Mads Pedersen won Sunday’s Gent-Wevelgem classic in Belgium.
Pedersen, the 2019 UCI road world champion, was the fastest finisher from an elite group of nine riders that powered to the line in the final kilometers of the 232-kilometer race. The Dane rumbled across the line ahead of Florian Sénéchal (Deceuninck–Quick-Step), with Matteo Trentin (CCC Team) in third.
“It’s one of the biggest wins,” Pedersen said about the victory. “I’m very happy.”
Present in the front group were pre-race favorites Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix).
The sprint to the line came after an aggressive final 70 kilometers that saw multiple attacks from van der Poel, van Aert, and other pre-race favorites on the twisting roads in west Flanders. At times the 2020 race looked like a vintage springtime edition, as rain and winds battered the peloton throughout the day.
A flurry of surges and regroupings saw the peloton split into multiple groups as the race approached the final ascent of the Kemmelberg with 35 kilometers remaining. Pedersen was present in the front group alongside Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ), Sep Vanmarcke (EF Pro Cycling), Mike Teunissen (Jumbo-Visma), Luke Rowe (Ineos Grenadiers), and Trentin (CCC Team), among others.
Riding just a few seconds in arrears was the second group containing van der Poel, van Aert, John Degenkolb (Lotto-Soudal), Dylan Teuns (Bahrain-McLaren), and Alberto Bettiol (EF Pro Cycling), among others.
The two groups merged into a front group of 14 riders on the descent of the Kemmelberg, and it was then that Küng attacked into a solo move with 31km remaining. Küng, a top time trialist, maintained a slight 10-second gap over the chase group for 5 or so kilometers, until he was brought back with 27km remaining.
The first big split occurred with 15km remaining as van Aert and Bettiol surged ahead.
Then, the final nine-man split separated itself with 10km remaining, and the group powered ahead to the finish.
Van Aert attacked multiple times inside 5km to go, and his surges were marked by van der Poel.
The decisive move then came with 1.3km to go, as Trentin, Senechal, and Bettiol escaped. As van der Poel and van Aert marked each other, Pedersen attacked out of their group and bridged to the four riders, setting up the decisive sprint for the win.
“I love long sprints, said Pedersen. “I thought van der Poel and van Aert would have the capacity to react but I was able to start my sprint as I could.”
- Mads Pedersen, Trek-Segafredo
- Florian Senechal, Deceuninck–Quick-Step
- Matteo Trentin, CCC Team
- Alberto Bettiol, EF Pro Cycling
- Stefan Küng, Groupama-FDJ
- John Degenkolb, Lotto-Soudal
- Yves Lampaert, Deceuninck–Quick-Step
- Wout van Aert, Jumbo-Visma
- Mathieu van der Poel, Alpecin-Fenix
- Dylan Teuns, Bahrain-McLaren