Mads Pedersen caps incredible team effort with a hat-trick win in La Vuelta
Trek-Segafredo had red-circled this day for some time and came in with high ambitions and a big plan: all hands – or legs in this case – on deck for one goal: a third win.
Mads had already promised his teammates, twice, that if they carry out their job, he will win. And Friday, for an incredible third time, he delivered on it again.
“After a team effort like today it’s really, really nice to give the boys a victory. I think this was, by far, the hardest victory for the whole team, so it’s a good feeling,” said Pedersen. “I am really thankful for the boys today because without them there was no chance I could sprint at the end.”
The 138-kilometer medium mountain stage included two ascents of the category two rated Puerto del Piélago, and a breakaway of three strong climbers escaped on the first.
A manageable trio, but 19 races into a Grand Tour there is no easy. The gap went to four minutes by the top and Trek-Segafredo immediately came to the front and started to ride.
“Our plan was to let a small break go and control it from the beginning. But it was a pretty strong break and it was not easy to control so the whole team had to be used in the right moments,” explained Mads.
“It was definitely hard to control but man the team was so, so impressive,” he continued. “Everyone was so dedicated and working really hard. When the three guys went and one was McNulty it’s not an easy break, so we worked to close them as fast as possible.”
In the valley ahead of the second ascent of the nine-kilometer climb, the USA WorldTour Team carved into the leaders’ gap, knocking it down to one minute at the start of the second ascent.
Three days from the end of the three-week race and the fatigue was evident. It raised more questions than answers as the climb started: Does Mads still have his good legs to get over the category two climb for a second time? Would, and could, others attack? Were the trio out front too strong?
The climb started. After two kilometers the three escapees were caught. Team Bahrain Victorious then took the reins from Trek-Segafredo and set a grueling pace. It shed a lot of weight from the bunch and thwarted attacks but did not get rid of Mads.
By the top, Mads’ had issued his response.
“The strategy was to close the gap on the last climb and then hopefully it would be a small peloton. Luckily the boys were able to do that, and then Bahrain did a really good pace on the climb for Fred Wright, and from there on, it was about staying focused all the way to the finish,” said Mads.
Forty kilometers remained. A long, fast downhill followed by a flat run-in. Three of the Team’s lightweights – Kenny Elissonde, Antonio Tiberi and Julien Bernard – policed the front, keeping the accelerator pressed to maintain a high speed. The kilometers ticked away.
Mads’ Lieutenant, Alex Kirsch, was gone, his effort earlier taking him away from his prime role in the lead out, but the peloton was small. Mostly climbers.
“I had Kenny pulling alone for really long, and Julien and Antonio did a such a good lead-out when you take into account they never do lead-outs. Really, really impressive; they did super in the last kilometer,” praised Mads.
Even a late flyer by Miles Scotson was batted aside. Trek-Segafredo was not going to let all their work be wasted in the last 500 meters.
“It’s never easy in a finale like this because there are a lot of strong guys in the bunch, and if one of them attacks in the roundabout I would be the one to close it, and then it would be hard to sprint so I was really happy for the speed the boys could keep in the end,” said Mads.
He continued:“When Miles Scotson attacked I still had Antonio Tiberi in front of me. Antonio looks skinny but he’s a powerful little guy so I was pretty sure that he could keep him within a distance that I could still pass Miles in the sprint.
It was a team effort from the drop of the flag to the white line and it gave Trek-Segafredo a hat trick of wins with still one more chance on Sunday before La Vuelta comes to a close.
“Three wins is more than we came here for so that of course is super super nice,” said Mads. “Tomorrow we just have to finish the day and then see in Madrid how it goes, but no matter what I think we can be happy with these three weeks in Spain.”