Mads Pedersen made his intentions for the Tour de France clear, limiting his losses in the Baloise Belgium Tour time trial on stage 3 and keeping the race lead despite a close challenge by stage winner Yves Lampaert (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl).
The Dane is aiming to take the maillot jaune on home soil when the Tour de France starts in Copenhagen and said after Friday's Belgium Tour stage he was pleased with his performance.
"I'm quite happy. I know there were a few fast guys here and it's never easy to win a time trial," Pedersen said after taking second to Lampaert, seven seconds down. "To lose to Yves is quite OK, he's a strong guy and normally really good in a time trial. I think I can be quite happy."
Like Hour Record holder Ellen van Dijk, Pedersen has been honing his time trial bike and skinsuit and is targeting the 13km Tour de France time trial in Copenhagen. The Belgium Tour stage was the first real test, he said, except for the fact he was wearing the race leader's skinsuit rather than the team's Santini-developed speed suit.
"I know my own speed suit is faster than the leader's suit. It was a good preparation for the Tour and I'm quite satisfied," Pedersen said.
"Everything was new, I worked a lot on the TT bike, the position, the equipment and so on. This was the first real test with all the new equipment. Sadly, I didn't use our new speed suit but the rest worked out quite well and we found a really fast setup now."
Before the Tour de France, Pedersen still has to get through the Baloise Belgium Tour's toughest stage, a circuit around Durbuy in the Ardennes that has six leg-breaking ascents and an uphill finish. Not only that, Belgium is in the midst of a heatwave that has sent temperatures soaring over 30°C.
"Tomorrow is a really tough day and also with the heat. Normally I'm struggling a lot with the heat," Pedersen said. "I survived the first day it was quite warm but I think tomorrow will be over the limit - above 30 degrees. It can be the end of my time in the leader's jersey. One first place, third place and a second place so far in this race is not so bad, if I'm popping tomorrow it's OK.
"Of course, I'll do everything I can to stay in the leader's jersey and do a good race but I also know it's going to be tough. When you're in the leader's jersey you have to honour the jersey and fight that extra bit to keep it and I'm planning to do that. I'm not going to stop and go into the gruppetto because it's hard or too warm. I'm going to fight to the finish line and we'll see how it stands. It will be a tough one for everyone and pretty warm for the whole bunch. Maybe I'll have a good day."
The Belgium Tour has seen some cases of COVID-19 and, at the Tour de Suisse, entire teams left the race due to positive cases. Adam Yates, Ineos Grenadiers' leader for the Tour de France, was among the positives.
Pedersen said Trek-Segafredo have gone back to the full gamut of sanitary measures employed earlier in the pandemic. "Of course, it's a bad situation right now with two weeks to the Tour and 30-40 guys out of Suisse with Covid. It's really difficult. I hope everyone is getting over it quite fast but now we go back to all the old rules in the team - wear masks, keep distance. We're really strict with it again and hopefully, we can avoid too many cases within our team. "
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Laura Weislo has been with Cyclingnews since 2006 after making a switch from a career in science. As Deputy Editor, she coordinates coverage for North American events and global news. A former elite-level road racer who dabbled in cyclo-cross and track, Laura has a passion for all three disciplines. When not working she likes to go camping and explore lesser traveled roads, paths and gravel tracks.