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No one saw that it coming at Sunday’s UCI Men’s Elite Road World Championships, so says Bradley Wiggins.
“Perhaps the two wins that have been the most surprising are Oscar Freire’s in 1999 – winning it for the first time – and Astarloa in 2003, that is until Pedersen’s win today,” the former hour record holder and 2012 Tour de France winner told MARCA.
During the 2003 world championships, held in Hamilton, Ontario, Astarloa attacked out of a front group containing star riders Paolo Bettini, Peter Van Petegem, and Michael Boogerd, among others. When Astarloa attacked, the other riders waited for someone to give chase, and the hesitation allowed the Spaniard to gain a sizable advantage, which he held to the line.
Pedersen, who races for Trek-Segafredo, sprinted ahead of a three-man group that had survived the brutal wet conditions in Yorkshire in a win that almost no one predicted.
“You didn’t expect these riders to end up winning the worlds,” Wiggins said. “For example, Valverde and his win last year could have been expected. However, had Romain Bardet won, it would also have been something totally unexpected.”
Pedersen became the first Danish rider to win the men’s elite world championship rainbow jersey in its nearly 100-year story. At 23, he is the 11th youngest winner and the youngest since Freire first won in 1999.
“The history of this jersey is very special, and only a select group is able to get hold of it,” Wiggins continued. “That Pedersen has won, and more considering his youth, is something unusual and that we may not see again in a long time. That’s precisely what makes this competition special.
“Pedersen was second in Flanders last year, proving that he is a cyclist of another kind. Now, he will have to absorb what he has achieved.”
His only other win this season was a week before in the Grand Prix d’Isbergues – Pas de Calais, winning solo with teammate John Degenkolb behind. Last year in the Tour of Flanders, only Dutchman Niki Terpstra (then with team Quick Step) could push Pedersen into second place.
Pedersen builds on a young wave of cyclists washing over the sport. Prior to the worlds, fans talked about 24-year-old Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon-Circus), 19 year-old Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-Quick Step), and 21-year-old Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates). And those who did not race the worlds: 22-year-old Tour de France winner Egan Bernal (Ineos) and 25-year-old Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma).
Now, Pedersen is on the tip of everyone’s tongues. However, those on the inside – like teammates Degenkolb and Jasper Stuyven – had already taken note of his potential.
“Mads is really fast,” Stuyven told Het Nieuwsblad. “On training rides, he regularly beats me and Degenkolb.
“In January, Mads and I also worked specifically on our sprint on the hills in Mallorca. Those investments did not pay off in the spring. Mads took on a little too much weight in the winter and therefore performed a little below his level. Now he did everything right.
“I had realized for a few weeks now that Mads was top,” Stuyven continued. “He has lost a lot of weight in the run-up to the worlds. He can always do something more in the rain, too. The only danger is that he sometimes forgets to eat and drink. I alerted him again on Saturday evening with a message – he has listened well. ”
On Saturday, he will race for the first time in the rainbow jersey at the Tour de l’Eurométropole. He will then travel to Italy to compete in Tre Valli Varesine on Tuesday, October 8 and Milano-Torino on Wednesday, October 9, before returning home for a rest.
“I still can’t believe I really did it,” Pedersen said Tuesday. “For sure, it will be very special to line up for the very first time in my rainbow jersey and I am happy I get to show it still before I end my season.”
But Pedersen’s next big appointment is October 19, when he will get married.