The barrier indicating 15 kilometers to go was right in front of Mads Würtz Schmidt. There were 15 kilometers between him and the finish line at the Prati di Tivo ski resort, and the update from the race radio was that he and his three breakaway partners had a four-minute gap at hand. .Could he make it?
Mads knew that he was the strongest rider in the breakaway. In the previous climb, he showed just that, beating everyone to the punch and grabbing the 15 King of the Mountains classification points, executing his first mission of the day flawlessly – to try and take the prestigious mountain jersey.
Now, about a kilometer into the last climb, he pushed himself again. “I was tiring my breakaway partners on the climbs,” he explained. So, this time, they could not react, and he was going solo – with only 10 km left.
But could he go even further? Could he mount a vast surprise and go for the win in the queen stage, where all the favorites in Tirreno-Adriatico were battling to take the race by the horn?
Later on, he told us that he had no illusions. “ I knew they would catch me,” he said. “But I gave it a go and pushed it with everything I had.”
Back in the team car, DS Nicki Sorensen was on the radio, constantly urging Mads not to give up. “I have huge respect for Mads,” said the Dane about his fellow countryman. “He has this engine that can ride tempo for a long time. I knew, though, it will be very tough. Those guys behind were going full gas. In retrospect, I think that if he had a 6-minute gap in the bottom of that climb, it would have been possible.”
So, with less than five kilometers to the finish, the favorites group of Pogacar (the eventual stage winner and the current leader of the race) finally passed him. “It was a nice experience to ride in the front of the race, especially on a big stage like today,” Mads said in his understated, humble style.
He left no doubts that his mission is not complete. Tomorrow he will ride with that coveted KOM jersey he technically shares with the leader, Pogacar, as they are even in the points – they both have 15. “I will try to go for another breakaway to get more points and maybe secure that jersey,” he said.
You can expect another super aggressive day for Israel Start-Up Nation in this race, as has become the norm, day in and day out. “This team is showing great character here,” said Sorensen. “We are far from done.”