedals are the same as on the Crux and Epic. Fit-wise, Pidcock has his gravel bike setup somewhere between the CX bike and the roadie, offering a reach that’s one centimetre shorter than the Tarmac and a centimetre longer than the Crux.
Once again, Zipp 303 wheels are used, but this time they’re set up tubeless and with 38 mm Specialized Pathfinder gravel tyres fitted. Those tyres are run with anything between 1.2 (17.4 psi) to 3 bars (43.5 psi) of pressure, depending on what the day holds.