The Danish men’s team line up as one of the strongest squads for this year’s World Championships road race with a string of possible contenders including Kasper Asgreen, Michael Valgren, Magnus Cort and the 2019 winner Mads Pedersen.
While all eyes will be on Wout van Aert and his Belgian team to control affairs, the Danish team are arguably the most complete roster within the race, and according to Pedersen, the team will employ Deceuninck-QuickStep-like tactics by trying to cram as many riders into the finale as possible.
“We have a strong team and of course we have more than one leader. Of course, we need to talk it through but I also think it’s a benefit," Pedersen told Cyclingnews in an exclusive interview during his journey from Denmark to Belgium.
"If you look at QuickStep and how they race with a lot of strong guys, that’s how we should look at it. Instead of putting all or money on black we should spread it out because we have a lot of guys who can get results.
“I would say that we have four leaders and that can be difficult in a race, but I think we need to be a bit easy with the term leader, because I think the whole team is strongest to win. It’s an open race for us.”
Despite the collective depth, it’s unclear as to whether the Danes will be pressured into taking responsibility for controlling the race. The bulk of the heavy lifting will be passed to the Belgians, while France and the Netherlands are likely to take their share as they centre around Julian Alaphilippe and Mathieu van der Poel, respectively.
Pedersen isn’t sure how the race will pan out, but he is adamant that he and his team will not take a back seat and race passively. An aggressive nature suits the Worlds course this year, with the route punctuated by small climbs and changes in direction near and in Leuven. The 268.3km distance and risk of rain will ensure that the race becomes a war of attrition, but the Danes are focussed on their race and not their rivals.
"It really depends on how the race goes and how the other nations look at us. The Belgians have the big leader and the responsibility because it’s a home race. The guys from Holland with Van der Poel, and Alaphilippe and France, they also have to take control. It could be a traffic jam to take control and that could be good for us,” Pedersen said.
“We’re not there to watch anyone though. We’re there to race our own race and our opinion is that if we watch other guys then we’re one step behind. Of course, we’ll have clear roles in the race, and we still need to talk about them but we know that if there’s a sprint we’ll do it for me.”
Pedersen’s own form is a little harder to read at this point. He pulled out of the Benelux Tour as a precaution due to a lingering hip injury. However he has taken two wins in recent weeks with a stage a piece in the Tour of Denmark and the Tour of Norway.
“I stopped in Benelux and that was mostly so that I didn’t do anything to the hip. It meant that I could take a few more days of rest and then be ready for this. The shape overall though is quite good. I’ve just had this hip problem since the Tour but that extra time off gives me more time to recover and be ready for Worlds. I’m just trying to kick the can a bit more down the road before I can take a proper rest at the end of the season.”
The disappointments of 2020 and 2021
That said, the 25-year-old hasn’t lived up to his own expectations this season. He won Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne in February, but COVID-19 hit Trek-Segafredo in the spring and Pedersen never regained his momentum in time for the Tour of Flanders.
He crashed out of the Dauphiné and never hit his stride at the Tour de France, but there is still time to salvage the campaign with the Worlds and Paris-Roubaix still to come.
“It’s not been the season that I hoped for,” he told Cyclingnews.
“I hoped for more results and to be more consistent but with the crashes in the Tour and at the Dauphiné I just had some stupid injuries. It meant that I had to take breaks during periods when I wanted to train super hard. With results, it looks okay but if you ask me, it’s not good enough. I wanted more than three wins and I wanted more high calibre victories than Norway and Denmark, nothing against those races. I wish it has been better, but the season isn’t over and it can still be saved."
Finding motivation for a World Championships, especially for a Classics specialist like Pedersen, is never a struggle, but the Dane does admit that his 2020 season does leave him with a sense of sadness, even though he’s not entirely hung up on the matter. His year in the rainbow jersey was wrecked by the global pandemic and he was left without the chance to wear the coveted jersey in the spring Classics after the races were shifted to the tail end of the season.
“What I’m most sad about is that I never had the chance to do the Classics in the jersey. It would have been so nice to have done Paris-Roubaix in the rainbow jersey. So, of course, it would be so nice to win it again and have this full season the rainbow jersey. That would be super nice,” he said.
“I still enjoyed my year in 2020 and if you ask people in 50 years how many days I had in the jersey all that they’ll remember was that I was world champion. It doesn’t bother me and that’s not my motivation for trying to win again.”
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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.
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