It would be a "mistake" to only focus on Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel as the riders to beat, Mads Pedersen has said.
Speaking from Trek-Segafredo's training camp, the Danish rider said that there were "plenty of good riders in the peloton", and that if "you always look at other guys when you're racing you're always one step behind".
The former world champion said: "I do not see them as the only guys to beat. You see Van der Poel, he was full in the final of Roubaix, but still [Sonny] Colbrelli is beating him fair and square. They are not the only two guys we have to take into account when we are racing. It's not only those two we have to look at, there are plenty of good riders in the peloton and for the classics.
"For me it would be a mistake to only look at those two. Of course, I would agree that they are the two biggest stars in cycling right now, but that's not only because they are good in the classics, it's because in general they are f***ing good bike riders."
Pedersen won three races in 2021, including Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne on opening weekend, but none at WorldTour level. He describes his season as being full crashes: "From Dauphiné to Roubaix it was mostly crashes. I will mostly remember the crashes of 2021."
He will begin his season at the GP Marseillaise and Etoile de Bessèges, but will skip opening weekend this year due to Paris-Roubaix being later in the year than usual.
"Roubaix is a week further out, and my coach and the team thought it would be a good idea," Pedersen explained. "They have a big master plan, I just follow that, and hopefully that's a good thing to do for the main goals of Flanders and Roubaix."
The French monument is a race the Dane has spoken of targeting in the past, and it is no different for 2022, with it being one of his central goals of the season. The next edition will be the fifth time he has raced it, and Pedersen said that he is learning from his previous attempts at the Hell of the North.
"Every time I do it I'm getting further and further in the race," he said. "I'm gaining more experience. The way to save energy in the right ways at the beginning and so on. Every time I do the race, if I crash or not, I'm gaining new experiences and learning new things. Hopefully that will help this time."
His teammate Jasper Stuyven claimed Trek-Segafredo's biggest win of the season of Milan-San Remo in 2021, and Pedersen believes that the pair can dovetail to produce more big results in coming years.
With another duo, there might be the chance of a clash between the two champions, especially as they both aim to succeed in similar races. The former world champion does not believe this is the case with him and his Belgian teammate, however.
"Me and Jasper, we are really good friends and we have always been. We clicked and we were good friends from the beginning," he said.
"The main thing for us is that we should be 100% honest with each other. If I have a really good day and he can see it, 100% he would leave his own chances out and help me, and the opposite way round of course.
"We are good with each other because of our friendship, we are honest with each other, and we trust each other when the other one is saying 'I am really good today, I can do something nice'. That's really beneficial when you have two big egos on a team who want the same thing."
The 2022 Tour de France begins in Copenhagen, and stage two will pass 150m from where Pedersen lives, so he said it would be "crazy" to not focus a bit on the opening day time trial prologue.
"I'm not a favourite at all for the prologue, but I know I can do a good one," he explains. "Hopefully I can surprise and do a really good prologue on the first day in Copenhagen. I want to be in the mix of being close to the winner, and then maybe on the Roubaix stage I can claim the yellow jersey, and maybe a stage win as well. That would be a dream scenario for the rest of the season."
It will be the first time the Tour has visited Denmark, and Pedersen thinks it will be "huge", due to the numbers of Danish professionals in the peloton, and also the popularity of the sport in the country.
He said: "It's nice to be in front of your home crowd, and hopefully we will see a lot of people on the road. Cycling is really big right now, not just with professional riders, but with commuters and tourists, it's getting bigger. It's going to be huge for us."
Stage two sees the peloton cross the 16km-long Great Belt bridge from Zealand to Funen, which has created speculation about the affect of crosswinds on the peloton. Pedersen played down these hopes, however.
"200 days a year if not more we have the wind from the west. We are going straight west over the bridge," he said.
"It looks nice on paper, and everyone will be hoping for the wind from the north and the south, then it would be a big casino on the bridge. If it's from west as normal we will have full headwind for 20km."
On a separate topic which is engaging the world of professional cycling at the moment, the Trek-Segafredo rider said that he did not care about people using ketones.
Romain Bardet and Arnaud Dèmare have been among the riders who have called for a ban on the chemical, but Pedersen said that it was "fair enough" if people used it. The Dane did say that he did not take them because he did not like the taste, however.
"I really don't care if people are using ketones or not, it's their decision. I don't see it as a problem, it is a natural product in your body. If people want to use it, fair enough. I have no clue how it works, I just know it tastes like shit and I know that's enough for me not to use it. It's legal, and it's not up to me to make it illegal"
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