Asked by Cycling News if he was at Circuit de la Sarthe to up his level ahead of Paris-Roubaix, Mads Pedersen firmly answered: “No! I think it’s already quite good.”
Sixth at Milan-San Remo, seventh at Gent-Wevelgem, eighth at Ronde van Vlaanderen, Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) opted for not slowing down but taking part in one more French stage race to maintain his shape as Paris-Roubaix is taking place one week later than usual on April 17, due to presidential elections in France that are held on April 10 and 24.
He claimed his third victory of the year in Mamers after he outsprinted Benoît Cosnefroy (AG2R-Citroën Team) and Axel Zingle (Cofidis) in a slightly uphill finale. He previously won stage 1 of Etoile de Bessèges and stage 3 of Paris-Nice.
“It’s always nice to win,” Pedersen reacted. “Today was a tough and long day, so it was nice to be in the mix and keep the shape high towards Roubaix. I was not surprised by winning today’s stage but I was surprised by how hard the course was. The weather wasn’t very nice and we had rolling roads with ups and downs.”
“I didn’t make the race hard, I think the other guys made it pretty hard when they went on the long climb in the big lap. I had to follow there. I was a bit far back but I made it across. I managed to be in the group. We didn’t have a lot of time the whole day. With 15 kilometres to go, we only had between 30 and 50 seconds over the peloton.”
Pedersen was the hot favourite even though riders of the calibre of Filippo Ganna and Luke Plapp (Ineos Grenadiers) and Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) were part of the decisive 10-man breakaway. Rather than counting on his speed, he tried to go clear with 3km to go.
“All the other guys didn’t want to go to the finish line with me,” he noted. “They were keeping attacking, sometimes it’s easier to try by myself than wait for the other guys.”
Since Paris-Roubaix is nine days after Circuit de la Sarthe, Pedersen can focus on the four-day stage race overall even though it doesn’t include any time trial, which was often the case in the pre-COVID years (the race was cancelled in 2020 and 2021).
“I will of course defend the yellow jersey,” Pedersen warned. “This was the toughest stage on paper.”
Sprinters like Mark Cavendish, Elia Viviani (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) and Peter Sagan (TotalEnergies) are likely to make Pedersen’s life easier on the remaining three stages.