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Mads Pedersen goes head-to-head against van der Poel at Gent-Wevelgem

Lidl-Trek's Dane outsprints world champion to earn second title

On a Sunday when the wind played havoc with the peloton early in the going, Mathieu van der Poel and Mads Pedersen fought it out for the Gent-Wevelgem honours. In the battle of the current world champion versus the 2019 world champion Pedersen prevailed, claiming his second title. Riley Pickrell was the top Canadian in 83rd.

The Course

There were nine climbs all gathered together from Kilometres 153 to 220. The first four were separated by the last five by a lumpy 30 km containing cobbled plugstreets. Scherpenberg, Baneberg and Monteberg were climbed twice and steep, cobbled Kemmelberg clambered thrice, the last time 34 km from the finish line.

Israel-Premier Tech’s Hugo Houle and Riley Pickrell were the Canadian representatives.

Houle was in the early break with seven others. Before they even reached the climbs, crosswinds had caused echelons and split the peloton, with van der Poel, Jasper Stuyven and Pedersen making the first 37-rider group, which had absorbed Houle’s breakaway. The main field had 2:30 to make up, and with 115 km remaining, it chipped away at the gap until it was 55 seconds.

By the first climb, Scherpenberg I, the Houle-van der Poel group was 35 seconds clear. On Baneberg I, the peloton finally caught up. Again, there was a split going over the top but it was mended on Monteberg I.

Van der Poel attacked on Kemmelberg I. Of course he did.

Van der Poel pushes on the first of three trips up the Kemmelberg.

Lidl-Trek managed to put Stuyven, Pedersen and Jonathan Milan in the van der Poel breakaway. A Visma-Lease a Bike rider and Uno-X representative came along too. Milan bounced off the front so his teammates didn’t have to work.

Milan hit the plugsteets with 24 seconds on van der Poel.

Van der Poel chases on the plugstreets.

Stuyven dropped back with a flat, and with the plugstreets over van der Poel only had Pedersen and Laurence Pithie for company behind Milan. As soon as Milan was reined in, Pedersen attacked. The quartet had a minute over the closest pursuers with 63 km to go. The peloton wanted to yank it back before the next section of climbs.

Pedersen made a thrust on Monteberg II to no avail. Kemmelberg II saw Milan sopped up by the peloton. The van der Poel-Pederson-Pithie trio resisted the field on Scherpenberg II and Baneberg II.

The final ascent of Kemmelberg was from the steeper Ossuaire side, 700 meters of 11.4 percent. The trio reached it with a 44-second buffer. Pithie immediately lost contact.

The world champion and Pedersen had 34 km to stay away. Could Soudal-Quick Step and Visma-Lease a Bike get organized enough to haul them back? With 10 km remaining, the gap was 1:07.

Pedersen takes a pull with 10 km remaining.

With 3 km until the line, it was clear that the duo would battle for the day’s flowers. Pedersen led into the final 500 metres. He opened it up on the right hand barrier. Van der Poel tried to come around on the left but then sat up.

The next round of the WorldTour is Wednesday’s Dwars door Vlaanderen.

2024 Gent-Wevelgem in Flanders Fields
1) Mads Pedersen (Denmark/Lidl-Trek) 5:36:00
2) Mathieu van der Poel (The Netherlands/Alpecin-Deceuninck) s.t.
3) Jordi Meeus (Belgium/Bora-Hansgrohe) +0:16
83) Riley Pickrell (Canada/Israel-Premier Tech) +5:17
87) Hugo Houle (Canada/Israel-Premier Tech) s.t.