Tom Pidcock has mixed emotions about Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert missing the Cyclo-cross World Championships.
Van der Poel has not made the trip to America on account of injury, while Van Aert elected to sidestep the race to focus on the spring Classics on the road.
With arguably the two best riders in the sport not in attendance in Fayetteville, Ineos Grenadiers star Pidcock is among the favourites for this weekend’s race.
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Pidcock is aware it hands him an outstanding chance of getting his hands on a rainbow jersey, but concedes there will be those who say any victory would be a little hollow.
"This is kind of the thing, I think. For sure they are the two best 'cross riders in the world," Pidcock said. "They have won seven world titles between them over the last seven years? I think that's right.
"So, I certainly think there's more opportunity this year. Of course, it's an opportunity to take. But then again, you know, there's always going to be that cloud if you like that they aren't there.
"But I think, if I can win this year, then I'm world champion and then I can focus on beating them in another year. So, it is kind of the blessing and sort of – it's not good at the same time."
Even without Van Aert, Belgium have a strong squad - with seven riders, including Eli Iserbyt, set to take the start line.
Pidcock is aware of the strength in numbers, but is not convinced they will ride as a team.
"That could possibly be quite an issue to overcome, I guess," Pidcock, who has two race wins to his name this season, said. "But I'm not entirely sure how well they're going to work together to be honest. I mean, especially with no clear leader. They could all be racing against each other. So yeah, we'll see, but I think I just need to kind of stay out of trouble. Especially on the first few laps."
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