Mads sprints to second place after a brutally fast race in Belgium
The action kicked off from kilometer zero in the 19th edition of the Bredene Koksijde Classic and continued to the last meters, leaving a group of 21 riders sprinting for the victory.
Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) opened his sprint early and Mads Pedersen, in his slipstream, looked poised to slingshot around the Belgian. However, Mads had race aggressively for 200 kilometers and his legs politely said no thanks.
Mads sat down, glanced behind, and tried again. He easily held on for second place, but Merlier denied a second win for the 2019 World Champion after he claimed Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne in February. For a red-hot Merlier, who also won Le Samyn, it was his third win of the year.
“After a tough race like this, and trying in the last 30k, I didn’t really have the legs to follow Merlier,” explained Pedersen. “If I would have been more conservative and raced only for the sprint maybe it would have been different. But I came here to do a hard race, and I needed a hard finale, so I am pretty happy with the result. Sure, it would have been better chances if I had waited for the sprint, but today the most important was to have a tough race. It was still a good day – I am happy with second place.
“It was a last-minute decision to do this race and I came here to do good preparation for the next bigger races,” he continued. “It’s nice to finish with a good result today and the boys did a really good job so it’s nice to pay them back. Of course, it would have been better with a win, but the legs were not there in the sprint anymore.”
It was the fastest edition of the 200-kilometer Belgian semi-classic with an opening hour raced at an astonishing average speed of 56km/h. The crosswinds made for early echelon action and when the cobbled climbs came at the mid-way point, a breakaway finally formed.
Alex Kirsch and Mads Pedersen were part of the 13-man escape group that emerged over the second ascent of Kemmelberg. For the next 90 or so kilometers, they held a gap between 30 and 45 seconds to a stubborn chase group of 18 riders unwilling to throw in the towel.
“With the wind, it was a possibility to make an early break,” said Mads. “Of course, we aimed for a long, tough hard race and we got it. [The breakaway] worked quite well together for a long time. I tried an attack to have a hard last 30kms, and it turned out to be pretty hard, so we got what we came for today.”
A solo move by Lukas Postlberger from the leading group created an exciting finale. Behind the two chase groups merged and reshuffled. Alexander Kamp joined Pedersen out front, taking over from Alex Kirsch’s hard work, and he immediately went to the front to help close the gap to Postlberger.
“Kirsch did a really good job and when he was done Kamp came from the second group and he did an excellent job also to close the gap to Postlberger. It was really nice to see the teamwork today and to see the shape of our guys – it was a solid ride from our team,” said Pedersen.
With two kilometers to go, it was all together, and while Pedersen was a favorite for the win on paper, Pedersen came into the race with a different agenda. Still, second is a great result and Merlier has shown fast sprinting legs this year.
Mads Pedersen next lines up Wednesday in the WorldTour classic, Brugge-De Panne.