At 20, life could hardly get any better for Casper Pedersen with the Dane fast-tracked into the Olympic track programme and selected for the 2016 Rio games. The 2014 Paris–Roubaix Juniors runner-up had cemented his place in the team pursuit squad and was to be the first reserve.
A phone call from the national coach the night before the race brought Pedersen's world crashing down. He would instead be the sixth rider and would not ride in any event. Instead, he watched on as Denmark won the team pursuit bronze medal and Lasse Norman Hansen enjoying the same success in the omnium. Pedersen, the only rider to fly home empty-handed.
Once home, Pedersen didn't touch the bike for two months and entered thoughts of giving up the sport. Beset by depression. Slowly but surely, Pedersen started to regain his love for cycling and with it, the competitiveness of the sport.
In 2017, Pedersen turned the page and moved teams to Giant-Castelli. The year started with a return to the track and a ride in Denmark's team pursuit squad at the Cali World Cup and a gold medal. Silver in the Madison at the Los Angeles World Cup with Julius Johansen followed. Success followed on the road with Pedersen winning a stage at the 2.2 Flèche du Sud and the 1.2 GP Horsens Posten.
The U23 European road race title on home road in Denmark, a place in Denmark's team for the Tour de l'Avenir, and then the opening stage of his home Tour of Denmark further washing away the disappointment of Rio. Pedersen then ended the year by signing a contract with Aqua Blue Sport and silver in the team pursuit at the Manchester Track World Cup in November.
"After turning pro with Aqua Blue and moving to Girona, every part of my life is built around cycling. I can really feel that this is what my life is about," Pedersen told Cyclingnews. "I just finished school last summer so this is the first summer without school also. This is the first year of being a complete cyclist as well."
Pedersen's entry into the Pro-Continental ranks was in Australia. The now 21-year-old unprepared for the summer heat then sick in-between the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race and Herald Sun Tour. The Down Under campaign though would improve with Pedersen helping Hansen to a Herald Sun Tour stage win, then finish ninth on the final stage.
Although Pedersen's qualities and palmares are well known to the team, sports director Nicki Sørensen explained to Cyclingnews Aqua Blue Sport will give him time to further develop. Allowing Pedersen time to adapt in the early-months of the season.
"I would say he is so young and has to grow but there is definitely a lot of potential in Casper. He is a new guy on the scene so there is not going to be much pressure on him this season. We might see some good results from Casper this year though," Sorenson told Cyclingnews.
Pedersen also is looking to learn and develop in 2018. Stage races with time trials where he feels he can make some early impressions.
"I think I have potential in stage races like Tour of Denmark which I did last year and won a stage. Also stage races like Herald Sun Tour. Every season I need a few races to get to my top level so for me, it is nice to be in a team that I can be a team player and helper, and learn and learn and develop."