Gent-Wevelgem: Mads Pedersen pips Mathieu van der Poel in two-up sprint

Pedersen picks up his second Gent-Wevelgem title after outpowering Van der Poel on the final straight, with Lidl-Trek enjoying a fabulous race

Clock15:36, Sunday 24th March 2024
Mads Pedersen got the better of Mathieu van der Poel in the two-up sprint

© Getty Images

Mads Pedersen got the better of Mathieu van der Poel in the two-up sprint

Mads Pedersen capped off a fantastic Gent-Wevelgem performance for Lidl-Trek by powering away from Alpecin-Deceuninck's Mathieu van der Poel in the final sprint for the win.

The Dane and the reigning world champion came to the line together for a two-up contest, and it was Pedersen who opened up his sprint first, producing an acceleration which Van der Poel was never able to counter. Pedersen's victory comes four years after his first Gent-Wevelgem success.

Earlier in the race, Van der Poel had been the one to make the first move, attacking on the Kemmelberg after echelons had reduced the peloton to under 30 riders. The Dutchman had been followed by Pedersen and his Lidl-Trek teammate Jonathan Milan, with the American team soon playing the numbers game.

As Milan and Pedersen traded blows, Van der Poel led the chase alongside the young breakout star, Laurence Pithie (Groupama-FDJ). But on the final ascent of this decisive climb, Pedersen pressed on with Van der Poel, as Pithie failed to keep the pace.

Soon after, Pedersen and Van der Poel had a minute's advantage and using the tailwind into Wevelgem they secured their gap. Their names will be towards the very top of the list of favourites for next week's Tour of Flanders.

Read more: Spring Classics 2024: Essential guide to the races and riders

In the sprint for third, meanwhile, Jordi Meeus of Bora-Hansgrohe produced the fastest sprint from the peloton to round out the day's podium. After a tremendous display earlier in the day, Milan was able to sprint to fifth at the finish, only outmaneuvered for fourth by Van der Poel's teammate, Jasper Philipsen.

"[I was] not really confident,” Pedersen said of his confidence heading into the final sprint versus Van der Poel. “On one hand, I had to believe in my sprint. We couldn't attack each other because the bunch would pick us up.

"With the shape he showed lately it was hard to believe but I had to try the sprint and nothing else so it was a gamble," continued the Dane after the finish. It was certainly a gamble that paid off and no less than a fantastic team effort from Lidl-Trek deserved.

How the 2024 Gent-Wevelgem unfolded

Beginning from Ypres and due to take in its regular tour of the neighbouring battlefields, Gent-Wevelgem had 253km in store for the peloton, as the riders paid homage to the past and prepared for one of the toughest Classics of the season.

A frantic start delivered a six-man breakaway which later became eight, as Dries De Bondt (Alpecin-Deceuninck) and Mathis Le Berre (Arkéa-B&B Hotels) made the brave bridge. The duo soon had a gap of over five minutes, alongside Michael Mørkøv (Astana Qazaqstan), Cyrus Monk (Q36.5 Pro Cycling), Kelland O'Brien (Jayco AlUla), Huge Houle (Israel-Premier Tech), Johan Jacobs (Movistar) and William Blume Levy (Uno-X Mobility).

The race looked settled, but then the crosswinds began to take hold.

Echelons appear and Van der Poel attacks

Between 150-140km to go, crosswinds tore apart the peloton and produced one of cycling's most exciting sights - echelons. Each group was spread across the road and within each one, teams counted the costs of missing a split in the pack.

A 28-man group eventually splintered off the front of what had been the peloton, including amongst its number Van der Poel and his Alpecin-Deceuninck teammate (not to mention Milan-San Remo winner) Jasper Philipsen. Intermarché-Wanty were best represented with four riders, whilst the demise of Soudal Quick-Step in the Classics continued with just Tim Merlier their lone representative.

Amidst this action, the early break was caught, but it was not until the Kemmelberg that a decisive move appeared. To the surprise of few, it was world champion and E3 Saxo Classic winner Van der Poel who stomped on his pedals up the cobbled climb.

Read more: 'The difference in level is quite shocking' – Resignation and realism among Classics riders

The Dutchman was followed by Lidl-Trek duo Mads Pedersen and Jonathan Milan, whose numerical advantage was played as a tactical hand when Milan pushed on with 82km to ride. With Milan alone out front, Pedersen could sit on Van der Poel's wheel as the world champion looked to reel in the Italian.

Van der Poel and Lidl-Trek joined by Laurence Pithie

The front of the race coalesced behind Milan briefly, but Van der Poel did not take long to go on the march once this, this time using the first of three Plugstreet section to his advantage. Joining the Dutchman were Pedersen - naturally - and Laurance Pithie (Groupama-FDJ), as Lidl-Trek's Jasper Stuyven suffered an untimely puncture.

Pithie and Van der Poel worked well to bring Milan under tow some 10km later, with Pedersen once more allowed a free ride. The quartet at the front of the race soon held a minute's advantage over the peloton behind, but this was reduced to 30 seconds as they approached the Monteberg and Kemmelberg with 55km to ride.

As Milan and Pedersen threw counter-punches to Van der Poel and Pithie, the latter refused to be stunted, with the Kiwi briefly distancing Van der Poel on the Kemmelberg. It was all too much for Milan, who returned to the pack, as Pedersen, Pithie and Van der Poel entered the final 50km as a threesome.

Read more: ‘It’s shocking and cool but I want more’ – Laurence Pithie the breakout star of 2024

Pedersen and Van der Poel see off Pithie

For the next 15km and until the final ascent of the Kemmelberg, things remained the same as the trio built their advantage and small groups looked to bridge the gap from behind. On this final classified climb, however, it was Pithie who fell victim to an attack.

The Frenchman was dispatched from the front group as Pedersen mounted an attack and Van der Poel followed, albeit with a grimace that told the story of the Dane's brutality. Over the top, Pithie strived to come back on the descent, as the race entered into its flat final 30km to the finish.

Pedersen and Van der Poel, however, were in no mood to allow Pithie an easy ride and worked in unison to develop their advantage, which soon stood at 20 seconds over Pithie and a minute back to Ben Turner (Ineos Grenadiers), Hugo Page (Intermarché-Wanty) and Anthony Turgis (TotalEnergies).

In the peloton, Soudal Quick-Step looked to organise a chase alongside Visma-Lease a Bike, but they were met by a 1:32 deficit with less than 30km to ride. It certainly looked a futile effort and it became clear that - favoured by a tailwind - Pedersen and Van der Poel would contest the win in a two-up sprint.

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.

Race Results

1

dk flag

PEDERSEN Mads

Lidl-Trek

5H 36' 00"

2

nl flag

VAN DER POEL Mathieu

Alpecin-Deceuninck

"

3

be flag

MEEUS Jordi

BORA-hansgrohe

+ 16"

4

be flag

PHILIPSEN Jasper

Alpecin-Deceuninck

"

5

it flag

MILAN Jonathan

Lidl-Trek

"

6

nl flag

KOOIJ Olav

Team Visma | Lease a Bike

"

7

er flag

GIRMAY Biniam

Intermarché-Wanty

"

8

be flag

MERLIER Tim

Soudal Quick-Step

"

9

nl flag

GROENEWEGEN Dylan

Team Jayco-AlUla

"

10

it flag

TRENTIN Matteo

Tudor Pro Cycling Team

"

Provided by FirstCycling

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