Mads scored a HUGE victory for Lidl-Trek, with the help of pitch-perfect teamwork
Mads Pedersen scored a massive victory for the brand new Lidl-Trek era on Saturday, sprinting from a long way to win Stage 8 of the 2023 Tour de France. The win was not just a showcase of Pedersen’s strength, but an impressive display of all-in teamwork on a day when seemingly the entire peloton was targeting the stage win.
“It means everything to finally have a stage win,” Pedersen said. “It means everything to me to win and especially with the new sponsor on the jersey, it’s a nice way to start this relationship.”
Lidl-Trek took over the front of the peloton with just over five kilometers to the finish. Danish champion Mattias Skjelmose led the tempo increase with Tony Gallopin, Jasper Stuyven, Alex Kirsch and, of course, Pedersen on his wheel. The teams of Alpecin-Deceuninck, Jumbo-Visma and Soudal-Quick Step couldn’t come over the top.
Skjelmose gave way to Gallopin, who gave way to Kirsch, who gave way to Stuyven. Just inside 500 meters to the finish line in Limoges, Pedersen was the last man standing for Lidl-Trek, left in perfect position to begin an early sprint along the barriers on the right side of the course. Jasper Philipsen of Alpecin-Deceuninck, already a three-time stage winner at this year’s Tour, couldn’t make up the gap to a hard-charging Pedersen, who beat the Belgian rider by roughly half a bike length.
“When we crossed the line, I knew I had won, but oh man, it was a long sprint and this uphill kick was really painful,” Pedersen said after the stage. “I was so close to sitting down with 50 meters to go and I think Jasper [Philipsen] had to do a pretty good sprint to come from behind and make it that close as well.”
Other major contributors to the effort included Juan Pedro Lopez and Giulio Ciccone, Lidl-Trek’s two ace climbers, who helped pull the team through the second-longest stage of this year’s Tour at 201 kilometers, as well as over three categorized climbs. The team has been gunning for a stage win throughout the Tour thus far, and it was clear they badly wanted to win today.
“The team did really good today. All the way from Juanpe and Cicco pulling, to this moment at the end,” Pedersen said. “I know this morning I said I missed a little bit of speed but this final was more about power and that’s definitely there and I showed that today. I am just happy I could give the boys the victory after some mistakes on my side the last couple of days. It’s nice to be on the top.”
The almost Classics-like parcours made for a fascinating tactical battle in the peloton. Lidl-Trek was prepared to win the stage in a number of different ways, however. And there’s no question that Pedersen was the best rider for the job.
“We didn’t know this morning if it would be a breakaway or a sprint, but it really looked like that sprinters’ teams didn’t want it to be a breakaway day so we stayed calm and the boys did a perfect lead-out today,” Pedersen said. “Even with the long sprint, I still had the legs to finish it off. I tried a few times early in the stage, but I realized that they wouldn’t let us go, so after that I just hung on and tried to save some energy.”
In the end, Pedersen scored his second Tour de France stage win after winning Stage 13 in 2022, and has now won six Grand Tour stages in his career. Most importantly, he spearheaded a win that echoes everything Lidl-Trek stands for, from the contribution of team-developed young riders like Skjelmose, to the trust and cohesion represented by a perfect leadout. Oh, and he did it on cycling’s biggest stage.
“Tough one but it doesn’t matter if you win by two meters or one centimeter, that’s the beauty of the Tour de France.”
In his words: Mads' breakdown of the stage
“The team did really good today. All the way from Juanpe and Cicco pulling to this moment at the end, it was a really really good day for us. I know this morning I said I missed a little bit of speed but this final was more about power and that’s definitely there and I showed that today. I am just happy I could give the boys the victory after some mistakes on my side the last couple of days. It’s nice to be on the top.
“I’m not a normal sprinter. We saw that on the previous stages that I can’t compete with these guys in the high speed sprints and if it’s not timed to perfection for me, in those kind of sprints, I can’t do it. But, in a sprint like this, where it’s a bit more about power instead of speed I have a fair chance and we saw that today. Even though Jasper was coming with speed from behind, he had a hard time passing me.
More scenes from Stage 8, courtesy Sprint Cycling.
“It was tough, the last five kilometers. Mattias was pulling for, I don’t know how long, but it was really impressive and then Tony took over. They were riding really smart and using the road to perfection and, the lengths of the pulls they were doing were also really impressive today and then, with the last kick up here, Jasper delivered me perfectly and I just had the wheel of other guys who can do a long sprint. Jasper [Philipsen] came pretty fast from behind but luckily I had enough to hold on.
“It means everything to finally have a stage win here now. It’s really hard for me to compete in these high speed sprints and we have to do it to perfection to win them but here, it’s more than speed, it’s also about power and I know I have that to win sprints. It’s also a bit easier to time right with the uphill here so it means everything to me to win and especially with the new sponsor on the jersey, it’s a nice way to start this relationship.”