The 2019 UCI Road World Championships reached a gripping conclusion on Sunday with Mads Pedersen earning a surprise yet exceptionally hard-fought victory in the Elite Men’s Road Race to round off an unforgettable nine days of action.
The Danish rider worked his way into an elite group in the last 50km and was one of only three riders still in contention on the very last drag up Parliament Street. It was his rival Matteo Trentin who kicked off the sprint for victory but Pedersen proved the fastest finisher and passed the Italian before throwing his arms aloft in triumph. Trentin meanwhile, had to settle for second place on the podium with Switzerland’s Stefan Kung crossing the line two seconds back in third.
“It’s unbelievable. I didn’t expect this when we started this morning. It was an unbelievable day,” said Pedersen, at a loss for words for what he had just achieved.
“The team plan was to get me out in the early final (laps) and then (teammates) Valgren and Fuglsang would come from behind. But in the end, they didn’t follow van der Poel and Trentin when they came to my group. From there on it was just survive, survive, survive and then hope for the best in the sprint,” he explained.
When it was looking likely the breakaway that formed on the final laps would stick, many thought the race was Mathieu van der Poel’s. When the Dutchman suddenly cracked, then everyone pointed at Italian Matteo Trentin, another favourite. No one really considered the young Dane. But in a classics-style World Championships, Pedersen showed his incredible talent again – he finished second in the Tour of Flanders in 2018, after-all.
Although Pedersen struggled in the early part of the 2019 season, his form and confidence have grown in the last month. One week ago, Pedersen finally won his first race of the season, the Grand Prix d’Isbergues. And Sunday in Harrogate he showed why he has been pegged as a future winner of Paris-Roubaix.
“I just hoped that when I saw the finish line, all the pain would be gone, and I could do a good sprint. It’s six and a half hours on the bike so everyone is on the limit and so anything could happen in that sprint,” said Pedersen.
“You had to be focused all day and stay in the front all the time. But it’s one of the last races of the season, so it’s all about keeping that focus for six and a half hours and don’t have any bad luck and hope for the best. This is every rider’s dream to wear this jersey – for me to do it now? It’s unbelievable.”