Mads Pedersen writes name in history with Grand Tour stage win triple at Giro d'Italia
Six riders started this year's Giro d'Italia with dreams of adding their name to the illustrious list of those who have won stages at all three Grand Tours. On stage 6 it was Mads Pedersen who achieved the feat, sprinting to the win in Naples to add a Giro stage to his win at last year's Tour de France and Vuelta a España.
The former world champion was the quickest finisher from the peloton which caught and passed fellow Tour and Vuelta stage winner Simon Clarke – along with fellow breakaway survivor Alessandro De Marchi – just 250 metres from the line.
It was a painful blow for the two veterans but one that saw the Trek-Segafredo sprinter become the 105th rider in history to add a stage win at all three Grand Tours to his palmarès.
He's the first man to do it since Rigoberto Urán at the Vuelta last year and one of the quickest riders of all time to knock out all three stages. The 300 days between his wins in Saint-Etienne last July and in Naples rank second only behind Daniele Bennati’s 291 days from 2007 to 2008, while Miguel Poblet’s 320 days between 1955 and 1956 rank third.
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So close, so far: Clarke, De Marchi caught in sight of finish line at Giro d'Italia
As it happened: Breakaway heartbreak as Pedersen wins Giro d'Italia stage 6
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"It's really special to make a stage victory in each of the Grand Tours, and finally I could take one here in Italy as well," Pedersen said, having recorded second and third places earlier in the race.
"The team did really amazing today, they were working so hard to make this happen. It was a really tough day, a short day, but really tough. The two guys in front made it really hard for us and I feel sorry for them because they did so good today, but I'm also really happy that I could pay back the boys for their effort with the victory."
Pedersen, who beat maglia ciclamino Jonathan Milan (Bahrain Victorious) to the line in the long sprint, in the process closing to within 27 points of the jersey, said that his Trek-Segafredo team was among several of the sprint squads to use all their riders in the chase.
"For a long time, I didn't think we would catch them, but we did with like 300 meters to go. It was pretty close in the end. For a long time, they had two minutes and we really had to use basically everyone, and not just us. All the sprinters had to use all the guys they had available, it was really not easy to catch them.
"I wanted to open a long sprint because we still had to catch these guys, but luckily for me Gaviria did it first, so I had someone in front to try to catch. It was pretty tough because he came with a good kick and got a good gap, but I also know I can do a long sprint, so I hoped he would hit the wall and I could come past."
Pedersen can now count himself among a list of Grand Tour history-makers stretching back to the first riders to complete the triple – Fiorenzo Magni and Bernardo Ruiz at the 1955 Giro d'Italia.
Names like Eddy Merckx (64 stages across all three Grand Tours), Mario Cipollini (57) and Mark Cavendish (53) lead the way in the list, which includes 18 active riders.
Along with Clarke, Magnus Cort (EF Education-EasyPost), Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma), Warren Barguil (Arkéa-Samsic), and Pedersen's teammate Bauke Mollema all have the chance to add their name to the list this month.
Only three men have won a stage at all three Grand Tours in the same year – a feat Caleb Ewan attempted two years ago. Miguel Poblet, Pierino Baffi and Alessandro Petacchi (with a mammoth 15 stages in 2003) stand above the rest, and maybe pose the next Grand Tour stage win challenge for Pedersen.