Pedersen made use of his wet-weather buff to storm to victory in Tour de la Provence Stage 1
Mads Pedersen continued his stunning early-season success run with another win in France, notching his fourth victory of the year from just six days of racing. Due to strong rain forecast throughout the day and a technical finish, the decision was taken by the jury to move the 3km rule to 5km, as well as removing the time bonifications for the first three riders at the finish.
Shortly after the start, six riders broke clear from the peloton and the Lidl-Trek boys got to work to control the gap.
“The strategy was to let a small breakaway of five to seven riders go and then put Tim [Declercq] to pull straight away, and then to do a good sprint in the end. I think we managed to do really well at executing that plan.” - Pedersen
The peloton had to endure day long drizzle, but Tim Declercq and Julien Bernard knuckled down, knowing that with the top two riders on GC in the team, as well as the big stage favorite, it was their responsibility. With some assistance from other sprint teams, the breakaway was finally reeled in with 5km to go, but not without strong resistance. From there, it was down to Pedersen’s leadout train to expertly guide him through the technical final kilometers, dropping him off after the final bend with the finish line in view. The Dane launched his sprint, drew level with Riley Pickrell (Israel) before shifting up a gear and surging ahead to victory.
“It’s only when you cross the line that you realise that you’ve won. Of course, you’re dreaming to win every time you’re on the start line, but it’s only something you can only believe in the last meters. Especially today, with a hectic final, I only knew in the last meters. The plan will be similar tomorrow, we’ll have to control again, and I think the rain plays a bit in our favor so we will try to copy/paste today.
“The boys did a perfect job. In the last kilometer Alex [Kirsch] and Otto [Vergaerde] kept the peloton in one line and Ryan [Gibbons] kept me out of problems to make sure I could do a good sprint. In the end it was quite a long sprint because we opened a bit of a gap in the last corner but we managed it well and we have to get used to each other with the new sprint train.”
Pedersen is often asked about his love for the rain, but his answer is usually along the lines of ‘I don’t love the rain, I just put up with it better than most guys.’
“It was a tough day,” admits Pedersen. “I think you’ll see some guys that had a hard time, and the rain and the cold doesn’t make it easier for anyone. Also there was a strong breakaway out there and they played the game really smart. Tim and Julien [Bernard] had to use some bullets today to pull the break back. In general, the Team did a super amazing job today and I’m really proud of them. We’ll try again tomorrow. We’re here to try and keep the jersey and that’s for sure our plan again tomorrow.
I like to come to races like Bessèges and Provence for a few reasons. It’s nice to get the leadout train dialled in and do a good job with the boys, but winning is also good for the self-confidence, plus they are well-organized races and I enjoy racing here.”