Pedersen edges out Van der Poel on the line

Pedersen edges out Van der Poel on the line

Road  24/03/2024

Mads Pedersen has won Gent-Wevelgem for the second time. After a race that saw the initial sorting of the riders take place in De Moeren, after which there was never really any let-up, Pedersen and Van der Poel rode together to the finish line. The world champion had to concede defeat to the Dane, who scored his second Gent-Wevelgem victory.

At 10:40, the men set off from the Grote Markt in Ypres for the 86th edition of their race; this year in bright sunshine in contrast to the rain-soaked edition of 2023. After just under an hour of racing, the traditional early breakaway formed, containing 6 riders: Morkov (Astana Qazaqstan team), Jacobs (Movistar Team), O’Brien (Team Jayco AlUla), Houle (Israel-Premier Tech), Blume Levy (Uno-X Mobility) and Monk (Q 36.5 Pro Cycling Team). Later they were joined at the front by De Bondt (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale Team) and Le Berre (Arkéa - B&B Hotels).

The early stages of the race were demanding, and the peloton was not spared a number of falls. The biggest victim in the early phase of the race? Jan Tratnik (Visma | Lease a Bike). The winner of the opening classic had to drop out of the race after a fall. Nerves clearly increased ahead of De Moeren. Before hitting the familiar windy stretch, the action was already underway. It was Mathieu van der Poel himself who came to the fore. In De Moeren, a chasing group of 30 riders formed that included: Van der Poel & Philipsen (Alpecin – Deceuninck), Pedersen, Milan & Stuyven (Lidl-Trek), Kooij (Visma | Lease a Bike), Teunissen (Intermarché-Wanty), Merlier (Soudal Quick-Step), Meeus (BORA-hansgrohe), Degenkolb (Team dsm-firmenich PostNL) and Trentin (Tudor Pro Cycling Team).

In the meantime, the breakaway group saw its lead begin to melt like snow in the sun. At about 120 km from the finish, it was caught by the chasing group. In the peloton, it was mainly Lotto Dstny that had to work, as De Lie had missed the boat. Part of the peloton was still able to catch up at the first passage in the hill zone, but there was to be no respite.

On the first climb of the Kemmelberg, 84 km from the finish, the world champion tried to shake up things once again. He took Pedersen and Milan with him and it was the latter who then went on alone. Behind him, a group formed with Van der Poel, Stuyven & Pedersen, Tiller (Uno-X Mobility), Pithie (Groupama-FDJ) and Van Dijke (Team Visma | Lease a Bike).

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On the unpaved Plugstreets, Van der Poel once again abruptly raised the tempo. Pedersen and Pithie (Groupama - FDJ) managed to join the group, while Stuyven with a flat rear tyre had to let the others ride away. Meanwhile, Milan was still soloing in front. The Italian was caught 63 km from the finish and it was now Pedersen’s turn to shake things up at the front. Van der Poel succeeded in closing the gap.

On the second climb of the Monteberg, Pedersen accelerated once more. It was too much for teammate Milan who fell back. However, just before the Kemmelberg, he was able to rejoin and he immediately accelerated. Halfway up the climb, Pedersen took command. He was clearly putting the world champion Van der Poel under pressure. With 50 km to go, there were three of them at the front of the race: Van der Poel, Pedersen and Pithie.

The next sorting of the riders at the front came on the third and final climb of the Kemmelberg. It was again Pedersen who was setting the pace. Van der Poel got onto the Dane’s wheel, Pithie had to drop back.

In the chase behind, Team Visma | Lease a Bike and Soudal Quick-Step had opened the throttle wide in the final 30 km. They wanted to get fast men Kooij and Merlier into position. The gap was reduced to less than a minute, but it would be the two in front who would ultimately be sprinting for the win.

On Vanackerestraat, Pedersen began the sprint from his position in front. Van der Poel briefly came alongside, but failed to get past Pedersen. Van der Poel bowed to the inevitable and Pedersen triumphed for the second time in Wevelgem. In the sprint for third place, it was Meeus who was able to land the final spot on the podium.

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