Mads Pedersen is going into cycling’s restart determined to prove that the world champion’s jersey on his shoulders is warranted.
Twenty-four-year-old Pedersen has worn the rainbow stripes just 19 times since his win in Yorkshire last September, all but three of them coming in early 2020 before the coronavirus-induced break.
The Trek-Segafredo rider admits that the suspension of racing has been a disappointment, but that he is confident he can win big again in the ensuing three months.
He resumes his season at La Vuelta a Burgos in Spain this week – a race he is using as training ahead of races where he has ambitions to perform well in, primarily the Tour of Poland and then the cobbled Classics.
“Of course it’s super-s**t to miss this season in the jersey but it happens and I can’t change it anyway. Mentally I am ready to race again and the form is where I want it to be,” the Dane told a small group of journalists on a video-call.
“If it was an injury or knee problem I would be sad, pissed or angry, but with this I can’t change it anyway.
“I didn’t think too much about it – I just kept going with my training and trying to be ready for the races whenever they opened up again.”
Prior to his unexpected win in Harrogate last autumn, Pedersen had shown himself to be a strong rider in the Classics, notably finishing second at the 2018 Tour of Flanders.
But with just 12 professional wins on his palmarès, he finds himself in an unwanted position of having to demonstrate his world champion qualities.
“My opinion is that I don’t have to show anyone else that I deserve that jersey. I won that day so I deserved it,” he says.
“But people ask me if I feel pressure and to be honest I know that I have a lot of pressure on my shoulders, but to be 100 per cent clear, the guy who wants to show off this jersey the most and show the pride and respect for it the most, that’s me.
“I am wearing that jersey. I want to show how beautiful it is. I want to show that I can honour it. I want to show that I deserve that jersey.
“When people give me s**t for helping Richie [Porte at the Tour] Down Under, or not trying to do my own things, I seriously don’t give a f**k. That’s not my problem. I know what I am doing and I want to honour that jersey.
“I want to do it in my way and if I am happy with my results in the jersey, if I am getting the goals I am aiming for, no one can be disappointed and if they are they are just crazy.”
He will race the Tour de France before Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, and is excited about the condensed calendar.
“It’s going to be a hard block of racing the next two-and-a-half months; 45 race days within two-and-a-half months,” he said.
“The main thing in the season is to recover. If you can recover well between races, you will manage to be good at the end of October also.”
The change of dates may throw up colder, wetter and mythical weather conditions for the Classics. He added: “Maybe it’s going to be better to have all the spring Classics in the late season.
“Definitely it’s going to be bigger changes for worse weather in October and I hope to have a wet Roubaix.”
Winning the northern French race remains his ultimate goal. “I am racing to win and I want to win Roubaix one day, win Flanders also. In my mind I am a winner,” Pedersen added.
“I want to race and of course I want to win these two big Classics one day, I want to win a stage in the Tour, but everyone in the peloton wants to do the same.
“Now it is doesn’t bother me that you’re asking about people remembering me about the Worlds, but at the end of my career I want people to remember me winning big races and not only one big race.”