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Mads Pedersen made a big push for the green jersey on stage 4 of the Vuelta a España, finishing ahead of points leader Sam Bennett in the intermediate sprint and then netting second behind Primož Roglič at the stage finish in Laguardia.
Pedersen was the only rider able to get close to Roglič when the Slovenian launched his uphill sprint, finishing several lengths behind him but well ahead of the rest.
The Danish rider said after the stage that things worked out better than he had expected.
“Clearly he was the strongest,” he said. “To lose to him on a climb like this is okay. I hoped to do a top ten, so I am pretty happy with today’s result.
“The last climb with 20ks to go, 15, was pretty tough. The boys set a tempo at the bottom so I could survive the steep part. After that we just wanted to cruise in with the peloton after the top.
“We had a big gear on for the downhill so we could really gain speed and follow, and then we just hoped for the best on this last steep part there up to the finish.”
Many of the peloton’s sprinters were missing in the finale due to what was a lumpy stage with category two and three climbs plus that uphill ramp to the line.
Pedersen has long shown his versatility, though, winning the world road race championships in 2019, taking Gent-Wevelgem and Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne in the years since and also netting second in the 2018 Ronde van Vlaanderen. He also won stage 13 of this year’s Tour.
But even if he had thought a top ten was possible beforehand, he confirmed that he had revised his ambitions upwards in the finale.
“I know I can do finals like this. It is tough in a peloton like this, but if you never try you never win,” he said.
“Today we tried and we finished second. Again we got some points in the green jersey, so I think we can be pretty happy with today’s result.”
Pedersen had started the stage 37 points behind Bennett, who had beaten him to win stages 2 and 3.
Netting fourth behind three breakaway riders and finishing one place ahead of Bennett in the intermediate sprint has changed things, but even more so taking second on a stage where the Irishman wasn’t placed.
It means his pre-stage deficit has now been reduced to just nine points.
“The shape is good. As I said, we are really here to win this green jersey, so every day we are aiming to get points,” he said. “Today we did it again, so thanks to the whole team, they were really impressive today.”