Inside Mads Pedersen’s fourth place finish at Milano-Sanremo

Mads Pedersen's oh-so-close sprint at Milano-Sanremo sets a great foundation for Lidl-Trek

The most consistently thrilling Monument finish in cycling delivered yet again. For Lidl-Trek, Mads Pedersen took fourth at Milano-Sanremo in the sprint after launching off Jasper Stuyven’s wheel in the closing meters of a cagey race. 

Seemingly every team and rider took a shot at victory from the climb up the Poggio onward. Ultimately, Alpecin-Deceuninck’s Jasper Philipsen made the winning move, winning a photo finish over Michael Matthews, with Tadej Pogacar close behind in third. But it was the sort of race that seemingly could have unfolded in a dozen permutations.

The sprint into another classic Milano-Sanremo finish. | Photo by Dario Belingheri/Getty Images

A big group approached the Poggio, and Lidl-Trek was well represented near the front with Pedersen, Stuyven, Toms Skujins and Jonathan Milan. Milan took the front of the field and upped the tempo with one kilometer to go to the climb, then peeled off to leave his teammates in strong position.

The end game took form nearing the summit of the Poggio when Pogacar attacked and tried to go solo onto the descent. He was reeled back in by his chasers, with Pedersen making a big effort in particular to close a gap onto Tom Pidcock’s wheel into fifth position with six kilometers to go in the race.

With Pogacar neutralized, plans began hatching in the peloton. For Lidl-Trek, the mission was to protect Pedersen and make sure there was never a lull in the pace up front. The execution was nearly flawless.

Mads Pedersen and Jasper Stuyven were animating the front of the race throughout the final kilometers. | Photo by Dario Belingheri/Getty Images

“Mads and I on the Poggio just tried to follow,” Stuyven said after the race. “Everyone is waiting for the launch of Tadej, and then the scenario starts when he doesn’t get away. And I think you saw that in the last 500 meters of the Poggio plus the downhill, because once we hit the bottom you can see how everything can happen every moment.”

As multiple attackers took their shots at victory in the final five kilometers, Stuyven and Pedersen systematically shut down every threat. Then in the final few hundred meters, they took their shot. For a moment, it appeared Pedersen might have the winning legs, surging up the right side within a stone’s throw of the finish banner. But in a race that can accommodate so many tactics, he just missed out on the podium when a mirrored attack from the bunch took place on the left side of the road.

Despite just missing out on the podium, Lidl-Trek's teamwork was in prime form. | Photo by Sean Hardy

After the race, Pedersen was disappointed he couldn’t bring home a better result for the squad. He praised Lidl-Trek’s team effort, but the former World Champion admitted he didn’t achieve the incredibly high standards he has set for himself. 

“I’m happy with the way we rode as a team, but I’m sorry that I didn’t do a better sprint and at least finish on the podium,” Pedersen said. “On a day like today, with the way we rode and with the help of Jasper in the final and so on, I should have at least been on the podium, and that’s why it’s even more disappointing for myself that I didn’t do that.”

Another classic edition of Milano-Sanremo in the books. | Photo by Zac Williams

The silver lining is that the Classics season has only just begun, and Pedersen and Lidl-Trek showed that they have the camaraderie, legs and tactical noose to control the peloton and put themselves in striking distance of wins and podiums. 

A strong finish in a race famous for chaotic endings is far more encouraging than not. Pedersen and Lidl-Trek will be in position to win again soon, and next time it just might be their turn to finish the job.

“In the sprint I think legs speak, but I think we did everything we had to do,” Stuyven said. “The team did perfectly like we planned. We were just missing the cherry on the cake. Of course, you always want to step away with the positive, and I think that the positive is that both Mads and I are there and ready for the coming weeks.”