A week ago, Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) had just taken his best ever result at a Classic with a commendable fifth place at Dwars door Vlaanderen. A few days later he would be standing on the podium in Oudenaarde after claiming second place at the Tour of Flanders.
A week ago, Pedersen was a relative unknown, his Danish champion's jersey the easiest way of identifying the second-year Trek-Segafedo neo-pro. This Thursday, he was sat alongside John Degenkolb and Jasper Stuyven introduced by the team as a rider gunning for glory on Sunday at Paris-Roubaix.
For now, Pedersen is keeping his feet firmly on the ground ahead Paris-Roubaix. Despite the breakthrough performance at last weekend's Tour of Flanders, the 22-year-old Dane says he will still play a support role for his two leaders Degenkolb and Stuyven.
"Exactly the same as it was on Sunday morning," Pedersen said when asked what his feelings were ahead of Paris-Roubaix.
"We are still here with two leaders for Sunday and my role will be exactly the same again. For sure, it gives me some more confidence for Roubaix but the feeling will be exactly the same. I know that we are doing exactly the same and the team is super strong and now I know that I can be in the final in the longer races. The feeling is really good and I'm confident that I can be in the final to help the guys.
"I'm still young. I still have something to learn. We have two big guys here and they are for sure 100 per cent the leaders, like the last races also."
From a sore loser to team player
There was understandable curiosity surrounding Pedersen at the Trek-Segafredo press conference in Bruges on Thursday evening. Plenty has been written about his teammates Degenkolb and Stuyven, but little is known about the Dane – although that will surely change as the years go on. Pedersen told the press that his turn to cycling came from being a poor team player as a child. Cycling, at the time, gave him an opportunity to ride for his own gains. With time, cycling has turned the sore loser into a team player.
"I played football and I hated it when we lost so I decided to go and do a sport where I could do it on my own, and that was cycling at that time," explained Pedersen. "Now, it is more of a team sport so I have also grown up and I'm older, so now I know how to handle losing as a team and winning as a team. As a kid, I couldn't do that so I decided to go for cycling."
There is a little spark to this young rider and when he's asked if a father or another family member inspired his choice of sport, Pedersen quipped: "Not at all. When you see my dad at the finish on Sunday then you will see that he will never be a cyclist and he never was a cyclist."
Stuyven ready for another good result
All things considered, Stuyven is possibly the team's best chance at a podium finish at Paris-Roubaix. He finished fourth at last year's edition and has finished in the top 10 in all but one of his cobbled races, where he went on a long-range attack with Daniel Oss.
Most of his results have been on the wrong side of the top 10, but Stuyven believes that the Hell of the North is a better fit for him.
"I have the same confidence that I've built up since the start of the Classics period," he said. "We raced, in my opinion, perfectly last Sunday. Maybe, having this little extra with Roubaix being a race that suits me even better will be enough to make it between one and five instead of five and 10."
This season's Classics campaign has not been a sterling one for 2015 Paris-Roubaix winner John Degenkolb. The German's best result on the cobbles was a 15th place at Dwars door Vlaanderen and he admits to not being at his best at Flanders but says that Paris-Roubaix doesn't feel like the last chance saloon for him.
"I don't really feel the pressure like this. We also continue racing after this on Sunday," he said.
"I can say, I didn't go with a great feeling out of De Ronde. It was also the hardest edition that I think we've all done in the past few years. I was even feeling today really tired from the race because the race was one of the hardest races I've ever done. We raced from start to finish.
"After a couple of kilometres today, I felt better and better and that was good to see. The feeling on the cobbles was OK and now I'm looking forward to Sunday."
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