Mads Pedersen capped a stellar leadout from teammate Jasper Stuyven to win the uphill finish of stage three at the PostNord Danmark Rundt Thursday.
Stuyven and Pedersen were a perfect combination in the closing kilometers of the classic-like parcours that also had classic-like weather, with Stuyven keeping the leading bunch intact before leading Pedersen full-gas into the first part of the finish climb.
Using Stuyven as a springboard, Pedersen slung off his teammate's wheel and hit for home. Stuyven's pace already had everyone gasping, and when the young Danish Champion sprinted around his teammate, the gap was immediate. Pedersen crossed the line three seconds ahead of Danish compatriot Michael Valgren (Astana) and overtook the race lead by nine seconds with two stages remaining.
Pedersen explained: "Jasper yelled to me that I have to go because he looked back and saw I had a little gap, and from there on you just have to push and push and push. You are always afraid that someone is coming back when you make a gap like this and still have 500 meters to the top of the climb at the finish. I was a little bit afraid of Valgren and that he would come back, but for sure he was at his limit like I was, it was all about going really deep."
"It's unbelievable. It's so huge to win this stage," gushed Pedersen. "Every Danish rider is really talking about this stage, and already after this race on Saturday they will talk about this stage again next year, so to win this stage, on this course, is really special."
It was a full team effort from Trek-Segafredo behind the young Dane, first in helping control the day's escape group for most of the 183.6-kilometer race, and then in the thorny ending when Gregory Rast and Stuyven were prominent at the front to monitor breakaway attempts and safeguard Pedersen in a good position.
The breakaway was tagged back with 47 kilometers remaining before a tricky final 40 kilometers which traversed narrow rural roads with steep inclines and culminated with three local circuits. Meanwhile, intermittent rain showers kept everything wet and treacherous.
Think of a star like him who sacrifices everything to drive for someone like me. It just shows how big a person he is.
The weather combined with the tough parcours to help pare the peloton, and the finish climb further carved the leading bunch to less than 30 men by the start of the final five-kilometer lap.
Pedersen said: "We thought maybe there would be some crosswinds today, but when the rain came the wind stopped. It got a little bit colder, but for me it was okay. I don't mind to race in rain, I am pretty much living in it a lot of times during the year. For me it was okay, the only thing you can do is to get the best out of the situation, and we did that."
Stuyven was phenomenal in his teammate's win. He overcame an ill-timed flat tire just before the start of the final circuit and after a quick wheel change and a furious chase to get back to the front, he went right back to work.
Stuyven, showing his form is tops ahead of the World Championships, helped to close down the last lap attacks, and then accelerated to the front with Pedersen in tow two kilometers from the end.
The Belgian pulled to the climb and then kicked into high gear on the uphill and Pedersen finished off the final 600 meters perfectly.
"Jasper was just a beast on the bike today!" exclaimed Pedersen. "Having a puncture before the final circuit… Normally when you have bad luck like that, you never come back to the front. So for him just to come back is really impressive, and then the work he did for me after that... And then the leadout into the climb was just perfect."
"Think of a star like him who sacrifices everything to drive for someone like me. It just shows how big a person he is," he added.