Mads Pedersen: 'Pain in the ass that we lost Jasper Stuyven for Tour of Flanders'

Former runner-up rues the loss of key teammates and his own nasty crash at Dwars door Vlaanderen, but insists that Lidl-Trek continue to race aggressively

Clock16:03, Friday 29th March 2024
Mads Pedersen was the winner at Dwars door Vlaanderen on Sunday, but crashed heavily at Gent-Wevelgem just two days ago

© Getty Images

Mads Pedersen was the winner at Dwars door Vlaanderen on Sunday, but crashed heavily at Gent-Wevelgem just two days ago

It has been a painful few days for Lidl-Trek's Mads Pedersen - "I have had better days, let's say it like this" - but he and his team have had to count their losses in more ways than one since Wednesday's high-speed crash at Dwars door Vlaanderen.

It may have been a DNF on the results sheet and a couple of sleepless nights for the former world champion, but for his teammates Jasper Stuyven and Alex Kirsch, a touch of wheels in the peloton spelt the end of their Spring Classics campaign.

"To be honest, it’s a pain in the ass that we lost Jasper and Alex," Pedersen said to GCN and other members of the media in a press conference on Friday afternoon, two days away from the Tour of Flanders.

"If we take Alex as a helper first, he’s super important for the run-ins, for positioning and so on. He knows these roads so well, of course, we have Tim [Declercq], Otto [Vergaerde] and Eddy [Theuns] who are basically riding these roads every day, but one extra would have been nice."

Kirsch's value to Lidl-Trek was not only as a loyal domestique, but as a card to play in his own right. The Luxembourg national champion has been in tremendous form of late, even managing to ride to tenth position at the E3 Saxo Classic whilst working for his team leaders.

However, it will be Stuyven's absence which will be felt the most by Pedersen in Sunday's Tour of Flanders. The pair have developed a successful partnership in recent years and their teamwork could have been the key to toppling the red-hot favourite, Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck).

Read more: The Van der Poel rules: How to beat cycling's best Classics rider

Finishing eighth at Milan-San Remo and runner-up at the E3 Saxo Classic, Stuyven has not ridden this well since he won the former in 2021. He was to be rightly viewed as an equal-favourite to Pedersen in the Tour of Flanders, but he was on the operating table for a fractured collarbone alongside Wout van Aert (Visma-Lease a Bike) on Thursday morning.

"I feel really sorry for Jasper, he found the shape again and he showed really good signs for Flanders and he didn’t deserve to end on the floor with a broken collarbone, neither does Wout," said Pedersen.

"I’m really going to miss Jasper and I think we as a team are going to miss the card [that] Jasper would have been sitting with."

In the absence of Stuyven and Kirsch, one might be forgiven for expecting Lidl-Trek to rethink their game plan ahead of De Ronde. But to go into their shell, Pedersen insists, is not an option.

Read more: Our official preview for the men's Tour of Flanders

Lidl-Trek determined to continue aggressive brand of racing

Pedersen claimed Lidl-Trek's first and only win of the Spring Classics in last Sunday's Gent-Wevelgem, outsprinting Van der Poel to a second title. It was no more than they deserved, with the American team a breath of fresh air throughout the last month of racing. Constantly on the front foot and with several of their riders towards the front of races, Lidl-Trek have been as dynamic and dangerous as Quick-Step were at their height.

Read more:

In the face of Van der Poel's almighty strength - as displayed at the E3 Saxo Classic - many felt that Lidl-Trek might be best placed to defeat the Dutchman through a series of attacks and counterattacks, with the idea being that Van der Poel might be eventually worn down.

Despite losing his right-hand man in Stuyven, Pedersen is adamant that this aggressive stroke of racing is here to stay.

"I don’t think it would be smart from us to change the way we’re racing now we are into a really good rhythm and we like to race this way as well," he said. "So I think it would be wrong from us to settle back.

"We still have to remember we have a Toms [Skujiņš] in the team who can do a really good result as well and he has showed top shape also the last couple of weeks, so we still have some good cards to play."

In a contract year with Lidl-Trek, Skujiņš is showing the best form of his lengthy career and a runner-up spot at Strade Bianche demonstrated the heights he can reach in the biggest Classics. But whilst Pedersen was happy to put the spotlight on his Latvian teammate, he was more hesitant to throw his support behind Jonathan Milan for Sunday.

Asked by the Italian media as to whether he might ride for Milan on Sunday, Pedersen's answer - once he found out that Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck) would not be riding - was unequivocal: "No."

"I do really appreciate Johnny and he did some amazing work so far, but you know one of my dreams as well is to win a Monument and the team is aware of this. The plan for these Monuments is, right now, that I’m the leader, like it or not. And Johnny he is aware of that and 100% one day I will give Johnny back the work he did for me. But right now, I am the guy we are going for if it is needed."

Read more: The top 10 cycling climbs in Flanders

'To win Flanders you need to be 100%, I am not 100% right now'

As for Pedersen's own recovery for the Tour of Flanders, the 2018 runner-up skipped training on Thursday to recover, before getting back on the bike earlier today. Characteristically good-humoured and honest in the press conference, Pedersen was not shy in revealing the harsh reality of life after a crash in the pack.

"The body is sore, wounds [are] hanging in the fucking underwear in your sheets and the bed. It is just a pain in the ass," he smiled.

"One thing is for sure, it’s going to be - I’m sorry for the words - a fucking tough race!"

Read more: Mads Pedersen 'needs time' as Lidl-Trek hold out hope for Tour of Flanders

Pedersen heads into Sunday's race with dreams of going one better than 2018 and improving on his third-placed finish from last year's race, but the Dane is smart enough to know that he will be fighting against tough odds to perform at his best so soon after his accident.

"I know to win Flanders you need to be 100% and I have to be honest, I am not 100% right now after a crash like this. But on the other hand, everything is also possible and if everything plays my way, it is still possible."

One way or another, Pedersen is likely to be one of the main protagonists in Sunday's race. An extra day of enforced rest may allow the 28-year-old an extra turn of pace against Van der Poel and co over the hills of Flanders, though if that doesn't turn out to be the case, Pedersen will have another shot at glory a week later in Paris-Roubaix.

When asked by GCN to choose which of the two Monuments he would rather win, the Dane was not hesitant in finding his words. Perhaps they will be prophetic in nine days' time.

"With the body I have right now, I would 100% pick Paris-Roubaix in a week, maybe I am recovered a bit more then."

For the latest news, interviews and analysis from the world of professional cycling, be sure to check out the Racing tab on the GCN website and visit our essential guide to The Spring Classics to stay up to date with all of the action from cycling's most exciting season.

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