A Vuelta victory, but no Worlds: Pedersen won’t be in Wollongong

The worlds course would suit Pedersen, but he's opted to head home after the Vuelta.

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The 2022 World Championship road race course in Wollongong sits in what we shall metaphorically call the Alaphilippe Valley, a chasm of puncheur opportunity that is hilly and hard but suited to neither the purest climbers nor a true bunch sprinter. It’s the type of course that leaves Julian Alaphilippe salivating, basically, and after Mads Pedersen’s display at the Vuelta a Espana on Friday, we could name that valley after him, too. He would have gone into the Worlds as a top favorite. Except that the Trek-Segafredo rider won’t be there.

“I know the shape is super good, but I also have a life next to cycling and I also have a family at home. I don’t see them enough,” Pedersen said from his post-race press conference, shortly after taking his first stage win of this Vuelta. “At one point, you have to call it a day. If I had to do the Worlds, I would have had to go straight from here to Australia, and that would have made it seven weeks away from home. I think, mentally, that would not be a great idea.”

Prior to his win Friday, Pedersen had already racked up a hat trick of second places on stages two, three, and four, plus a fifth on stage 11. Cofidis’ Bryan Coquard, who finished second behind him in stage 13, spoke in awe of the Dane’s current form. “Everybody is talking about Evenepoel, but I think Pedersen might be the strongest rider on the Vuelta a España,” he told reporters. That form, plus a Wollongong course that, on paper, suits a rider with his exact skillset, had even the most bungling tipsters nodding in his direction.

Pedersen has won the rainbow jersey before, of course, on a wet day in Harrogate in 2019. He came to the line with a flying Matteo Trentin but dispatched the Italian with apparent ease. The two courses hold some similarities, particularly their finales, though Wollongong contains a longer climb, the 8.7 km, 5% average Mount Keira. It will be hard, with nearly 4,000 meters of climbing across the whole day, but Pedersen has proven this Vuelta that he doesn’t mind a bit of uphill.

He won’t be alone in skipping the trip to Australia. Entire national teams are going to be missing due to cost and Spain isn’t sure it can bring its top riders, many of whom are crucial to the current relegation fight and are needed back in Europe.

Alaphilippe, thankfully, does look set to take the start line in Australia. His Quickstep-Alpha Vinyl team released a short statement Friday evening detailing the Frenchman’s post-crash assessment, which turned up no damage in addition to the shoulder dislocation he suffered in an innocuous crash on stage 11 of the Vuelta.

Pedersen cited preparation for next season as part of his decision to forgo the trip to Australia. Plus, of course, seeing his family.

“I’m super happy and super proud of the season I had so far. But I think if I take it a step too far or over the limit, it might affect the season of next year and this is not a great idea. We made the decision not to go to Worlds. We’re happy with the season we’ve had so far – and seeing my wife again will also be pretty nice.”

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