Join us for a visual ride through a tumultuous 2020
2020 started in its usual fashion; a long haul flight to Australia to race at the Tour Down Under. With Tasmanian Richie Porte as one of the red-hot favorites, we were there to win. Recently-crowned World Champion Mads Pedersen stepped up as Richie’s bodyguard and super-domestique, a role in which he flourished throughout the year.
Our first win of the year came on Stage 3 when Porte powered to victory in Paracombe. The Tassie climber took the Ochre Jersey (that’s a shade of orange) as leader of the General Classification. A tactical battle emerged in the ensuing days between Trek-Segafredo and Mitchelton-Scott, who were trying to win the race again with Daryl Impey by taking advantage of intermediate sprint bonifications.
The Ochre Jersey went to and fro between Porte and Impey, and it all came down to the final stage on Willunga Hill. Porte rode away on the familiar climb as Impey cracked, leaving the Tasmanian to claim his second Tour Down Under overall victory. However, there was already an indication that 2020 was going to be a strange year when Porte was pipped for the stage win on Willunga by Matthew Holmes from the breakaway; a stage that Porte had won for the previous six years.
Our successful start to the season didn’t stop there, as Matteo Moschetti rocketed to two victories at the Mallorca Challenge, his first in Trek-Segafredo colors. Julien Bernard continued to bring the heat by winning the final stage of the Tour des Alpes Maritimes et du Var, his first victory as a professional.
The Classics Opening Weekend at the end of February signals for many fans the ‘real’ start to the European racing season. And it’s not just the fans that look forward to these one-day races – for the riders and staff, the Classics are special.
After a less than ideal Classics campaign in 2019, leaders Jasper Stuyven and Mads Pedersen were determined to show their best selves in their favorite races. Stuyven emerged as the victor of Omloop het Nieuwsblad, showing that last year was just a blip. The final selection was made on the iconic Muur van Geraardsbergen when Stuyven pushed the pace and only Yves Lampaert and Søren Kragh Andersen survived. It came down to a two-up sprint between Stuyven and Lampaert, with our Belgian leaping to the win on February 29th.
The World Turned Upside Down
We marched on to Paris-Nice, but already there was a sinking feeling that the incoming coronavirus wave was going to wash away the cycling season. The Race to the Sun reached Nice, barely. After that, the world ground to a halt, and races were either canceled or postponed. In many countries, professional riders were not even allowed to train outside. Lockdown became the word of the year as our Saris home trainers became our new best friends.
Eventually, we could ride outside again, and what a joyful experience it was! With smiles on our faces and the winds blowing on our freshly shaved legs, we were back on the bike.
Mads' Rainbow shines bright
Our World Champion took his first win of the year at Stage 2 of the Tour de Pologne, the first rescheduled WorldTour race held since the season resumed. The phrase ‘curse of the rainbow jersey’ normally refers to a world champion struggling to perform after picking up the pressure of the rainbow bands. This year, however, the phrase was more often used in reference to the pity that Pedersen was not able to don the jersey much due to race cancellations.
Fortunately, the Dane had taken the disappointment in his stride. As he said, he only has to look down to see the rainbow bands around his sleeves, and that’s for life. Those who paid attention this season had seen Mads riding selflessly in service of his teammates, despite being champion of the world. We think he’s done the jersey proud and was certainly overdue a chance to shine.
Pedersen’s bunch sprint win was not entirely expected, but after an incredible lead-out, he sprinted on determination and pure power to cross the line first. The win also netted him the yellow leader’s jersey for a day.
Into the bubble, into Le Tour
After months of planning, preparing, and praying we had reached the Grand Départ of Le Tour de France, in Nice. By this point, the professional cycling world had become accustomed to having a cotton swab rudely stuck up one’s nose – a necessity to racing safely in these times. We approached the Tour with a strong team built around Richie Porte and Bauke Mollema, our two leaders for the General Classification. The team was a mixture of experience and youth: both leaders were riding their tenth Tours, while Pedersen, Eg, and Elissonde were riding the Big One for the first time.
Stage 1 was a chaotic affair in Nice as rain arrived for the first time in weeks. There were crashes aplenty but on the whole, we got through without major issue. At the finish – a bunch gallop – Mads Pedersen appeared through the mist to take a tight second place. Not a bad debut, and it earned him the White Jersey as best young rider.
Toms Skujiņš celebrated his last day as Latvian national champion (the 2020 championship was raced during the Tour) in a thrilling breakaway which saw him take second in Loudenvielle. Then, two days later he crashed and put some holes in the regular Trek-Segafredo jersey. We think he wanted the Latvian jersey back.
For our leaders, the first week of the Tour had highs and lows, but after nine stages both Richie and Bauke emerged in 11th and 13th place. Not great, but the Tour is long.
The Tour Continues
The Tour rumbled on – at this time we were hopeful but never sure if we would reach Paris. Unfortunately, on Stage 13 we lost Bauke Mollema to a broken wrist from a crash. But this proved a turning point for Porte, who emerged as one of the strongest climbers in the race. Porte solidified this status on Stage 15 atop the Grand Colombier, finishing third behind Tadej Pogačar and Primož Roglič, a preview of the eventual podium in Paris.
The Tasmanian rode solidly and consistently through the brutal final week, slowly climbing the General Classification. After 17 stages of racing, Porte sat one spot shy of the podium, on track to record his best-ever Tour performance. Of course, there was drama still to come.
Porte’s history at the Tour is a saga that most cycling fans are familiar with: the Tasmanian having either ridden in service of others, struck by illness, or caught in crashes. Whatever the reason, Richie had never had a perfect shot at cycling’s biggest prize. When he punctured in a gravel section at the top of a monster climb on Stage 18, Porte fans felt a doomed sense of déjà vu. We all held our breath with pulses racing and fists clenched. A furious chase ensued. And against all odds, Porte closed a 45-second deficit and made it back to the leaders.
Jasper Stuyven took his chance the next day, joining a late breakaway of elite classics specialists who duked it out for the stage win. Stuyven sprinted to third place for the third time in his career. We’re certain a stage win is coming.
The main story of the Tour was reaching its crescendo. Just a time trial to La Planche des Belles Filles stood between the peloton and Paris. Porte rode the time trial of his life. He overhauled a 1 minute and 39-second deficit to move onto the podium. Perhaps Richie’s performance was overshadowed by the Roglič/Pogačar drama, but on the Trek-Segafredo bus, and certainly in Australia, there was jubilation.
On 20th September the peloton floated over the cobbles of the Champs-Elyssées, defying the doubters who never expected the Tour to reach Paris. Pedersen bookended his debut Tour with another second place in the unofficial ‘sprinters’ World Champs’. Richie Porte fulfilled a lifelong dream of finishing on the podium of the Tour de France and got a trophy and treasured photo for the mantelpiece to boot.
The Fall Classics
2020, the year in which up was down, left was right and the spring Classics were raced in fall. But before we get to the Classics, we need to talk about Mads Pedersen’s performance at the BinckBank Tour.
Second in Stage one, first in the next, clearly the Dane was benefitting from ‘Tour legs’. Mads went into an important time trial with the leader’s jersey and came out the other side still on top. All that stood in the way of victory was a Classics stage around Geraardsbergen, and MVDP (Mathieu van der Poel).
MVDP blew the race apart with an early attack, and despite a valiant effort, Mads didn’t have the legs to bring it back. The Dutchman went on to win the stage and overall with one of the rides of the year.
Redemption came just a week later when Pedersen took his first big Classics victory at Gent-Wevelgem. While Mads and the team around him had no doubt about his ability and potential, some critics had branded his 2019 World Championships victory a one-off. Winning a top-rated Classic in the way he did, silenced these critics and hopefully opened more eyes to see the 24-year-old for what he is.
Mads was on the good side of every decisive split. He saved energy where he could and burnt matches when necessary. It came down to a do-or-die decision to bridge across to a leading trio, one and a half kilometers from the line. If he didn’t make it, the race was over. But if he did, he knew he had a chance to win the sprint and add a big victory to his palmarès.
Celebrations were in full flow when Mads got back to the team bus.
Cheers to 2020!