The 24-year-old Dane betters an elite group of favorites to win his first classic.
It was not Mads Pedersen’s greatest win but certainly will go into his palmares as one of his biggest. The former world champion nailed another sprint to take a massive victory in Gent-Wevelgem, the cobbled classics’ opening race.
The final kilometers were non-stop thrills as nine riders – the strongest that rose to the fore after over 200 grueling and intermittently wet and cold kilometers – launched attack after attack. The elastic didn’t break until the final 1500 meters when three riders finally broke free.
Three guys went from the group, and I hoped Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert would close it, but they didn't. Then I managed to jump across, stay in the last wheel, and make my sprint from there. I like long sprints. They fit me better. It was a pretty hard race, especially in weather conditions like this, raining and then drying up, but I know how to handle this, so it was good for me. It's definitely one of my biggest victories!
- Mads Pedersen
Pedersen waited, showing a patience of experience, then jumped across the gap to the leading trio. In the sprint, he powered from fourth position, overtaking Florian Senechal (Deceuninck-Quick Step) and Matteo Trentin (CCC Team), who finished second and third. It was his first Classics win.
“I’m definitely learning more and more every time I’m racing, and today I tried to play it a little bit smarter than usual, and luckily it paid off,” said Pedersen. “I had enough [energy] to jump across and also make a sprint, which was good. It was a decision that I had to make in a few seconds. The group started to slow down a little bit, and I said to myself, ‘Okay, it’s all or nothing.’ I had to make a decision and try.
“I knew I had to go alone, and hopefully, I could make it across. I might still end up fourth or even behind, but at least I had tried. Today it paid off, but maybe next time it will bite me in the ass, and then I’m out of top 10.”
The 24-year-old Dane is beginning to make his mark in the world of pro cycling, his win in Gent-Wevelgem builds on a second place in the 2018 Tour of Flanders, and winning the 2019 road World Championships. There is no doubt he is heading into the Tour of Flanders in a week as one of the clear favorites.
“I did well in Flanders two years ago, and now I’m showing I’m one of the guys that can win classics. It means a lot to me to win here. I missed the Worlds, and one of the reasons was to be ready for the classics,” Pedersen pointed out.
“The whole team was awesome today,” he continued. “Before starting the classics, we had a good talk and decided that we would race every day like it’s the last race of the season. You never know what can happen, so every day it’s all-in. That’s how we’re going to race this Wednesday and again Sunday.”