The American-registered team heads into the “Queen of the Classics” with 2015 winner John Degenkolb and versatile Jasper Stuyven as designated team leaders. Despite his stunning result in his De Ronde debut, Pedersen, 22, has no complaints about playing third fiddle to his teammates on Sunday.
“At the start in Paris-Roubaix, I will feel exactly the same way as last Sunday at the start. We are still here with two leaders, John and Jasper, and my role will be exactly the same as it was in the Tour of Flanders,” he said at Trek’s pre-Roubaix media event. “For sure, my second place last week gives me some more confidence for Paris-Roubaix, but in the end, the feeling will be the same.”
Owing to his victory at the race three years ago, Degenkolb starts as the team’s most accomplished rider for Roubaix. The German has struggled to return to that form since a serious training crash in 2016, however, and has also dealt with illness the past several months.
That has left Trek taking a more open approach this classics season. Degenkolb is still a big threat at Roubaix, but the team does not need to put all its eggs in that basket.
Stuyven, who won Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne in 2016, brings a diverse skill set to the squad. He’s got a strong motor on the cobblestones but also packs a decent finishing kick. So far, he hasn’t been able to convert those talents into a WorldTour classics win, but the Fleming has been nothing if not consistent so far this spring.
Of course, he’d trade consistency for a monumental podium if the opportunity presented itself.
“Since Milano-Sanremo, I have finished in the top 10 of every race, between spot five and 10. I keep the same confidence for Sunday that I built up from the start of the classics,” he said.
“We raced as a team in a perfect way last Sunday and we will do so again this Sunday. Having this as a little extra and knowing that Roubaix suits me even better, will be what it takes to make it to the top five instead of finishing between spot five and 10.”
Pedersen makes for a handy lieutenant — and no matter what he says ahead of the race, he’ll be a threat to go long on the French cobbles. The Danish up-and-comer may be a fresh face in the northern classics, but his engine has been on display in time trials for a few years already.
He managed to finish on the podium in Flanders in his debut. Who knows what he can pull off in his second career start at Paris-Roubaix?
Sports director Dirk Demol, who celebrates the 30th anniversary of his own Paris-Roubaix victory this year, said that the best is yet to come for Trek, with the Roubaix pavé a more suitable match for his riders’ skills than the hellingen of Flanders.
He has Degenkolb for a bigger sprint, an in-form Stuyven to jump into a late attack and outgun any fellow escapees in the velodrome, and Pedersen as a wild card.
“We’ve been in the top 10 in every race so far in Belgium. We are just missing the victory,” he said. “In my mind, our strongest performance will be at Roubaix. Our seven riders are a strong team, and they are made better for Roubaix than even Flanders. I am confident that we can make a good performance there.”
Trek has yet to come close to the classics success the squad enjoyed during the Fabian Cancellara years, but Demol has reasons to be bullish on his team’s chances, and not just for this Sunday.
Degenkolb has yet to turn 30, Stuyven is 25, and Pedersen is just 22. The future looks promising. Considering the consistent strength the team has shown so far this year, however, it’s not outside the realm of possibility on Sunday that Trek claims its first top-tier spring one-day since Spartacus himself claimed a third Flanders title in 2014.