‘I’m finished being the underdog’: Mads Pedersen becomes youngest men's World Championship winner since 1999

The Dane reflects on a brutal day of racing in Yorkshire

(Image credit: Yuzuru SUNADA)

Mads Pedersen said he’s "finished with being the underdog" after his shock victory in the Yorkshire 2019 World Championships.

Pedersen ran away from Matteo Trentin in a three-rider sprint after racing in awful Yorkshire weather for six hours.

The Dane, who is only 23, said it was “all or nothing” in the final as the race came down to a small group after nine laps of the Harrogate finishing circuit.

Pedersen is the first male Dane to win the rainbow jersey, joining Amalie Dideriksen who took the women's title in 2016.

He is also the youngest rider to win the men's World Championship road race since Óscar Freire in 1999 (Pedersen is 23 years and 285 days, while Freire was 23 years and 237 days old.

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Pedersen said after his win: “A lot changes for anyone who wins the World Championships, so it’s going to change a lot for me.

“I'm finished with playing the underdog. I think that's going to be pretty much impossible from now on. That's a new situation and I have to race in another way from now on.”

The decisive moment for Pedersen came with 47km left to race, as he bridge across from the peloton to join Stefan Küng (Sui) and Lawson Craddock (USA) in the breakaway.

After Mathieu van der Poel (Ned) and Matteo Trentin (Ita) then launched their own attacks from the bunch, Pedersen found himself in a powerful breakaway that would survive to fight for the win.

Van der Poel was dropped on the final lap of the 14km finishing circuit, which set up a three-rider sprint between Pedersen, Trentin and Küng.

Trentin launched his sprint first with 200m to race but faded fast, allowing Pedersen to spin p and take the rainbow jersey, with Küng finishing third.

“It was not the plan to attack at exactly at that moment,” he said, looking back at the moment he bridged across to Craddock and Küng.

“But the plan was to play me out in the early final. We hoped that [Michael] Valgren or [Jakob] Fuglsang would jump across. But then suddenly, Van der Poel and Trentin arrived from behind with none of the two other Danish guys.

“After that, I just hoped for the best and I hoped the decision I took would go my way today.

“The final lap, I was just hoping for medal. When Van der Poel got dropped, I was 99 per sure I would get a medal.

“Then in the last 500 metres, it was everything or nothing.”

The weather had a huge impact on the racing, with only 46 of the 197 starters finishing the race in torrential downpours.

Race organisers opted to start later, change the course, removing two of the three climbs and increasing the number of finishing laps from seven to nine.

“It definitely changed our tactics and we had to find another way to race," Pedersen said.

"Instead of attacking on the climbs during the big loop, we decided to wait until we hit the circuit and we wanted to work from there and put some pressure one.

“The delay was okay. It would have been nice to know it yesterday, then at least we could sleep for an extra half an hour."

Pedersen has been threatening to break through with a significant win since 2018, when he sailed away to finish second in the Tour of Flanders behind Niki Terpstra.

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But this Classics season was a disappointment for Pedersen, whose best result was 33rd in Ghent-Wevelgem.

When asked about his poor form in the early season, he said: “It's okay to say it was a really bad spring.

“I was disappointed after a s****y spring when I expected way more than what actually happened.

“But at one point, you have to draw a line in the sand and then work from there on. Finally I found my track back but then I got a knee injury before Nationals.

“Then I decided after that day was the time to get back to the highest level and all the focus was on this race today.”

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Alex Ballinger

Alex Ballinger is editor of BikeBiz magazine, the leading publication for the UK cycle industry, and is the former digital news editor for CyclingWeekly.com. After gaining experience in local newsrooms, national newspapers and in digital journalism, Alex found his calling in cycling, first as a reporter, then as news editor responsible for Cycling Weekly's online news output, and now as the editor of BikeBiz. Since pro cycling first captured his heart during the 2010 Tour de France (specifically the Contador-Schleck battle) Alex covered three Tours de France, multiple editions of the Tour of Britain, and the World Championships, while both writing and video presenting for Cycling Weekly. He also specialises in fitness writing, often throwing himself into the deep end to help readers improve their own power numbers.  Away from the desk, Alex can be found racing time trials, riding BMX and mountain bikes, or exploring off-road on his gravel bike. He’s also an avid gamer, and can usually be found buried in an eclectic selection of books.