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State of the Nation: Analysing Denmark's men's 2021 World Championships team

IMOLA ITALY SEPTEMBER 27 Start Jakob Fuglsang of Denmark Niklas Eg of Denmark Jonas Gregaard Wilsly of Denmark Jesper Hansen of Denmark Mikkel Frolich Honore of Denmark Michael Valgren Hundahl of Denmark Christopher Juul Jensen of Denmark Casper Phillip Pedersen of Denmark Tadej Pogacar of Slovenia Peloton Mask Covid Safety Measures Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari during the 93rd UCI Road World Championships 2020 Men Elite Road Race a 2582km race from Imola to Imola Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari ImolaEr2020 Imola2020 on September 27 2020 in Imola Italy Photo by Alex Whitehead PoolGetty Images
The team from Denmark line up at the front of the peloton before the 2020 Road World Championships (Image credit: Getty Images)

Ahead of the 2021 UCI Road World Championships elite road races, Cyclingnews is taking a deep dive into the key teams. We have analysed the men’s teams from the United States, Australia, France, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Italy and Belgium

Here is a look at Denmark's men's team for the road race on Sunday.

History

Mads Pedersen became the first male rider from Denmark to win the UCI Road World Championship back in 2019 when he stole the show with a consummate performance to edge out Matteo Trentin and Stefan Küng on the streets of Harrogate. Before then Matti Breschel knocked on the door claiming silver and bronze in the mid-2000s, while Bo Hamburger gobbled up a silver of his own in 1997. Before then, Jogen Marcussen took bronze in 1978, and Leif Mortersen a silver in 1970.

Lineup

Key riders

HARROGATE ENGLAND SEPTEMBER 29 Arrival Mads Pedersen of Denmark Celebration Matteo Trentin of Italy during the 92nd UCI Road World Championships 2019 Men Elite Road Race a 2618km race from Leeds to Harrogate 125m RR Yorkshire2019 Yorkshire2019 on September 29 2019 in Harrogate England Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images

Mads Pedersen wins the Road World Championships in 2019 (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

On paper the Danish squad is the strongest team in the race with former World Champion Mads Pedersen one of just several potential winners. The team has collective depth running right through the eight-rider line-up, with Pedersen telling Cyclingnews that there are potentially four leaders for the Flanders course.

The standout candidate is probably Kasper Asgreen, with the 2021 Tour of Flanders winner perfectly suited to the course. The 26-year-old’s recent form has been impressive, with fourth in the Worlds individual time trial after seventh in both the European Championships and the Olympics. His Flanders win, in which brains and brawn were used to pick off his rivals before out-kicking Mathieu van der Poel, demonstrated the Dane’s growing stature and illustrated that he can win major races via several potential scenarios.

Magnus Cort won three stages at the Vuelta a España but honestly could have come away with five – he was that good. In the form of his life, he looks capable of causing a major coup on terrain he hasn’t always excelled on. The 28-year-old finds himself in a position similar to that of Pedersen two years ago, just behind the top pre-race favourites, but that could play to his advantage if he can anticipate the moves. He is one of the smartest and savvy competitors in the WorldTour.

Welcome to the party Mr. Valgren, we’ve been expecting you. After some dour years at Dimension Data Michael Valgren has rediscovered his finest form and he heads into Sunday’s race with victories in his last two races. Like the rest of the leaders on this list the 29-year-old has a rapid finish – although not as fast as Pedersen – but he was the man who helped set up the Trek rider two years ago, and with sky-high form he’s a natural contender.

Finally, the 2019 World Champion, Mads Pedersen, who comes into the race with a slight concern over his health due to a lingering hip issue. However, if Pedersen can eke the last embers out of an inconsistent campaign and go the distance on Sunday then he has the fastest finish of the Danish contingent. The 25-year-old’s wins in Kuurne and Gent-Wevelgem illustrated his ability to find opportunities where others fail to capitalise, and while he may not have the raw power of some pre-race favourites, his racing brain is second to none. It would be somewhat poetic too if the rider who had his year in the rainbow ruined by the pandemic claimed his second title in three years and got to wear the rainbow jersey in Paris-Roubaix a week after claiming it.

Strengths

Pedersen has talked about the Danish squad’s desire to race like QuickStep, with the hope that the team can bring as many contenders into the final as possible. The horsepower and talent is certainly there with four riders on the roster more than capable of winning. The key will be communication and at some point someone is likely to have to sacrifice their own chances for the greater good. That shouldn’t be a problem – from the outside the team looks committed and as 2019 showed they appear more than willing to race for each other. If they take that approach into the race, then their collective strength might be enough to sweep away the likes of Julian Alaphilippe and Wout van Aert. You know this team is stacked when you’re 700 words in and you’ve not even talked about Mikkel Honore.

Weaknesses

It’s hard to find a weakness among the eight riders selected, and the roster highlights the strength within this generation of Danish male riders. Perhaps they don’t have a superstar in the mould of an Alaphilippe, van Aert or Mathieu van der Poel but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, and as both Pedersen and Asgreen have shown in the last few seasons, turning the tables on riders like van Aert and van der Poel is entirely plausible if the moment is seized. They’ve even got the best kits on the international stage, so just give them the rainbow jersey now and be done with it.

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Daniel Benson

 Daniel Benson is the Editor in Chief at both Cyclingnews.com and BikePerfect.com. Based in the UK, he has worked within cycling for almost 15 years, and he joined the Cyclingnews team in 2008 as the site's first UK-based Managing Editor. In that time, he has reported on over a dozen editions of the Tour de France, several World Championships, the Tour Down Under, Spring Classics, and the London 2012 Olympic Games. With the help of the excellent editorial team, he runs the coverage on Cyclingnews and has interviewed leading figures in the sport including UCI Presidents and Tour de France winners.