So much so, their calendars are almost carbon copies of each other. Spring classics, check. Tour de France, yes. World championships, of course.
So how do the Trek-Segafredo teammates keep their egos and ambitions in check during the heat of the battle?
It all comes down to a deep personal bond.
“I think it’s not a secret that Mads and I are good friends since the beginning when he joined the team,” Stuyven said. “We had a good connection from the start, and it’s something that has been growing since then.”
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That personal friendship will be put to the test in the next few years as the pair enter the peak years of their respective careers.
Stuyven, 29, hit the jackpot in 2021, winning his first career monument at Milano-Sanremo.
Pedersen, who won the world title in 2019, endured a rough and tumble 2021 campaign marked by crashes and bouts of COVID-19 within the team that sidelined him during key moments of the season.
The Dane, who turns 26 on Saturday, still picked up three wins, including Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.
And both want more.
Ask them what their calendars look like in 2022, and the broad-stroke roadmap is basically the same. There are a few tweaks and detours, but both want to shine on the cobbles of Northern Europe and then punch a ticket to the Tour de France.
Those conflicting ambitions and the bounds of their deep personal friendship will be stretched to the limit in 2022, when both are out of contract at the end of the season.
“Me and Jasper, we are really good friends and we have always been,” Pedersen said during a Tuesday. “We clicked and we were good friends from the beginning.”
Double-edged sword in classics game plan
There are two ways to race and win the spring classics.
One is to build an entire team around one dominant rider, much how Fabian Cancellara enjoyed during his heyday, or how Wout van Aert or Mathieu van der Poel race today.
The other is the all-in, multiple-card option deployed with impressive success at Quick-Step, which often brings three to four co-leaders into the big dates to widen their odds for winning. The Belgian team often comes up aces.
Trek-Segafredo is trying to thread that needle.
Stuyven and Pedersen are both proven winners, but both admit they’re not quite on the level of van der Poel or van Aert. And Trek-Segafredo doesn’t quite have the singular focus that Quick-Step brings to the spring classics to pack three or four possible winners onto the team.
So it’s a two-pony race at the classics for Trek-Segafredo, with Stuyven and Pedersen both poised to win.
“We’ll never be in a situation where we’ll be thinking, ‘I can’t cover this move in case Mads is covering the next one, and they go to the line,'” Stuyven said. “I think we really understand each other quite well when we get to the finals and also before then. It’s a nice relationship we have, and it’s nice to bring that friendship into the finals of the classics.”
So far, there hasn’t been a major, late-race fracture between the two friends deep into a major monument.
“The main thing for us is that we should be 100 percent honest with each other,” Pedersen said. “If I have a really good day and he can see it, 100 percent he would leave his own chances out and help me, and the opposite way round, of course.”
Each wanting more this season and beyond
For 2022, their bound-up ambitions could crossover simply because both want the same things.
Pedersen hopes to turn the page on a crash-heavy 2021 season, and recapture the mojo that lifted him to the rainbow jersey in 2019 and victory at Gent-Wevelgem in 2020.
Stuyven wants to build on the momentum that came with his breakout San Remo victory, the first monument between the pair.
“It was the best year of my career so far,” Stuyven said of 2021. “Winning a monument this year gives a bit of a more relaxed approach. Maybe because of that, I can have more confidence going into the race.”
Both agree that each can help each other in the decisive moments of a big race.
Since both are capable of winning, meaning that rivals will have to cover them wherever they jump. That’s where that friendship and racing acumen can add up to a mutual advantage.
“We’re both looking forward to be more present in the finals,” Stuyven said. “We struggled a bit this year, the whole team struggled. We’re looking forward to be up there both of us, and try to win more together.
“It’s nice that we get along and we know that we are willing to support each other and give everything for each other, but also be there in the finals together.”
Yet what will happen if the pair hit a finale, each poised to win?
Both say that they never race against each other, and count on their friendship to drive their tactics.
“We are good with each other because of our friendship, we are honest with each other, and we trust each other when the other one is saying ‘I am really good today, I can do something nice,'” Pedersen said. “That’s really beneficial when you have two big egos on a team who want the same thing.”