Mads Pedersen: I wouldn’t even call it a rivalry with Mathieu van der Poel

Danish rider looks ahead to Paris-Roubaix as he aims to win his first Monument

Clock09:00, Saturday 6th April 2024
Mads Pedersen and Mathieu van der Poel at the finish of Gent-Wevelgem

Mads Pedersen and Mathieu van der Poel at the finish of Gent-Wevelgem

Few riders have got the better of Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) in recent times but Mads Pedersen (Lidl-Trek) managed the seemingly impossible at Gent-Wevelgem a fortnight ago and will be hoping to repeat the trick on Sunday when the pair clash in Paris-Roubaix.

Van der Poel rocks up at the race as the undisputed favourite given his and the Tour of Flanders but Pedersen arguably represents the world champion’s biggest threat.

The Flanders showdown between the pair failed to materialise last week owing to Pedersen’s crash in Dwars door Vlaanderen just a few days earlier but with a week of recovery in his legs, and a race that suits him better than Flanders, the Dane was in high spirits during his pre-race press conference on Friday.

“I’m feeling pretty good. It’s almost a week now and everyone is ready for what’s next. The shape is the same as before but the body is less sore after the crash and the wounds are getting better,” he said as the European press peppered him with questions ahead of the final cobbled Monument of the season.

“Roubaix is a different race from Flanders so this will be a different approach. The main aim will be to make it to the velodrome with the first guys and fight for the win. This race definitely suits me better than Flanders. I think we’ve talked about it a lot of times. Both Gent and Roubaix fit me better than Flanders does.”

In Gent-Wevelgem the Lild-Trek squad put on a masterclass of team tactics, isolating a weary Van der Poel following his E3 exploits before taking it in turns to attack him. Pedersen then dispatched with the Dutch rider with a clinical two-up sprint. At Flanders the Dane played a different role, attacking from far out before eventually fading as Van der Poel attacked with around 32km to go.

Lidl-Trek are not as strong as they were in Gent-Wevelgem after the crash in Dwars eliminated Jasper Stuyven and Alex Kirsch from their ranks, but Pedersen is confident that his ensemble has the necessary tools to compete for the win.

“We still have a strong team, so we keep believing in that and we keep believing in the same philosophy that we had in the past races. Of course, we’re missing Jasper, Alex and so on but that’s part of racing and the substitutes are really strong as well. We’re still a strong team.”

But the Dane also stated that his tactics would be different from Flanders, ruling out a long-range attack.

“That’s a decision that will taken during the race but I’m not planning on doing anything like that in Roubaix. It’s a different race and it needs a different approach.”

Despite their successful paths over the last decade as they traversed the junior to elite ranks, Pedersen and Van der Poel have rarely squared off against each other. They famously formed part of the four-man move at the Worlds in 2019 but Van der Poel cracked before the finale as Pedersen went on to beat Matteo Trentin and Stefan Kung.

The Dutch rider has the more impressive palmares but the clash at Gent-Wevelgem was a telling reminder that both riders are world-class, even if Pedersen took a humble approach when asked about a potential rivalry.

“To be honest I’m just honoured that we’ve made it this far,” he said when asked to look all the way back to their junior days.

“We have both ticked off the world championships at least. Mathieu definitely has a lot more Monuments than I have but on paper, he’s also a bigger bike rider than me. I wouldn’t even call it a rivalry. I try and beat him when I need to but you can’t play it out like the rivalry that he and Wout van Aert have.”

There are more than two riders on the startlist of Paris-Roubaix and an uncountable number of permutations and scenarios that could play out in the race. Van der Poel isn’t the only Alpecin threat heading to Compiègne with last year’s runner-up Jasper Philipsen for Pedersen to contend with.

“It’s no secret that Philipsen is a tough one to beat in a sprint so I would prefer that he’s not there in a small group but to prefer this or this… it’s all dream scenarios but a dream scenario would be to finish alone by two minutes and have time to puncture in the last 20km but that’s not going to happen,” Pedersen said.

“It’s really hard to tell you what the nicest scenario would be but I would be happy if it was a small group without Philipsen and if he’s there I would be happy if I was alone. My dream is to win the race but I also know how hard it is because you have to make your material last, you have to be lucky that you don’t have a puncture or whatever with your bike.”

For more rider interviews, visit our race interviews page.

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