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Mads Pedersen powered to a big Classics win on Sunday at Gent-Wevelgem.
On an aggressive day of racing in Flanders, the 2019 world road champ and eight other riders separated themselves from the pack, and then Pedersen joined a quartet that attacked out of the group in the closing kilometers, leaving Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert behind.
In the final sprint, Pedersen convincingly bested Florian Sénéchal and Matteo Trentin to nab the win.
“Three guys went from the group and I hoped that Van der Poel and Van Aert would close it,” Pedersen said after his win. “I managed to jump across and to stay in the last wheel and do my sprint from there. It was the perfect situation for me.”
The 233-kilometer race in Belgium saw a seven-rider early break that, surprisingly, included Mark Cavendish. With rain starting and stopping intermittently as the race progressed, the pack allowed the escapees to get an advantage that topped out at around eight minutes before ratcheting up the pace.
The gap fell quickly from there, and it was down around two minutes by the midpoint of the stage as the first climbs loomed. On the ensuing trips up and over the Scherpenberg, Vidaigneberg, Baneberg, and Kemmelberg, the break’s lead and the size of the pack continued to shrink. Following surges from Van Aert and then Van der Poel, the peloton began to splinter, leaving a smaller group of strong riders chasing the break. The catch was made with just under 70 kilometers to go.
Shortly thereafter, a nine-rider move that included Pedersen, Trentin, and Sep Vanmarcke went clear. Behind, Van Aert and Van der Poel pushed away to form a second group on the road. Attacks flew off the front of the race going over the Kemmelberg for the second and final time while some riders were shelled out the back, but eventually the two groups merged into an nine-rider selection that featured Pedersen, Florian Sénéchal, Matteo Trentin, Mathieu van der Poel, Wout Van Aert, Alberto Bettiol, John Degenkolb, Stefan Küng, and Yves Lampaert.
Stefan Küng tried an attack inside the last seven kilometers but he was brought back. Van Aert put in a dig that Van der Poel chased down. Others tried their luck but nothing stuck until inside the last three kilometers, when Sénéchal, Trentin, Alberto Bettiol and powered away with Pedersen chasing behind. He managed to catch on in time for a four-rider sprint. Bettiol jumped first on the finishing straight but Pedersen sailed past for the clear win at the line.
1 PEDERSEN Mads (Trek – Segafredo) 5:19:20
2 SÉNÉCHAL Florian (Deceuninck – Quick Step)
3 TRENTIN Matteo (CCC Team)
4 BETTIOL Alberto (EF Pro Cycling) 0:01
5 KÜNG Stefan (Groupama – FDJ) 0:03
6 DEGENKOLB John (Lotto Soudal) 0:04
7 LAMPAERT Yves (Deceuninck – Quick Step)
8 VAN AERT Wout (Team Jumbo-Visma) 0:07
9 VAN DER POEL Mathieu (Alpecin-Fenix) 0:08
10 TEUNS Dylan (Bahrain – McLaren) 1:40