The 2019 World Champ sprints to 3rd place in a gnarly uphill finish for Stage 1 of the Etoile de Besseges
It was a nervous first race with a gritty ending, but Mads Pedersen and his Trek-Segafredo teammates showed composure and pulled off a podium finish in their first race of the year.
Tucked behind teammate Alex Kirsch, Mads Pedersen came into the final kilometer of Stage 1 at the Etoile de Besseges at the front of the fast-flying bunch and let his legs do the rest.
Nacer Bouhanni (Arkéa Samsic) and Christophe Laport (Cofidis, Solutions Crédits) jumped 500 meters from the line and possibly thwarted a better finish, still, a 3rd place in the tricky uphill finish was an excellent start to the season for Pedersen, who is evolving into a top rider for mass sprint endings.
“Normally, this fits me quite well – Tour of Denmark has a stage similar to this – but yeah, pretty tough finale and the guys did a super god job to keep me out of trouble the whole day. Alex (Kirsch) put me [in great position] for the last climb – it was a good start of the season.”
The peloton had a first look at the finishing kilometers with 40 kilometers to go. The second time, Trek-Segafredo made no mistakes: Kirsch and Pedersen were first into a narrow sweeping turn ahead of the climb.
“It was a stressful final,” agreed Pedersen. “With 3 or 4 kilometers to go, we were on a big road and going very fast, and you come from like three lanes straight into one with cornering, roundabouts in the city. And then you have the last K of 300 meters uphill and 200 meters flat – so a pretty rough last kilometer.”
The 2019 World Champion is a recognized Classics specialist – Mads was hoping for crosswinds in Stage 1 to make a hard race and throw him into his element – but he’s also progressing into a top sprinter, proving that his results in the sprint finishes last year, including second place on Champs-Élysées, were not happenstance.
“It was super stressful today. Normally there are crosswinds here, but today there was no wind at all, so everyone was fresh, and everyone was thinking they could do a good result,” said Pedersen. “The first half was okay; the second half was stressful.”
Stress that the young Dane and his teammates could handle.