‘Dreams are to be made in this race’ - Mads Pedersen’s date with destiny at Paris-Roubaix

The Danish rider thinks his best chance at a Monument win comes in the Hell of the North

For most bike riders, and almost every spectator watching either cobbleside or from the TV, riding Paris-Roubaix has very little appeal. It’s an undesirable odyssey across bulky stones and slippery mud, a race that keeps risk assessment officers up at night.

Mads Pedersen, however, isn’t like most, and for him, the northern French Monument is more the Queen of the Classics than the Hell of the North. “I’ve talked about it a lot of times, and Roubaix definitely suits me more than Flanders does,” the Lidl-Trek man says two days before the race’s 121st edition, knowing that he is in the best shape of his career and comfortable as his tag as one of the race’s outstanding favourites.

“It’s not that Roubaix has a more special meaning for me than any other Monument, but it’s the one that I do that I have the highest chance of winning,” he says. “Milan-Sanremo is tough for someone like me because it’s so slow for a long time and then full gas for an hour and I don’t like that. Flanders there is a lot of climbing, I can do a good result, but it fits me less. Then it comes down to Roubaix. Sometimes we are not choosing the races we like, but the races choose us, and this one fits me best. Luckily, the way I am built is that I am built well enough for cobblestones. Let’s see if it’s good enough that I can win.”

Two weeks ago, 28-year-old Pedersen won his second Gent-Wevelgem, beating the man-of-the-moment Mathieu van der Poel in a sprint. Besting the world champion once again is the weekend’s most difficult task, but Pedersen is also wary of Alpecin-Deceuninck’s other favourite, Jasper Philipsen.

“It’s no secret that Philipsen is a tough one to beat in a sprint,” Pedersen acknowledges. “I would, of course, prefer that he is not there if it comes to a small sprint in the velodrome, but all talk about preferring this or that, it’s all just dream scenarios. F***, my dream scenario would be to finish alone with two minutes, I could puncture with 20km to go and all would be fine, but that’s not going to happen. It’s hard to tell you exactly what is the best scenario, but I would be happy with a small group at the finish - and if Philipsen is there, I’d prefer to be alone.”

At last week’s Tour of Flanders, Pedersen was widely-criticised for stubbornly staying out front for more than 30km, rendering himself fatigued in the latter part of the race. In the immediate aftermath, he called his tactics “stupid” and admitted that he “didn’t race my smartest race ever.”

He is a rider, he says, who is “always riding on instinct”, but he won’t repeat his Flanders error. “I can’t change Flanders now, I can only learn from my mistakes. The decisions are made during the race, and this is a different race, but, no, I’m not planning anything like that at Roubaix. It’s a completely different race, and there will be a different approach also.

“The main goal will be to make it to the velodrome with the first guys, fight for the win, and don’t lead it [a sprint] out too early. I know how hard it is, I have to make the material last, and be lucky that I don’t have a puncture or whatever else with my bike. Dreams are to be made in this race.”

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