‘The other guys gave up before Mads did’ - No Monument for Pedersen at Paris-Roubaix, but fighting spirit in abundance

The Danish rider gave everything in the Hell of the North, but was outnumbered by Alpecin-Deceuninck

There came a point where there was nothing else that he could do. Mathieu van der Poel was disappearing further and further away on the cobbles of northern France, leaving Mads Pedersen with nothing but a mouthful of dust and a dented ego in the chasing group behind. It was not for lack of trying from the Lidl-Trek rider – Pedersen closed gaps, he covered attacks, he made moves himself, but pesky blue Alpecin-Deceuninck riders always skulked in his shadow, stuck like chewing gum to the Danish rider’s rear wheel. He was outnumbered and outdone, but still, Pedersen fought.

Paris-Roubaix saw the Dane exhibit the same grit, defiance and dogged determination he’s shown throughout the entire Classics season. It was in Gent-Wevelgem that this paid the greatest rewards – there he outsprinted Mathieu van der Poel, finally proving to himself (and the rest of the peloton) that beating the world champion is possible. At the Tour of Flanders last weekend, that fight was still present, but it didn’t pay off for Pedersen – he rolled the dice but was unable to follow Van der Poel’s decisive move on the bergs of Belgium. While the 28-year-old recognised his mistakes in De Ronde and aimed to rectify them a week later, Pedersen argued there was no stopping Van der Poel on the Roubaix cobbles.

“Flanders I think I raced with my head in my own arse. Today I tried to do it better but he was impressive and I couldn't follow. How to beat him in a Monument? Clearly I don’t know yet,” Pedersen commented after the race, characteristically honest in his assessment. “I have zero excuses, I was definitely 100% fit. I was beaten by a better boy today.”

While Pedersen made several repeated attempts to close the gap to the world champion when he attacked with 60 kilometres of the race remaining, the Lidl-Trek rider received little assistance from the rest of the chasing group, despite teams like Visma-Lease a Bike and Groupama-FDJ both being represented by two riders. Pedersen’s sports director, Grégory Rast, admitted that his team’s leader needed more help in the final throes of Roubaix today.

“I don’t know if he’s happy or not to finish third, but when Mathieu has a three minute advantage and you have Philipsen not pulling, you can be happy with a podium place,” Rast told Rouleur after the race.

“He should be happy and he should be proud. A lot of pressure was on Mads shoulders because they all know he is the best. Alpecin did it very smartly to block everything. They took the momentum out of the race. You cannot ask the others to do more, but maybe they gave up before Mads did. If we could have played with two cards and Johnny [Milan] didn’t crash out, it would have been better. We could have had a completely different race.”

Pedersen himself admitted that, after Van der Poel’s performances this Classics season, neither he nor his colleagues were blind to the danger of letting the world champion get even a slight gap in today’s race. He argued, however, that the strength of Van der Poel meant that there was little anyone else could have done.

“When Mathieu went, everyone was going flat out because you don’t want to give him 30 seconds. We all tried but he was just better than us today. I don’t know what else to say. We raced with everything we could to beat him but it wasn’t possible,” Pedersen rued. 

“At one point when he is just gaining time, we are doing a second race behind and we also want to make the selection in our group and make it smaller and smaller. Everyone is committed and going flat out because maybe he has a puncture or whatever, you never know. The race is not always over when he gets a gap, but today it was.”

A third place at Paris-Roubaix is something that Pedersen appeared satisfied with, but to be so close to a Monument victory on so many occasions undoubtedly comes with a bit of a sting. Rast argues that if Pedersen continues to race in the heartfelt, brave way that he and his teammates have done this Classics season, though, that elusive win is not far away.

“It’s possible to beat Mathieu, but maybe not today. Mads showed he could beat him in Gent-Wevelgem. He can do it on the right day at the right moment,” Rast stated. “He will get a Monument, one hundred percent. He’s always there, so one day he will get it.”

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