Mads sprints to the Stage 1 victory and first leader’s jersey of the five-day race
Mads Pedersen powered to victory in Stage 1 of the Baloise Belgium Tour, capping a robust Trek-Segafredo presence all race.
After winning six bonus seconds in the always thrilling Golden Kilometer sprint, Pedersen still had enough strength to close a gap and jump around Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) in the final meters.
Although Mads and his teammates looked in control in the finale, he doubted catching Jasper Philipsen after the Alpecin-Fenix rider jumped early. Plus, Mads doesn’t like hot weather and has never won a race above 25 Celsius.
“Really tough race,” said Pedersen. “I think this was one of the warmest days of racing for me this year, and normally I am not that good in the heat. Tough day – a classic kind of stage, and then the heat on top of that made it pretty hard.
“Then the finale is really hard with the climb at two and a half k to go, and even the sprint is a tough one. Jasper (Philipsen) opened quite early and I thought, ‘Fuck, he made a gap already.’ But luckily for me, he popped a little bit in the last meters, so I could pass.”
In the end, Mads crossed the line by over a bike length and erased any doubts about where his form may be ahead of the upcoming Tour de France.
“I came here to have a stage win, and now we have one, so yes why not try and win the GC,” he said. “This shows the shape is where it should be, and this was one of the hardest days, so yeah, it’s possible, but still a long week of racing left.”
He added: “But this is not the main goal; the main goal is to try to have another stage win and then do a good TT. We will see.”
What was evident was that the Dane was feisty. All race. Even in his non-favorite weather, Mads raced hard: he joined a three-rider move that bridged up to the breakaway with 68 kilometers to go – quickly shut down, of course – and tested his legs in the Golden Kilometer, taking away six bonus seconds. Then he crested the final cobbled climb at the front and still mustered enough power to best everyone – by well over a bike length.
What was also clear was the Team cohesion. Everyone went all-in for the Danish leader. They were attentive at the front, closed down all moves in the last kilometers, led Pedersen into the final tricky cobbled climb, and gave a lead-out into a tough finish.
“A really good day, and I am really proud of my teammates, they did impressive work all day, and it’s nice to give them a win,” agreed Pedersen. “In the end, I was in a pretty good position behind (Florian) Senechal, and then Jasper came from behind with a long sprint. He made a gap, but luckily, he blew up in the last meters. So, good sprint for me.”
We can go even further: a super sprint and an incredible display of teamwork by Trek-Segafredo all day.