Mads Pedersen recovers from a late solo effort and sprints to the win in Stage 3 of the Tour of Norway
Mads Pedersen always said the more demanding the race, the better. So he made a difficult race for himself. Despite a tailor-made finish, Mads attacked with just over 20 kilometers remaining. He forged ahead through the next hilly kilometers, gaining over 30 seconds lead before the reduced bunch brought him back with nine kilometers to go.
Mads gritted his teeth and held on over the next climbs with the race full-on and, benefiting from Mattias Skjelmose’s lead-out, promptly won the uphill sprint.
“I knew I had to be with the first part of the bunch today on a day like this with all the hills,” explained Pedersen. “I just followed until I found a good moment with 21k to go to attack over a small climb, and quite quickly, I got a good gap. But some guys behind – I think Jumbo Visma – didn’t agree about that, and so they pulled hard to catch me back, and they did.
“In the sprint, Mattias kept the speed high for a long time which was not normal for a skinny climber like him. He was just impressive. I am just happy I could finish it off,” he added.
How it unfolded
A five-man breakaway formed early in the race and carved out a reasonable lead. But in the final 80 kilometers, their gap yo-yoed as attacks from the peloton reduced the time to under 30 seconds and, as calm ensued, their lead blossomed to a minute and a half again.
Finally, the peloton’s pressure contained the five leaders and also reduced the numbers in the bunch to 50-60 riders, which included Julien Bernard, Mattias Skjelmose and Mads Pedersen for Trek-Segafredo.
Mads found his moment with just over 20 kilometers to go. The bunch hesitated after Mads’ second attack on a climb, and a Mads finale was underway.
“I knew they would let me go because I am way behind on GC and with (Alexander) Kristoff, it would be difficult to win the sprint. Also on the small roads, I hoped I could get a big gap before the big roads,” said Mads.
However, a long tunnel with 10 kilometers to go spelled the end for Mads.
Mads continued: “But then we had this shit tunnel that felt like it was 1000 km/h headwind. I was pushing a lot of power! Going into the tunnel I had 35 seconds and coming out I had 12 seconds and I looked back and thought it was better to stop and hope I could get fresh legs back for the sprint.”
After exiting, the bunch was back onto Mads, and immediately the attacks continued in a race that had seen aggressive action all day.
“I was suffering like a pig the last five kilometers as people kept attacking, but Mattias (Skjelmose) and Julien (Bernard) did a really good job to keep me out of trouble and keep believing in me and my sprint,” exclaimed Mads. “I had a bad moment with 5k to go, it was pretty hard there, but I knew from there on it was mostly downhill until the finish and I could recover.”
Julien Bernard covered a late dangerous seven-rider move on a small late climb, but the bunch also tagged that back inside the last three kilometers.
Heading into the final two kilometers, despite a highly dynamic race, it looked certain a sprint would settle the score.
And leading out the magnificent Mads was the white jersey of the Best Young Rider, a climber nonetheless.
“Mattias did a super good job keeping me out of the wind and as much rest as possible before the sprint. It was impressive what he did. Of course, (Filippo) Ganna took a big pull on the downhill, which was perfect for us, but the lead-out Mattias did was really really nice,” said Mads.
— Trek-Segafredo (@TrekSegafredo) August 21, 2021
The sprint was uphill, and same as his win in the Tour of Denmark 10 days earlier, was perfect for Pedersen. Even after his solo time trial effort off the front, Mads still had enough in his legs to power to his third win of the season.
It was not Mads first victory in the Tour of Norway. In 2016, he had his first pro win, also in Stage 3. “It’s super nice to win again and be back in the rhythm. My first pro victory was here in Norway, and it’s nice to add another, ” Mads concluded.
There is 5⃣ years in between those two pictures.
Back in 2016, 20-year old Mads Pedersen won the 3rd stage of @tourofnorway in Geilo. It was his first pro victory.
— Tour of Norway (@tourofnorway) August 21, 2021