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Mads Pedersen Edges Out Mathieu van der Poel in Epic Gent-Wevelgem Duel

In a thrilling two-man battle spanning 253 gruelling kilometres of challenging, wind-battered terrain, Mads Pedersen emerged victorious against the formidable Mathieu van der Poel in the prestigious Gent-Wevelgem race. The relentless contest between the two world champions culminated in a nail-biting sprint to the finish line, with Pedersen showcasing remarkable determination to secure the win for the second time in his career.

Pedersen’s triumph came after a gruelling 35-kilometre ride to the line, during which he and Van der Poel broke away from their pursuers on the final ascent of the Kemmelberg. With Pedersen leading the charge under the flamme rouge, Van der Poel attempted to muster a response but ultimately conceded victory as Pedersen crossed the line with a determined sprint.

Reflecting on his victory, Pedersen admitted to reporters that he had harboured doubts about his ability to outpace the formidable Van der Poel in the closing moments of the race. “I had to believe that the sprint was good enough to beat Mathieu,” Pedersen remarked, acknowledging the challenge posed by his rival’s recent performances. “It was a gamble, but I had to try the sprint and nothing else.”

Pedersen-Van-der-Poel-2024-Gent-Wevelgem

The battle between the two champions was not confined to the final sprint, however. Throughout the race, both riders demonstrated tactical acumen and physical strength as they navigated the challenging terrain and tactical manoeuvres of their rivals. Pedersen, in particular, took charge on the third and final ascent of the Kemmelberg, setting a relentless pace that ultimately proved decisive in distancing Van der Poel and securing the win.

“I didn’t want to try to drop Mathieu,” Pedersen explained, highlighting his strategic approach to managing the race. “I just wanted to make it hard enough so he wouldn’t attack. I remembered his attack from [the Tour of Flanders] last year, and it definitely put me on the limit, so I wanted to avoid that.”

The strategic duel between Pedersen and Van der Poel was set against the backdrop of an intensely competitive field, with riders from various teams vying for position and advantage throughout the race. Van der Poel’s Alpecin-Deceuninck team had shown strength earlier in the race, particularly on the opening climbs, but Pedersen’s Lidl-Trek squad mounted a formidable challenge, with riders like Jonathan Milan and Jasper Stuyven playing crucial roles in the team’s tactics.

Pedersen’s victory at Gent-Wevelgem marks a notable milestone in his career, reaffirming his status as one of the sport’s top contenders in the classics. With his sights now set on future challenges, including the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, Pedersen’s win serves as a testament to his determination and ability to compete at the highest level.

As for Van der Poel, the defeat at Gent-Wevelgem may have been a setback, but the Dutch champion remains a formidable force in the world of cycling. Despite falling short in the sprint against Pedersen, Van der Poel’s aggressive racing style ensures that he will continue to be a dominant presence on the professional cycling circuit.

In the aftermath of the race, both Pedersen and Van der Poel expressed respect for each other’s abilities and acknowledged the intensity of their battle on the roads of Belgium. While Pedersen celebrated his hard-fought victory, Van der Poel remained philosophical, recognising that defeat is an inherent part of the sport.

With the cobbled classics season in full swing, the cycling world awaits the next chapter in this gripping rivalry, as Pedersen and Van der Poel prepare to face off once again on the challenging roads of Flanders and beyond.

2024 Gent Wevelgem Men result

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Main photo credit: Zac Williams