By his admission, Mads Pedersen’s previous results in Opening Weekend are not a fair reflection of either his talents or his ambitions, but the Dane is determined to set the record straight this week as he leads the line for Trek-Segafredo alongside Jasper Stuyven.
The former world champion’s best result in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad was 39th, a position he attained in 2016, while his highest finish in Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne is a lowly 79th last year. Whether he’s a typically slow starter or his focus tends to be on the latter Spring races, Pedersen believes that he’s starting the season in better condition than he did last year, when Stuyven won Nieuwsblad.
“I’m feeling good. We came straight from the training camp in Denia, Spain and the whole Classics team were there. Things are looking good for the weekend and I was actually a bit surprised with how my form was at Besseges, where I got third in the first stage,” he told Cyclingnews from his current base in Belgium.
“I’m normally a bit of a slow starter but I went well in the first stage and was in the mix. I could see that the other guys weren’t that far ahead of me but I’ve still got something to build on in terms of my top form. I’ve got Paris-Nice after Opening Weekend but the shape is good and better than where I normally am at this point in the season.”
Trek-Segafredo heads into Opening Weekend with a settled lineup that includes Pedersen, Stuyven, Edward Theuns, Ryan Mullen, and Alex Kirsch. The quintet is complemented by Charlie Quarterman and first-year professional Jakob Egholm. Pedersen believes that the team’s settled nature has fostered a special bond between the riders and the staff.
“We appreciate that Luca Guercilena and Trek have kept the team like this,” Pedersen said. “It’s a young team and of course we need to build up our experience together. They’re giving us the trust and the freedom to do that together and we’re not changing everything every year or second year. That gives us the platform to build on our friendships and relationships in the races.”
The dynamic between Pedersen and Stuyven is the most important of all. In a straight shootout between their individual talents and riders like Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) or Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Feniix), the Trek pair would probably come out second best, but as a duo they can track moves and cover for each other. Together they’re stronger as well as enjoying a strong understanding off the bike, they both buy into the system of supporting each other.
“We both go in as leaders and he’s going really well. We had some really good training and racing, and he’s in good shape. We’ve got a really strong and competitive team and everyone is really determined for the Classics. I think that with me and Jasper we have a good strategy and we’re both looking for results,” added Pedersen.
“Having us both as leaders puts us in a stronger position than if there was just one of us. Of course, it’s not just us on the bike and there are other riders out there who are racing well. It’s going to be tough to win races but with the two of us, it’s a good situation.”
Winning Gent-Wevelgem last year was another timely reminder of Pedersen’s class. The 2019 World Champion was unable to race the majority of the spring Classics in the rainbow jersey due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the rescheduling of the European calendar, but he won a stage in the Tour de Pologne, helped Richie Porte to third in the Tour de France and then out-foxed a string of other one-day specialists to land one of cycling’s most prestigious cobbled Classics.
Still just 25, he knows that there’s more in the tank and that he’s still evolving as a rider and as a person.
“Last year I just learned that every race could be the last one. That’s the main thing. We just want to race and win. There’s no point is just looking at the Tour of Flanders or Paris-Roubaix because all the races provide possibilities. I want to be more open in my outlook and I hope to bring my racing style to as many of the Spring races as possible.
“I also learned that you can’t just rely on horsepower in the Classics. You have to use your head,” said Pedersen. “In the past, I didn’t always do that and it’s time to learn from those mistakes. I started to learn a bit last year and it worked in Gent-Wevelgem and it’s about keeping that going. You can’t just go balls-out at every chance because having the spare power at the end of races is really important.”
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