Tom Pidcock’s stellar start to the classics season has been brought to an abrupt, if temporary, halt, as the Ineos Grenadiers confirmed today that the 23-year-old has been ruled out of Milan-San Remo after being diagnosed with mild concussion following a crash at last week’s Tirreno-Adriatico stage race.
The former cyclocross world champion has been in blistering form so far in 2023, winning a stage of the Volta ao Algarve and placing fifth at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, before taking arguably the biggest pro win of his career at Strade Bianche with a storming 50km solo attack over the Tuscan gravel.
However, Pidcock – who has established himself as the Ineos Grenadiers’ undisputed leader in major one-day races – crashed twice during Tirreno-Adriatico last week, his first race since becoming the first British male rider to win Strade Bianche.
> Flying Tom Pidcock wins Strade Bianche with audacious 50km attack
While the first spill, which saw him tangle with cyclocross rival Wout van Aert, only resulted in some nasty road rash, the second – on the seventh and final stage – led to the Yorkshireman’s withdrawal from the race.
And today, the Ineos Grenadiers confirmed in a statement that Pidcock, who has been continuously monitored by the team’s doctors since his crash, has been displaying symptoms of mild concussion and will be rested for a prescribed period, in line with the British squad’s established concussion protocols.
That period of rest means Pidcock will miss this Saturday’s Milan-San Remo, the first ‘monument’ classic of the cycling season, where he was expected to lead a team which also includes former winner Michał Kwiatkowski and Hour Record holder Filippo Ganna.
While Ineos hope that the British rider will recover in time for the rest of the classics campaign in April, there has been no indication as to when Pidcock will return to training or racing.
> UCI publishes new concussion protocol as other sports face lawsuits from retired athletes
“This is obviously disappointing for both Tom and the team,” Ineos deputy team principal Rod Ellingworth said in a statement.
“We saw at Strade Bianche the sort of form he’s in and I know how keen he was to carry that into Milan-San Remo.
“But rider welfare is our first priority and he’ll follow the advice of our medical team to ensure that he’s 100 percent to safely resume his Classics campaign.”
The news that Ineos Grenadiers have withdrawn from racing one of the peloton’s most in-form riders, on the eve of one of the biggest races of the season, will come as a relief to those who believe that the sport continues to have a “concussion problem”.
In December 2020, the UCI published a new concussion protocol – which recommends that riders do not return to competition for at least a week after their symptoms have gone – following a warning from brain charity Headway that cycling is “lagging miles behind other sports” when it comes to dealing with sports-related concussion.
And last year, a study conducted at the University of Northampton found that four out of five competitive cyclists were unaware of the limitations of helmets when it comes to protecting them from concussion.
> Only one in five competitive cyclists aware that helmets do not protect from concussion, according to new research
“Sports-related concussion has been a concern within other sports – such as Rugby and American Football – for some time now, understandably so,” Dr Jack Hardwicke said.
“But as our research shows, cyclists may be lulled into a false sense of security about their safety from sports-related-concussion because of their perceptions of injury and by the very fact that many are wearing headgear marketed as giving them protection from concussion.
“Coupled with a tendency within the sport to ‘brush off’ injuries and with many more of us ‘getting back on our bikes’, there is a need to make sure those who enjoy cycling do so as safely as possible.
“Our conclusions are not that cycling headgear doesn’t afford protection, but that more independent research underpinning new technologies marketed for reducing concussion is needed.
“We hope that future research generated by our findings will also compel leading figures within the cycling sphere to ‘up gear’ about head safety and help promote to cyclists the need to adopt a more cautionary approach when a crash occurs.”
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