‘It’s going to be a f*cking tough race’ - Mads Pedersen on approaching Flanders wounded and without Jasper Stuyven

The Danish rider is open about the fact he’s suffering from his crash in Dwars door Vlaanderen, but is trying to remain optimistic

Mads Pedersen doesn’t mince his words when he’s asked about the impacts of hitting the tarmac at 60kmp/h in Dwars door Vlaanderen a few days ago.

“Sleep is never good after a crash like this. The body is sore, wounds are hanging into your f*cking underwear and your sheets in the bed. It's just a pain in the ass to have this and you're not healing in three days, the body won't be perfect,” he said in the team’s press conference just two days before the Tour of Flanders. “I have to start the race with a different mindset than I would if I didn't crash on Wednesday. I know to win Flanders, you have to be 100%. I have to be honest, I'm not 100% right now.”

The impacts of that catastrophic crash in Dwars door Vlaanderen have rippled throughout the men’s WorldTour peloton. Visma-Lease a Bike’s Wout van Aert waved goodbye to his own Flanders dreams as he was stretchered off in an ambulance to Herentals, where he would eventually be operated on for his broken ribs and collarbone. Pedersen’s two teammates, Alex Kirsch and Jasper Stuyven, also saw their Classics seasons slip away on that lonely, wide road on the outskirts of Ronse, both ruled out of De Ronde with broken bones and broken hearts. Pedersen, by his own account, was one of the lucky ones.

“To hit the floor with that speed is always painful and it’s not ideal preparation for Sunday, but it could have been worse. I could have been in the hospital or on the operation table with a lot of my teammates or competitors, so I’m quite happy I’m still able to race,” Pedersen said.

While the Danish rider will be able to take to the start line in Antwerp on Sunday himself, he will have to face the bergs and cobbles without two of his key teammates in Kirsch and Stuyven. With his second place at E3 Saxo Classic, Stuyven was having one of the most impressive Classics campaigns of his career, and would have been crucial to Pedersen’s campaign on Sunday.

“It's a pain in the ass that we lost Jasper and Alex. If we take Alex as a helper first, he's super important for positioning and he knows these roads so well. Of course, we have Tim [Declercq], Otto [Vergaerde] and Eddy [Theuns] who are basically riding these roads every day, but one extra would have been nice,” Pedersen commented. “I feel really sorry for Jasper, he found the shape again and he showed really good signs for Flanders and he didn’t deserve to end up on the floor with a broken collarbone, neither does Wout. I’m really going to miss Jasper and I think we as a team are going to miss the card Jasper would have been sitting with."

Lidl-Trek have impressed so far this Classics season with their ability to take control and animate so many of the one-day races, with some even likening the American team’s performances to Quick-Step in their heyday. With two of the squad’s strongest riders missing in the Tour of Flanders, however, there's the option for Lidl-Trek to sit back and allow the race to play out, rather than taking it on themselves. Pedersen, however, argues that this would be the wrong choice.

“One thing is for sure, it's going to be – sorry for the word – a f•cking tough race, not only because I have a few bruises and a sore body but also because some guys could try to anticipate the racing early,” Pedersen said. “I don't think it would be smart for us to change the way we are racing now. We are into a really good rhythm and we like to race like this as well. It would be wrong of us to settle back and then hope we can just do whatever. We’ve still got to make a plan and we’ll try to do our race, then we will see how the body is reacting from my side.”

Pedersen points out that riders like Toms Skujiņš, who finished second for Lidl-Trek at Strade Bianche a few weeks ago, is another option for the American team. While the loss of Stuyven and Kirsch will have an impact, the Danish rider is keen to stress that Lidl-Trek still has some good cards to play. He also adds that his victory in Gent-Wevelgem last weekend, where he outsprinted Mathieu van der Poel at the finish, has taken the pressure off his shoulders somewhat for this Classics season.

“To be up against Mathieu in that final was appreciated, it was super nice and I really enjoyed it even though it was super, super hard. It takes a bit of pressure away that I won one Classic. I know it's not a Monument but as we're looking ahead to Flanders, it's not this pressure of you have to be ready, you still have to perform in Flanders, we still expect you to to fight for the win and so on, because we already have at least one Classic [victory],” Pedersen commented.

While the Lidl-Trek rider ruled out being fully recovered from his Dwars door Vlaanderen crash by this Sunday, he added that he will be “100% ready for Roubaix”, a race in which he will be targeting the win. When he eventually starts to take on the cobbles and bergs of the Tour of Flanders, this will give Pedersen the clearest idea of how much impact his injuries have really had on his form. Despite the odds being somewhat against him, Pedersen still remains acutely aware that this is bike racing, and anything can happen.

“If everything really plays my way, it's still possible,” he said. “It’s 50/50 which way it goes.”

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