Mads Pedersen wins the 2019 World Championships Elite Men's Road Race
Dane had the strongest legs and out-sprinted Trentin and Kung in the gruelling finale after 261 kms of racing in torrential rain and floods
Mads Pedersen finished second to Mathieu van der Poel in the Junior world championships in 2013, but that was then.
On Sunday, while pre-race favorite van der Poel cracked with just over 11 kilometers remaining, Mads Pedersen – not even on the radar for victory – rode on to claim the biggest achievement of his life: World Champion at 23 years of age in a rain-soaked, epic race in Yorkshire where the only the hardiest survived.
"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.
In a three-up sprint for the coveted rainbow stripes, it wasn't even close. At the end of a cold, wet and unbelievable grueling 262 kilometers, Pedersen showed he was the strongest.
"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, everyone thought the race was certainly van der Poel’s. When the Dutchman suddenly cracked, then everyone pointed at Italian Matteo Trentin, another favorite. 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.
VIDEO: 2019 UCI Road World Championships Men's Elite Road Race
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."
2019 UCI World Championships Men's Elite Road Race Top 10
1 Mads Pedersen (Denmark) 6:27:28
2 Matteo Trentin (Italy)
3 Stefan Kung (Switzerland) 0:00:02
4 Gianni Moscon (Italy) 0:00:17
5 Peter Sagan (Slovakia) 0:00:43
6 Michael Valgren Andersen (Denmark) 0:00:45
7 Alexander Kristoff (Norway) 0:01:10
8 Greg van Avermaet (Belgium)
9 Gorka Izagirre Insausti (Spain)
10 Rui Costa (Portugal)