The former world champ breaks down the sprint finish for us mere mortals
Mads Pedersen had a clear view of the white line and could taste victory. The team had just given him a fantastic leadout. The last man in the Trek-Segafredo train, Jasper Stuyven, launched him perfectly. Even an early jump by Danny van Poppel could not deter him. Mads powered past van Poppel with just the looming finish banner ahead.
But someone was coming up fast on his left. Within meters of the finish, Tim Merlier flew by, snatching what seemed like sure victory away.
— Trek-Segafredo (@TrekSegafredo) September 2, 2021
If Danny van Poppel could have kept a half-meter more to the left, it would have been nice because then I would have won the stage.
- Mads Pedersen
A bunched sprint ending is a world like none other. You must be fearless, confident, and have a strong team for help. The preparation begins from kilometer zero and kicks into top gear in the chaotic last kilometers. You need skilled teammates to help you get into the best positioning to exert as little energy as possible and then fast legs. And, often, you need luck.
“Another perfect lead-out from Edward (Theuns) and Jasper (Stuyven). I had to open the sprint when they started to pass on the right side. Sadly, it was a bit too open on the left side, so Tim could pass there and also pass me at the finish line. When I go back home, I have to train a bit more in the sprints for next year,” said Mads, not satisfied with second.
“It was nice work from the team today,” continued Mads. “Charlie (Quarterman) did a really good job pulling from almost the beginning, and when we caught back the breakaway, he managed to fight back a few times and help a bit, so it was a really nice job from Charlie today,” he explained.
“The rest of the boys (Matteo Moschetti, Toms Skujins, Ryan Mullen) did a really good job in keeping us out of trouble – there are a lot of troubles in this race – but we didn’t crash, and they managed to deliver me, Jasper, and Edward to the front of the peloton in the deep finale,” he continued. “That was very nice work from them.”
Flawless teamwork. So, what could have been different? We put the question to Mads.
“A little bit faster legs would have been nice, but the rest was perfect,” he said bluntly, then added: “If Danny van Poppel could have kept a half-meter more to the left, it would have been nice because then I would have won the stage.”
There are times when the door is closed, you cannot even move, and times when, if it does open, it’s too late. For Merlier, the door opened in the last meters, and he had fast legs and enough road remaining to rocket past Mads.
The alignment was a little off in today’s sprint. If van Poppel was a little more towards the left barriers, Merlier would not get by, and the outcome would be different.
Today Merlier had lady luck on his side. Next time, Mads turn (we hope!).