The Dane proved fastest in the final bunch sprint, bettering Anthony Turgis (Total Direct Energie) and Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) with a strong acceleration.
Mathieu van der Poel had animated the race with a dazzling attack at 85km to go before putting the pace into an escape group that lasted through to the final minutes of the race. The Dutchman came away unrewarded however having been caught out of position in the sprint.
Pedersen profited from a leadout from his co-leader Jasper Stuyven in the 30-strong gallop for the line. Stuyven brought his young teammate through the melee in the chaotic final kilometer before unleashing Pedersen in the final 100 meters with a clear sight of the line.
Pidcock launched his sprint early from around sixth-wheel before being overhauled by Turgis, who had momentum as he followed in Pedersen’s draft.
The result made for a swift turnaround for Trek-Segafredo, which saw both of its leaders out of contention at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday.
“We rode the final perfectly today,” Pedersen said. “Yesterday in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad we ruined it pretty hard for ourselves. For that you should not come up with excuses, but let your legs speak. We did that.”
“It was great that it came together again for me,” he continued. “At 10 kilometers from the finish, we decided that I would sprint, and Jasper led me out very well.”
Van der Poel strikes with 85km to go
Van der Poel surprised with a move from the middle of the main peloton when the bunch was still over three minutes back on an escape group of six. Jhonatan Narváez (Ineos Grenadiers) was the only rider able to respond, and the duo worked well together and soon gained over one minute on the peloton as Bora-Hansgrohe and Quick-Step controlled.
Oude Kwaremont kicks off the action
The iconic cobbled Kwaremont climb saw the action heat up. First, van der Poel and Narvaez caught the remaining breakaway riders Jonas Hvideberg (Uno-X), Artyom Zakharov (Astana-Premier Tech) and Patrick Gamper (Bora-Hansgrohe). Having made the catch, van der Poel continued motoring, putting the engine into the effort to stay away.
Around a minute later, Stuven and Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) piled on the pressure over the 2.2km berg to draw out a front group of Pidcock, Oliver Naesen, Greg Van Avermaet (both Ag2r-Citroën), John Degenkolb (Lotto-Soudal), Matteo Trentin (UAE Emirates), Tiesj Benoot (DSM), Dylan Teuns (Bahrain Victorious) and around a dozen more.
Pedersen was out of position when the attacks started and missed the split, along with all the riders from Israel Start-Up Nation.
The powerful chase group saw only half the riders pulling as Degenkolb, Asgreen, Teuns and Trentin put in most of the work, and the van der Poel-led escape lingered around 30 seconds ahead for over an hour.
Tense final circuit around Kuurne
The race sat poised on a knife-edge as the race entered the closing circuit around Kuurne at 16km to go.
Nog iets meer dan 15 kilometer: "In één beeld gevangen" pic.twitter.com/clN9B3tH97
— Sporza 🚴 (@sporza_koers) February 28, 2021
A second group that included Pedersen caught the lead chase bunch of Trentin, Van Avermaet, Stuyven and Co. to form a mob of around 30 which hunted down the five escapees, who dangled just 15 seconds ahead. With a swathe of teams represented in the chase peloton, the pursuit malfunctioned as Lotto-Soudal and Qhubeka Assos looked to be the only teams committed to pull the race back together.
Defending champ Asgreen attacked inside the final 4km, with Heinrich Haussler first to respond. The move didn’t stick, but the turn of pace saw the gap to the five escapees vanish and the race finally all came back together with just 1500 meters to go.
- Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo)
- Anthony Turgis (Total Direct Energie)
- Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers)
- Matteo Trentin (UAE Team Emirates)
- Jenthe Biermans (Israel Start-Up Nation)
- Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Victorious)
- Nils Politt (Bora-Hansgrohe)
- Greg Van Avermaet (Ag2r Citroën)
- Bert van Lerberghe (Decuninck-Quick-Step)
- Erik Ressel (Uno-X)