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Tom Pidcock: I will challenge Wout van Aert at Tour of Britain – and I’ll have fun doing it

“I’m not on top form but I really needed a rest as I went full gas from the Tour [de France] straight to the worlds in Glasgow,” he explained to Telegraph Sport as he boarded his flight to Manchester on Friday evening. “But I’m not in a bad place.”

Jumbo Visma’s Van Aert, who beat Pidcock’s team-mate Ethan Hayter to the overall by just six seconds in 2021, is the big favourite, especially with five of the first six stages potentially ending in bunch or reduced bunch sprints, before two hilly days next weekend in Gloucestershire and Wales to decide the general classification.

“It’s not really the best route they could have come up with in my opinion,” Pidcock said of a race that starts in Greater Manchester before heading to North Wales, Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, East Anglia and then back across England to the finale.

“Monday’s stage in Wrexham is only 110km with a short climb not far from the finish so that could be quite a fun, fast day. But yeah, it’s not really ideal for me having so many sprint stages. It’s quite weighted towards [Van Aert’s] characteristics, especially with bonus seconds. It’s not a race where you race up Alpine climbs, so the time gaps are only going to be small.”

He added: “I’ll give it my best. I always want to win but I’ll just try to enjoy riding with my mates and see what we can get out of it. I’m sure the atmosphere will be brilliant. It’s always great racing in front of home crowds.”

Pidcock, who leads a six-strong Ineos Grenadiers team that contains fellow Yorkshiremen Connor Swift and Ben Turner, may not be sure of his prospects at this race, but he is increasingly sure that he wants to target the general classification in the biggest stage races in the world.

This year’s Tour de France was his first as co-leader. And although he fell away to finish 13th overall, nearly 48mins down on the winner Jonas Vingegaard, he insists it only increased his resolve to return and fight for the yellow jersey one day.

In a blog for Red Bull straight after the Tour, Pidcock described it as “the hardest sporting event in the world” and admitted he had “struggled mentally and wasn’t tough enough” which was uncharacteristic of him. But he said he had not lost his belief that he could be a contender and was “more motivated than ever to ride for the general classification in future Tours”.

That will most likely be 2024 at the earliest with Pidcock defending his Olympic mountain bike title in Paris next summer.

“This year’s Tour taught me a lot,” he reflected. “Riding GC in a grand tour is very unrewarding for the amount of effort you put in. But at the end of the day it gives the biggest buzz.”

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