Mads Pedersen sprinted to a hard-earned victory after an attritional stage three of the BinckBank Tour 2020.
The former world champion positioned himself perfect into the final kilometre of the stage, which helped him navigate some treacherous turns before the straight run for the line.
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Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) stayed behind rival sprinters Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) and stage one winner Jasper Philipsen (UAE Team Emirates) until the final moment, launching his sprint to take his first win since passing over the rainbow bands.
Danish rider Pedersen now jumps into the overall race lead, on the same time as Philipsen.
How it happened
The BinckBank Tour 2020 returned on stage three after an unexpected rest day.
After the finish of stage one, the organisers discovered the new coronavirus restrictions in the Netherlands meant the race couldn’t travel into Dutch regions as planned.
As a result, the stage two time trial was cancelled while stages three and four had to be redesigned to keep them inside Belgium.
Stage three was slightly altered as the peloton skipped the first part of the stage and instead tackled eight laps of 20km finishing circuit, with a total distance of 157km.
The course was pan-flat but with some sharp left-hand turns into the final 7km of the lap, then with around 500m to the line riders had to take on a narrow and tight right followed by quickly by a left, before the 400m drag to the line.
Early in the day, five riders kicked clear of the peloton in the opening 10km to establish the day’s breakaway, which consisted of Oscar Riesebeek and Jonas Rickaert (Alpecin-Fenix), Adrien Petit and Pim Ligthart (Total Direct Energie), and Kenneth Van Rooy from Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise.
But the peloton refused to let the group extend their advantage too much on the technical circuit and the gap tumbled to under a minute with 50km left to race.
The racing then kicked off in the final 10km as Rickaert launched an attack from the break and was followed by Ligthart, but Rickaert kicked again 6km out and this time went clear alone.
Into the final 5km and Jonas Rickaert was showing plenty of courage in holding off the peloton as the sprint trains tried to safely navigate the tight and winding turns in the final part of the circuit, but at 2.2km Rickaert was swept up by the bunch as Cofidis, Trek-Segafredo and Bora-Hansgrohe controlled the pace at the front of the race.
Inside the final kilometre and Florian Sénéchal for Deceuninck – Quick-Step led the bunch as riders hit the final two turns, but he was swamped as Ackermann launched his sprint from 200m out.
But once again the German had gone too early as Philipsen looked to have perfectly timed his effort, however he also faded as Pedersen continued to accelerate to take his 14th professional win, still aged just 24.
Pedersen now jumps into the race lead on the same time as Philipsen, which Jonas Rickaert is third after picking up bonus seconds throughout the stage, now seven seconds off the race lead.
BinckBank Tour 2020, stage three: Aalter to Aalter (157km)
1. Mads Pedersen (Den) Trek-Segafredo, in 3-26-11
2. Jasper Philipsen (Bel) UAE Team Emirates
3. Pascal Ackermann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
4. Danny van Poppel (Ned) Circus-Wanty Gobert
5. Tim Merlier (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix
6. Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Deceuninck – Quick-Step
7. Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis
8. Florian Sénéchal (Fra) Deceuninck – Quick-Step
9. Lorenzeo Manzin (Fra) Total Direct Energie
10. Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) EF Pro Cycling, all at same time
General classification after stage three
1. Mads Pedersen (Den) Trek-Segafredo, in 6-25-21
2. Jasper Philipsen (Bel) UAE Team Emirates, at same time
3. Jonas Rickaert (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix, at 7s
4. Pascal Ackermann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 8s
5. Mike Teunissen (Ned) Jumbo-Visma, at 11s
6. Mathieu van der Poel (Ned) Alpecin-Fenix, at 13s
7. Yves Lampaert (Bel) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, at same time
8. Danny van Poppel (Ned) Circus-Wanty Gobert, at 16s
9. Tim Merlier (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix
10. Lorrenzo Manzin (Fra) Total Direct Energie, all at same time