Flowers for Mattias Skjelmose as he wins Etoile de Bessèges Stage 4 and moves into race lead with one stage remaining
How it happened
The wind was fierce once again for the fourth stage of Etoile de Bessèges and the ever-wary Trek-Segafredo team was primed for action. After just 32km the race split to pieces in the early crosswinds, but Trek-Segafredo were in a great position with Mads Pedersen, Mattias Skjelmose, Toms Skujins and Jacopo Mosca in the front group, giving them a significant numerical advantage. The objective was simple – put Skjelmose in the best position possible for the summit finish at Mont Bouquet. With little to separate the GC so far, it was clear that the Queen Stage would play a significant role in deciding the race General Classification, as well as the final stage time trial.
Pedersen, Mosca and Skujins put on a textbook teamwork performance, going as deep as they could to drag their small group along, ahead of an unrelenting peloton. When they reached Mont Bouquet (4.6km, 9% avg.) it was all down to Skjelmose to finish off their sacrifice. Neilson Powless made the first move, leaving a game of poker between our young Dane and the two other chasers. Skjelmose bid his time before jumping across to the American. When he did, he made sure that the other chasers couldn’t follow him. After a moment to catch his breath, Mattias made use of his fast finish to speed past Powless for the win.
In the winner’s words
“It was a pretty special day, full stretch from the first part and then Mads just told me straight away “take it easy, stay with me.” Even though we were pretty far back he just took it out to the left and easily put me in the first group without me having to stress. Then Mads, Jacopo and Toms worked like motherfuckers all day. I didn’t need to do anything, only had to pay attention to eat and drink and keep myself out of the wind. Then I just had to finish off their work. When the Team works like they did today there’s no such thing as bad legs, you only can have good legs and I’m so happy I could finish it off.
We had a plan and we didn’t think that it would kick off like that, just that it would be more stressful like the first days but then suddenly it happened and we were there so we kept it going. We kept the effort all the way to the finish which I think is amazing because there were a lot more guys working in the peloton than in our group.
I actually hoped the other guys would follow Powless. When they didn’t, the gap was too big so I had to wait a little bit for the steep part so I didn’t drag the other guys across. At the steep part I did my own rhythm over to Powless. I felt pretty good in the end so I’m happy with how it went.
I think it’s the best situation for me to be in. I’m really motivated after today and I just want to finish it off so I can pay back the guys for all their work.”