‘If you play poker and you have two kings it’s quite good’: Stuyven and Pedersen combine for victory

Third time’s the charm as Mads wins Stage 3 in Paris-Nice

After misfortune plagued the finish of Stage 2 for Trek-Segafredo, the Team rebounded with a textbook effort and delivered Mads Pedersen to victory one day later.

“We missed out yesterday with Alex Kirsch puncture and me losing the chain [in the sprint], and we wanted to make it up today,” explained Pedersen. “The boys did a fantastic job all day to make it as easy as possible for me, and yeah, a terrific lead out from Alex (Kirsch) and Jasper (Stuyven), and then I just put my head down a sprinted. Yeah, a really good day.”

It was a hilly run-in peppered with attacks that proved too hot to handle for the pure sprinters, but not for an on-form Mads. Trek-Segafredo played its hand well. With two strong classics specialists working for Pedersen in the finale, Mads has little to do but follow his teammates’ wheels.

“It’s not an easy final when you can see the finish line in the last kilometer and a half, so it’s a little waiting game. But like I said already yesterday, I normally don’t take into account too much in the final I just follow wheels. So today, I was following Jasper’s wheel, and then when I felt it was time to go, I opened the sprint. Roughly I opened between 250 and 200 meters to go – it was a long sprint, but I knew I could surprise the guys if I opened a little early. When you open that early it’s a risk and I was not so sure it would work, but luckily it was enough to keep the guys behind.”

Over the years Jasper and Mads have created strong chemistry. Coming into the finish straight, Jasper again laid the final lead-out.  Mads let his legs do the rest.

“I think a few years ago I said if you play poker, and you have two kings, it’s quite good, and today the poker game went really well for us,” smiled Mads. “It’s just incredible to ride with those guys, how they protect me the whole day, and the way Jasper and I work in the finals; that is really, really nice. It’s nice to finally pay off the boys with a victory.”

It was Pedersen’s first win in Paris-Nice. After two attempts in the first two stages, everything played out perfectly in Stage 3, a finish suited to his strengths.

“A little uphill is always better for me than a flat sprint, so today was perfect,” agreed Pedersen. “It was a hard sprint, and we knew we had to be in front on the local lap so 100% we were. Then the boys delivered me perfectly.”

“It’s my first WordTour win in a long time, and it’s really nice to start out [the season] so well; it’s a good direction for the classics that are coming in a few weeks.”

When asked if he has ever been in such good form, Pedersen quickly replied. “I have been in better form, maybe not at this time of year, but when I was World Champion,” he answered.  “I changed my coach last year and changed the approach to the start of the season.”

Then he added: “It was a long time since our last victory; we needed this. It’s nice to have confidence, and that is what’s coming out of this. The shape is good, but it can be better.”