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Mads Pedersen aiming to add elite Paris-Roubaix to his junior crown

Danish Mads Pedersen of TrekSegafredo celebrates as he wins the KuurneBrusselsKuurne one day cycling race 197 km from Kuurne to Kuurne via Brussels Sunday 28 February 2021 BELGA PHOTO ERIC LALMAND Photo by ERIC LALMANDBELGA MAGAFP via Getty Images
Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) as he wins Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne this year (Image credit: Getty Images)

“That’s many years ago now,” said Mads Pedersen with a smile when asked to reflect on his victory in the junior edition of Paris-Roubaix back in 2013. “I’d finished 10th the year before and already after that race I’d said to myself, ‘Next year I’m gonna win Roubaix.’ It was a big goal for me for that final season in the juniors. Even then, I always loved to watch Roubaix and to race it as a junior was a really nice experience. To win was, of course, even better.”

Then 17, Pedersen had already established himself as one of the best juniors on the road when he lined up at Roubaix for the second time. Late on in the 128-kilometre race, he went clear with Belgium’s Nathan Van Hooydonck and Britain’s Tao Geoghegan Hart

“One of the best memories from that day was being in the final with Nathan Van Hooydonck and Tao Geoghegan Hart. We’re all pros now and it’s really nice to think that the riders who were on the podium from back then are now racing in the pro peloton,” said the Dane, who added further confirmation of his potential at the end of the year when he finished second behind a certain Mathieu van der Poel in the World Championship in Florence. 

In the final run-in to Roubaix, Geoghegan Hart did all he could to try to drop Pedersen, knowing the Dane would be quicker in the sprint at the finish on the famous velodrome. “I knew I was faster than the two other guys in the sprint, so I was just waiting to do my stuff,” Pedersen recalled. “Although sprinting at junior level is definitely different because of the gearing, I was pretty confident of my chances of winning.” That confidence proved fully justified as he beat Van Hooydonck into second and Geoghegan Hart into third.

Looking ahead to this spring’s Classics campaign, the Trek-Segafredo Classics leader admitted that Roubaix is the race he’d like to win above all others, but added that he’d take a win in any of the cobbled Classics over the coming weeks. “Roubaix is definitely a goal, but the whole Classics campaign is the focus,” the 2019 world champion confirms.

“I think it’s wrong only to talk about one race as the spring Classics specialists don’t have that many options when it comes to winning. There are only five real cobblestone Classics left, so it’s about being really good in all of them. But I would definitely enjoy a victory in Roubaix the most. I’d really like to have that big cobblestone trophy.”

He also confessed that he would relish the feeling of racing for the title in front of a packed velodrome at Roubaix, although it currently seems unlikely that this will be possible when it takes place next month due to coronavirus-related restrictions. “I’ve only ever finished at the front of that race in the junior edition and there weren’t that many people in there that day,” he pointed out.

“When I’ve arrived there the three times I’ve finished Roubaix as a pro the fans were already on their way home, so I haven’t had that special feeling yet. But, hopefully I’ll get an idea of what that atmosphere is like this year,” said the Dane, who’s finished 95th, 71st and 51st in his three pro outings in the event between 2017 and 2019.

Speaking to Cyclingnews at Paris-Nice, Pedersen revealed that he won’t be riding Milan-Sanremo this coming weekend, preferring instead to head north to complete his final preparations for the spring campaign. “The key thing at Paris-Nice has been to get into form,” he said, “It’s always good to have some hard racing in your legs and that’s what you find here almost every day, although it’s a pity we haven’t had any crosswinds, which would have it even tougher.”

Winner of Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne at the end of February, Pedersen came out of Paris-Nice with further confirmation of his current good form having finished third and second in the sprints on the opening two stages, then an impressive 14th in the tough and technical third stage time trial at Gien. His Classics campaign is due to resume at the E3 Saxo Bank Classic on 26 March.

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Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).