Pedersen second in windy debut

Mads Pedersen kicked off his 2023 campaign with second place in the Etoile de Bessèges opener

Having won an almost identical stage at last year’s race, all eyes were on Mads Pedersen to replicate the feat. Crosswinds were expected, quite commonplace in this part of the World, but it was the stinging final ramp which determined the eventual winner, with Pedersen just behind.

The race split earlier in the day, on two occasions, but came back together each time after a concerted chase. The second split, around 70km was the most significant, and saw five Trek-Segafredo riders on the safe side of the split. Unfortunately, Otto Vergaerde hit the deck int he crosswind chaos and broke his collarbone. The Belgian will be sidelined for the next few weeks as he recovers.

Despite the mountain of work carried out by Toms Skujins and Markus Hoelgaard, the second peloton came back to the leaders in time for the stressful run in to Bellegarde. After matching each other on the climb, Mads had to concede the win to Arnaud de Lie who proved faster in the final flat 100 meters. Mattias Skjelmose, tasked with following Mads’ wheel, got his GC bid off to a solid start with 6th on the stage, and picking up a few seconds on most rivals.

Reaction from the massage table

Mads Pedersen:

It’s the actually third race already, not the first. We did two races at training camp and Skjelmose was beating my ass! I’m pretty happy with today, of course it would have been nice with the win here again, but De Lie was just faster than me in the last 100 meters. It shows I have good legs, we start the way we did last year with a second place in the first official race, so hopefully it looks good for the next races.

Crosswinds are always nice, but not so nice when it’s flipping between crosswind and headwind. In the end it’s good to be back in the peloton to do some proper racing. It’s a pity that we were 30/40 riders in the big split but not everybody wanted to work. If everyone contributed to stay away then they would have a better chance at winning, but not everyone agreed on that and we had to accept it. Toms and Markus did really well and they went pretty deep today to try to keep the gap to the peloton. I’m really proud of how the team rode today. On one hand it was a good day for the Team, but on the other it was a bit shit because Otto crashed and broke his collarbone. It’s a pity for the rest of the race and the next ones.

Mattias is a classics rider in a climbers body. He knows how to be there, but when it’s getting too crazy he gets a bit carried away, but I understand that. He’s really good in the crosswinds, there’s no doubt about that. Sometimes I just have to tell him to take it easy because he gets really excited and he’s pulling really hard. He’s a big talent, he’s not only a great climber but he’s also strong on days like today.


Mattias Skjelmose:

I didn’t feel like I was flying today, the first day is always a little bit special because you rest a lot and everybody is super stressed about starting again. Add that to a day like today when people think there will be big crosswinds, and then there isn’t so much, it makes it stressful. IN general I didn’t have a super good feeling but I finished 6th in the end so I think I did a quite good job compared to how I felt. I think the situation could be a lot worse. I felt like I missed the power a little bit but I think that’s always normal for me on the first day of the season. With the time trial at the end of the race I think it can be a good race for me.

When you’re surrounded by some of the best classics riders, the crosswinds are never that bad. I just had to follow Mads and the others and then I’m 99% sure I’ll be there. I was a little stressed but never nervous that I would be caught behind at any splits. I thought I knew how to ride the wind but when I’m with these guys they’re always making quick comments to advise me. It’s nice being there but I still have a lot to learn. It’s nice that my teammates are willing to tell me where I can improve. Even when you know how to ride the crosswinds, you also need a team around you, and that I have.

Photos from Stage 1

Alessandro Perrone/SprintCyclingAgency©2023

Alessandro Perrone/SprintCyclingAgency©2023

Alessandro Perrone/SprintCyclingAgency©2023

Tommaso Pelagalli/SprintCyclingAgency©2023

Tommaso Pelagalli/SprintCyclingAgency©2023