Mads Pedersen. Dangerous snacks and attacks in Tour de France.

//Mads Pedersen. Dangerous snacks and attacks in Tour de France.

Mads Pedersen. Dangerous snacks and attacks in Tour de France.

The dynamics, strategy and experience that goes into a winning move from a breakaway are complex and fluid.

There’s a whole menu that includes your assessment of the other riders’ energy levels, their track record of strengths and weaknesses, the advantages and disadvantages of the race course in those final kilometers, the GC and sprint teams’ agendas back behind you, desperate sponsor needs for a grand tour win, your own finely calibrated physical abilities, the ever changing weather and, of course, your horoscope for the day.

It ain’t easy to map that all out in your head from moment to moment, as the lactic acid builds up in your legs, as the director sportif screams instructions in your ear piece and you’re emotionally insane with the very real possibility of a career and salary-defining stage victory in the Tour de France.

And then there’s the snacks.

That was the high pressure situation in stage 13 into Saint Etienne, a rolling, breakaway-friendly course fresh off two brutal days in the high Alps. GC guys gonna chill, sprinters teams gonna work, aggressive rouleurs gonna hope.

And there were six riders with a gap that wasn’t coming back. Six riders out in front of the goddamn  Tour de France with a massive chance to win and fundamentally brighten up their palmares.

Can you redefine who you are as a rider, can you repay a hundred times over the support and faith of your team in the biggest, most high profile race of the year? That gets very stressful and complicated no matter how good your legs are in the second week of a grand tour.

But back to the snacks.

There are six riders in with a chance. Introducing Filippo Ganna (INEOS Grenadiers), Stefan Kung (Groupama-FDJ), Mateo Jorgenson (Movistar), Fred Wright (Bahrain Victorious), Hugo Houle (Israel-Premier Tech) and the eventual and much happier Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo).

There’s tactics and marking wheels and then there’s that instantaneous moment when it’s time to go. And when I mean go, I mean, all-in, chips on the table, fuck everyone else, this stage is mine. But how to you figure that out?

Mateo Jorgenson admittedly after the stage that he’d picked the wrong wheel — his selection for the day was the Italian TT monster Ganna. The young American is kicking himself about missing the victory, especially as he’d come in fourth, just off the podium, in the sprint to the line in Megève. Ganna was cooked and post-race, Mateo said King was also a dead man. Lessons learned for a fabulously talented rider in his first Tour. Chapeau for even being a protagonist.

But the moment the race was won came down to the snack. That moment when Ganna, at the head of the break, reached back into his pocket for a gel or energy bar. He took his time, he foraged, he hunted, taking extra time to grab what he needed.

This snack moment was not lost on the attentive Mads Pedersen. That was his green light to attack and in an instant a break of six became a break of three. Odds of winning the Tour jackpot just doubled. And for Pedersen they more than doubled. And by the way, in that race-winning instant, Ganna didn’t react, he kept digging in his jersey pocket. He was hungry for victory but mostly just plain hungry.

In the final kilometers Wright and Houle knew the inevitability of the script: Pedersen, a former world champion in the men’s road race, had the faster sprint. Unless they pulled out something magic before the finish, they were drinking water, not champagne. And so they tag-teamed, attacking Pederson one after the other.

It was the right idea but it did not change athletic fate. Pederson opened up his sprint and quickly blew away his two rivals. After Magnus Corte’s fabulous win a few days ago, it was another storybook win for the Danes.

Lesson learned for Wright and Houle: watch when the rider in front of you gets hungry. It might just win you the biggest victory of your life.




By |2022-07-16T08:32:05-07:00July 15th, 2022|Featured|0 Comments

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