• Mads Pedersen of Trek-Segafredo celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win the Gent-Wevelgem (Getty)Source: Getty
The brilliant tactical nous of former world champion Mads Pedersen outfoxed the big stars as he romped to his first major Classics victory at Gent-Wevelgem as the chances of Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel lay destroyed in the wake of their life-long rivalry.
SBS Cycling Central

Trek-Segafredo, Wielerflits
12 Oct 2020 - 10:35 AM  UPDATED 12 Oct 2020 - 10:57 AM

A reduced group of big Classics stars was all that remained after 230kms through the cobbled and muddy Flanders fields. 

Two kilometres from the finish, Matteo Trentin (CCC), Alberto Bettiol (EF Pro Cycling) and Florian Sénéchal (Deceuninck - Quick Step) somehow unhooked from the powerful sextet of Pedersen, Stefan Küng, John Degenkolb (Lotto Soudal), Yves Lampaert (Deceuninck - Quick Step), Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) and Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix). 

Pedersen saw his chance, pushing out one big effort to reunite with the new race leaders, knowing he could easily outsprint them all after recovering at the back as Trentin, Bettiol and Sénéchal towed him towards the finish. 

The 24-year-old Dane waited patiently, only coming to the front 150 metres from the line. 

“I’m definitely learning more and more every time I’m racing, and today I tried to play it a little bit smarter than usual, and luckily it paid off,” the 2019 world champion Pedersen said. 

“I had enough [energy] to jump across and also make a sprint, which was good. It was a decision that I had to make in a few seconds.

"The group started to slow down a little bit, and I said to myself, ‘Okay, it’s all or nothing.’ I had to make a decision and try.

“I knew I had to go alone, and hopefully, I could make it across. I might still end up fourth or even behind, but at least I had tried. Today it paid off, but maybe next time it will bite me in the ass, and then I’m out of top 10.”

"Before starting the Classics, we had a good talk and decided that we would race every day like it’s the last race of the season."

"You never know what can happen, so every day it’s all-in. That’s how we’re going to race Wednesday and again Sunday.”

Gent-Wevelgem: the rivalry between Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel

The rivalry between Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel, first forged on the muddy cyclo-cross fields, once again came to the fore, the pair destroying their chances at victory as they watched each other rather than fight for the win. 

The duel on the road erupted into a war of words after the race

“There was only one who looked at me all the time," van Aert said as quoted in Dutch news site Wielerflits. 

"Apparently, he wanted me to lose rather than win the race himself. I'm talking about Van der Poel."

“I think he has forgotten that I have already won a lot and then I start to gamble. Now we both have nothing.

"I drove to win the race, but I got no freedom."

Wielerflits also reported on Van der Poel's response. 

"I think that is a bit of a strange reaction," the Dutchman said about van Aert. 

“For me, Wout is one of the best riders in the leading group. And if he goes, I have to respond, of course. If I don't, they are gone.

"I think it's low to say that I'm driving to make him lose, while I'm always racing to win. ”

“I don't blame him. I understand it too, because I went to get him too. But I also want to win. We both drove to win."