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Having joined a three-rider break, Pedersen made it back to Mas after having initially been dropped on the final climb before beating his companion in a sprint to win stage 3 of the Tour of Norway; Weening retained the lead

Photo: Sirotti

MADS PEDERSEN

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PIETER WEENING

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ROOMPOT-CHARLES

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SONDRE HOLST ENGER

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STÖLTING SERVICE GROUP

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TOUR OF NORWAY

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20.05.2016 @ 18:40 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Mads Pedersen (Stölting) confirmed why he is regarded as the next Danish cycling star by taking Stölting’s first win of the 2016 season on the tough third stage of the Tour of Norway. Having joined a three-break after a fast start, he was initially dropped by Lluis Mas (Caja Rural) on the short, steep climb to the finish but he made it back in time to win the two-rider uphill sprint. Pieter Weening (Roompot) finished fourth and retained the lead.

 

For several years, Mads Pedersen has been regarded as the next big Danish rider. Already in the youth categories he was a dominant figure and after joining the pro ranks he has confirmed his potential. Last year he impressed in the Four Days of Dunkirk and this year he has won the U23 Gent-Wevelgem and excelled in the 3 Days of De Panne.

 

After a short break, Pedersen is back in action at this week’s Tour of Norway but the Stölting team didn’t have any great expectations for him in his comeback race. However, today he proved his huge class as he took the first win for the German team with a gutsy breakaway ride on the rainy and hilly third stage of the race.

 

Pedersen had joined Lluis Mas and Lukas Pöstlberger (Bora-Argon 18) in a three-rider break and it was the former two who reached the bottom of the final 2.3km climb with an advantage that allowed them to battle it out for the win. The Dane was initially unable to follow the Spaniard but he gauged his effort carefully, bridging the gap with 300m to go and then unleashing his strong sprint to take the victory.

 

After yesterday’s queen stage, it was time for the second important day for the GC. The 168.3km course started in Rjukan and ended in Geilo after a tough day in the saddle. The category 1 Imingfjell (24km, 4.3%) featured in the first half and then there was a category 2 climb (4.7km, 8.5%) just after the midpoint. From there it was a flat run to Geilo where the stage finished at the top of a 2.3km category 2 climb that averages 7.9%.

 

After two days in the sun, it was rainy when the riders gathered for the start. Nicolas Marini (Nippo) and Njål Kleiven (Ringeriks) were the only non-starters.

 

Like yesterday, it was a furious start with lots of attacks and especially Coop was keen to get a rider in the early break. However, ONE were controlling things as they wanted Steele von Hoff to win the first intermediate sprint at the 27km mark but he was beaten by Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) who picked up 3 bonus seconds. Kristoffer Skjerping (Norway) was third across the line.

 

A big 22-rider group managed to build and advantage of 20 seconds while the windy conditions made the peloton split into three groups. However, a regrouping soon took place and this allowed Lluis Mas (Caja Rural), Mads Pedersen (Stölting) and Lukas Pöstlberger (Bora-Argon 18) to take off. Meanwhile, Ken-Levi Eikeland (FixIT) left the race.

 

The peloton took a breather after the fast start and so the gap had gone out to four minutes at the 50km mark. Unsurprisingly, Roompot took control after Pieter Weening had rejoined the group after a mechanical.

 

Pedersen beat Pöstlberger and Mas in the KOM sprint on the Irmingfjell while Haavard Blikra (Coop), Ole Austevoll (Coop) and Cesare Benedetti (Bora-Argon 18) sprinted for the points 4.21 later, crossing the line in that order. Weening again had to stop to fix a mechanical as they went down the descent but he was back in the group by the time Pöstlberger beat Mas and Pedersen in the second intermediate sprint.

 

Pedersen also beat Mas and Pöstlberger in the second KOM sprint while Blikra again beat Austevoll and Øyvind Lukkedal (Coop) in the sprint for fourth 4 minutes later. Pöstlberger briefly lost contact with his companions but he made it back as they headed down the rainy descent.

 

With 65km to go, the gap had gone out to 5.05 as there wasn’t much help for the Roompot team. Ivar Slik and Antwan Tolhoek were doing the early work to keep the break under control.

 

Wanty were the first to lend them a hand and while he soon disappeared, Kristoffer Skjerping came to the fore for the national team. However, they failed to make much inroad and the gap was still 5.05 with 48km to go.

 

This prompted Dimension Data to react and it was Adrien Niyonshuti who started to work for the South African team. That had an effect and the peloton shaved 30 seconds off the lead during the next six kilometres.

 

Tolhoek, Slik, Niyonshuti and Skjerping kept trading pulls but their progress stopped. Meanwhile, a crash with 35km to go saw a Sparebanken rider and Gerald Ciolek (Stölting) hit the deck hard.

 

As they entered the final 25km, the gap was still more than 4 minutes and Tolhoek had now ended his work. Wanty-Groupe Gobert added Simone Antonini the chase work and together with Niyonshuti, Skjerping and Slik, he managed to shave time off the lead. However, the gap was still 3.45 as they entered the final 15km. Dimension Data realized that more had to be done so when Slik and Niyonshuti wung off, it was Reinardt van Rensburg who went to work for the South African team.

 

With 13km to go, Mas launched the first attack from the breakaway and only Pedersen could follow as Pöstlberger did not ever try. At this point, the gap was still 3.20 and so Boasson Hagen also asked Youcef Reguigui to ride on the front.

 

As the peloton hit a small climb, most of the early workers blew up and when van Rensburg spectacularly exploded, it was only Natnael Berhane setting the pace. The climb was taking its toll as lots of riders were getting dropped.

 

Lotto Soudal decided to lend Dimension Data a hand as Gert Dockx came to the fore. However, he even had a hard time holding the wheel of Berhane who led the peloton to the top of the ascent 2.40 behind the leaders.

 

Berhane kept riding on the front as they headed down the descent where everybody was fighting hard to position themselves for the final climb. Coop and Joker took over the pace-setting reducing the gap to 2.10 by the time they reached the bottom.

 

As soon as they hit flat roads, van Rensburg took one final massive turn to bring the gap down to less than 2 minutes before Daniel Hoelgaard took over for the Norwegian National Team. Tosh van der Sande took a massive turn for Lotto Soudal and when he swung off the 40-rider peloton was just 1.15 behind.

 

Reidar Borgersen (Joker) led the peloton onto the final climb but it was Sven Erik Bystrøm (Norway) who went full gas, trying to set Sondre Holst Enger and Odd-Christian Eiking up for the win. He split the group to pieces as only Enger, Huub Duijn, Pieter Weening (Roompot) and Edvald Boasson Hagen 8Dimension Data) could keep up with him.

 

Marco Minaad (Wanty), Jose Mendes (Bora-Argon 18) and Adam Phelan (Drapac) led a bigger group back to the group when Enger took over the pace-setting. However, he was not committed yet and so Mendes made an unsuccessful attack.

 

In the front group, Pedersen did the early work but he was unable to respond when Mas made his move. The Spaniard easily dropped the Dane and immediately got a big advantage.

 

In the peloton, there was a regrouping and as the pace went down, Andreas Vangstad (Sparebanken) tried to get clear. He failed though and instead Marco Marcato (Wanty) started to work for his teammate Minnaard.

 

Marcato led the group under the flamme rouge 55 seconds behind Mas who saw Pedersen getting closer. The Dane made the junction with 300m to go and then took a few moments to recover before he launched a powerful sprint.

 

In the peloton, Enger tried to accelerate, reducing the group to 10 riders before Weening launched an attack. Only Enger could match his pace and the Norwegian managed to come around in the final metres to take third and four important bonus seconds while the rest of the splintered group rolled in bits by bits.

 

Weening crossed the line in third and even though he lost a total of six seconds to Enger, he still leads the race with a 45-second advantage over the Norwegian. He faces another tough and punchy stage tomorrow. It’s an almost completely flat course that has a nasty sting in its tail on the 11.8km finishing circuit that will be covered thrice. It is mostly flat but includes a 1.6km climb that averages 5.4% and summits just 2.7km from the finish. From the top, it is a flat and exposed run to the line.

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