However, in addition to the two aforementioned threats to his victory, Pedersen must also finish two gruelling mountain stages within the prescribed time limit. Thursday’s stage 18 and stage 20 on Saturday contain 5 category 1 climbs that must be conquered. Pedersen has already made it over more difficult climbs but this edition of the Vuelta has been very taxing on everyone. Furthermore, the riders remaining in the race are all tired, which has led to some chaotic events, such as the crash during the finish of stage 16, which was won by Pedersen. That accident led to the abandonment of the race by Jumbo-Visma’s hard-luck leader Primož Roglič who was sitting in second in the GC at the time.
The green-jersey race was effectively decided before the start of stage 10 when Pedersen’s only credible rival, Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe), was forced to drop out of the race because he tested positive for Covid. Bennett trailed Pedersen by only 5 points at the time. None of the other sprinters in the race were a match for Pedersen’s ability to race in mountainous terrain. Though the rules for awarding points had been changed to favour sprinters in the flat stages, there were probably not enough flat stages in the race, and certainly not enough in-form sprinters.
Wright, who is second in the points classification, is an all-rounder, not a sprint specialist, and Soler, who is third, is a climber. In fact, the closest pure sprinter to Pedersen in the rankings is Pascal Ackermann of UAE Team Emirates, who sits seventh with 86 points. This does not diminish Pedersen’s achievement. On the contrary, it underlines his superiority and his ability to ride fast and climb well. It also suggests that he would probably have won the Škoda Green Jersey even if Bennett had remained in the race.
Still, there are four days of racing to go. Considering how many surprises the Vuelta has sprung in the past and this year as well, Pedersen would be well advised to ride cautiously and stay out of trouble.