How do you win a race with no recovery?

Two days after a punishing Tour of Flanders, Mads Pedersen takes a hard win in France

For Mads Pedersen, the best recovery is victory. Only one day separated the punishing Tour of Flanders and the start of Circuit Cycliste Sarthe-Pays de la Loire and Mads Pedersen had no time to think about rest.

Instead, he caught a flight to France and, less than 48 hours later, continued where he left off in Belgium. After an aggressive race in Flanders on Sunday that landed him a reputable 8th place, he was on the attack again on Tuesday and, this time, sprinted to victory.

“Since the start of the season, it was in my plan to race this after Flanders. My coach thought it was a good idea, and I agreed. This way, I get to do more racing and then just have one training block afterward before Roubaix,” explained Mads. “It was a hard and long day, and the weather was not super nice. It was not easy [in the break] as we did not have a lot of time.”



Alexander Kamp started the day off right for Trek-Segafredo when he found the successful breakaway. It was a smart move with the Team starting only five men and leaving any chasing to those who missed the boat.

However, an unexpected counterattack moved at the start of the local circuits, and Mads was caught, well, with his pants down.

“Me and Alex Kirsch had just stopped for a pee, and we were at the back of the peloton when we saw they went in the front. I had to move up slowly, then I jumped across,” Mads said.

A composed Mads worked his way into the chase group that eventually joined the day’s early breakaway.

Mads explained: “In the beginning, I was turning a little bit but not too hard because we had Kamp in the front, and I wanted him to stay in front until the bonus seconds. When we caught them, from then on, it was hard racing all the way. The peloton was chasing us hard from behind and didn’t give us much time and that made it tough.”

The last guy attacked before the final corner with 700 meters to go and I had to close it. In that situation, there's nothing else you can do but ride hard and hope for the best.

With many threatening riders in the leading group, it took a total concerted effort to hold off the peloton. Both Kamp and Pedersen put immense efforts into helping the breakaway maintain a lead.

At the start of the final lap with 16 kilometers remaining, the advantage swelled to 1 minute and 20 seconds. It was the largest it had been and tilted the table in favor of the leaders.

However, a frantic effort by the peloton brought their lead to less than 30 seconds with eight kilometers to go.

“At one point, we had 1 minute and 20 seconds, and some guys stopped working, and it went down to 30-40 seconds,” continued Mads. “People tried to attack, and Kamp covered them really well.”

It was as close as the bunch would come. The leading group hit the mostly downhill roads to the line, finding the last momentum they needed.

Mads was favored to win in a sprint. But instead, he attacked two kilometers from the line.

“With 2kms to go, I was thinking I could go on the attack instead and make the others chase. Lucas Plapp from Ineos didn’t give me a very long leash though. I got back to the group with 1.5 kms to go and recovered a bit for the sprint,” said Mads.

“The last guy attacked before the final corner with 700 meters to go and I had to close it. In that situation, there’s nothing else you can do but ride hard and hope for the best. I still believed in my sprint, even If I had to spend energy closing the gap, I thought I could still win. It was hard, but I managed to close him in time, take a few breaths, and then go for the sprint.”

It was typical Mads.

After he put in a considerable effort to keep the breakaway ahead, won the intermediate sprint for the bonus seconds, laid down a late attack and chased the next counter, he still had something left.

Mads gained three valuable seconds with the green points jersey and will wear the leader’s yellow jersey into Stage 2.

“Of course, we will try and defend the yellow jersey,” he ended, then added: “I think this was the hardest stage of them all.”