The crown jewels
Denmark joins this year the prestigious list of countries to have hosted the Grand Départ. This extraordinary first comes at the same time as a “golden generation” makes it to the forefront of international cycling. How did they rise to the highest summits? Letour.fr meets with the riders and directors who have shaped Danish cycling in recent history.
At only 26 years old, Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) has already written cycling history with a World champion title and many more conquests under his belt. The strongman has learned to make the most of his raw power in the classics and he chases a victory in Paris-Roubaix. Right now, he dreams of yellow in the Tour de France as the race starts from Copenhagen and visits his home roads around Holbæk in the first part of stage 2.
I - Ride, enjoy, repeat
Mads Pedersen was “maybe 3 or 4 years old” when he first got on a bike, and not much older when he turned to competitive action: “I started racing mountain bike at 7 years old, and when I was 9 I got into road racing as well. Football was not my thing and other sports were not really doing well for me. So my mom and my dad gave me a bike, I tried it out and I really liked it. It was fun, I enjoyed the friendships in the local club. And now I’m still on my bike, so I think it was pretty nice to have one when I was young.” "2014 is when I realised my hobby could be my job", Pedersen recalls. "I never really followed cycling outside of what I did myself. When I got a bit older, as a junior and so on, I learned I could be a classics rider, so I was looking at Tom Boonen, Fabian Cancellara and guys like that.. But I was never the type to sit down and watch, I needed to ride.”
II - Find your own way
“For me it’s important to keep it fun even now when it’s my job”, says Pedersen, halfway through his sixth season with Trek-Segafredo. He was a fortunate junior, with successes in Paris-Roubaix and the Junior Cup with the Danish national team: “We had a really good team and we had a lot of fun. We won a lot those two years and of course it’s fun to go on to races when you win a lot.” “I met in the off season with Christa and Michael Skelde to sign a contract with Cult”, Pedersen recalls. “They wanted me to live in Horsens, and that’s 250, 300km away from where I lived. I think Michael was a bit shocked when I told them I didn’t want to move that far, that I would find another team. We found an agreement and I moved away from home but I stayed in the area where I’m from. I was the youngest rider in the team and they took really good care of me. They taught us the cycling life and Michael especially taught me how to be a professional overall.”
III - Make big waves early on
Pedersen joined Trek-Segafredo and the World Tour in 2017, at only 21 years old, and quickly left his mark: National champion (2017), podium in the Ronde van Vlaanderen (2018), World champion (2019)… And he was the first one to be surprised, he explains: “I learned a lot as a Pro Conti rider but I didn’t know what to expect when I joined Trek other than being a good helper and doing my best for the big leaders. My wins in my first year gave me confidence, and with the 2nd place in Flanders the next year, I was really hyped and ready to get more.” Although it remains as the year of his biggest conquest, 2019 started off in a more difficult fashion for the rising Dane: “Most of the year was a failure but everything turned around in the last week of the season. I won Isbergues and the World championships. The year was saved and my career turned around. I was in a new position after the World championships.”
IV - Keep on dreaming
As big as the Worlds are, they were not the highest prize on Pedersen's dream list. “I won Paris-Roubaix as a junior, and I want to win it in the World Tour", the Dane says. "Even when I won the rainbow jersey, my biggest goal of the year was Paris-Roubaix. It’s nice to have been World champion, I have the stripes every time I ride my bike. But to be honest, my biggest goal since I came out of junior has been to win Paris-Roubaix.” His attempts on the cobbles of the Hell of the North have been hampered by mechanicals and crashes but Pedersen has another dream in sight this July: “To have the Tour de France three days in Denmark is huge. We are passing my home, the roads where I’m training, so that’s really special. Luckily for me, the TT is short so hopefully I can stay in the mix, 10-12’’ behind the winner. And then hopefully I can do some good sprints. Then, if I can dream, the yellow jersey, in Denmark, that would be the biggest achievement this year for me. I know it’s really hard but that’s the dream scenario.”