Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.

Tom Pidcock returns to racing despite mystery stomach problems

The Ineos Grenadiers Classics leader will race Gent-Wevelgem this weekend, cutting his leave of absence short just days after it began.

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After his forced withdrawal from Milan-San Remo, the Ineos Grenadiers have announced that Tom Pidcock will return to competition at this weekend’s Gent-Wevelgem, despite persistent and mysterious stomach issues.

“He’s alright, he’s been training well. He recovered pretty quickly after Milan-San Remo,” deputy team principal Rod Ellingworth told Cyclingnews at Friday’s E3 Classic. “He’s fine now, he’s been training okay and I think he’s looking forward to the Classics.”

Pidcock enjoyed a promising start to the spring, demonstrating a strong partnership with Jhonatan Narváez on Opening Weekend, albeit without big results. However, he then cancelled his highly anticipated appearance at Strade Bianche, a major early season goal for the Brit, citing a stomach virus. He lined up at Milan-San Remo two weekends later, but was forced to withdraw after making an emergency stop to answer a call of nature.

“I think it was something we couldn’t really put our finger on, to be honest, he just had bad guts,” said Ellingworth. “So we’re not 100% sure, but he seems okay now.”

It was indicated earlier this week that the cyclocross world champion would be out of competition indefinitely, or at least until they get to the bottom of his mystery stomach problem. His coach Kurt Bogaerts told Het Laatste Nieuws that Pidcock would instead rest, recover and undergo thorough testing, and that they would not make plans for a return to racing “until this problem is solved”.

Tom Pidcock and Jhonatan Narváez were key components of the front group during Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.

However, the Ineos Grenadiers have included him in their squad for Gent-Wevelgem alongside Narváez and Dylan van Baarle, who finished sixth and eighth respectively at Friday’s E3 Saxo Bank Classic. Pidcock will hopefully then line up for Wednesday’s Dwars Door Vlaanderen as he builds towards major goals that include the Tour of Flanders and Amstel Gold Race.

“Somebody like Tom will always be busy with objectives and he’s got quite a few things he wants to tick off this year, so I’m sure he’ll be back this week,” said Ellingworth, before Sunday’s lineup was announced. “He’s meant to be racing on Wednesday, so fingers crossed he’ll be there. I say it like that, but it just seems to be coming from all directions at the minute.”

Though Pidcock’s complaint is apparently more systemic than viral, his is by no means the only rider experiencing questionable health right now. Races left, right and centre are being decimated as everything but COVID-19 sweeps mercilessly through the peloton.

“We’re seeing a lot of people across the peloton getting things and bugs,” Ellingworth said. “I think as much as we’re doing the maximum we can, it seems like quite a lot of people are getting sick. I noticed Jumbo-Visma started Catalunya with six riders, Jack Haig left the race, and I think a lot of riders yesterday at Coppi e Bartali didn’t start with a similar thing.”

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