But it shouldn’t have been. Pedersen, who is only 26, has been one of the leading sprinters in the peloton for several years, and he won the World Championship road race in 2019. But when his only realistic rival, Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe), dropped out of the race after stage 9 due to Covid, all Pedersen really had to do was finish the race to win green.
But, of course, he did far more than that. His points total, 409, is by far the highest number of points awarded to a rider in the history of the Vuelta. This was, of course, largely due to the change in the way points are awarded in the Vuelta, which is now like that in the Tour. Still, if this had been the Tour de France, Pedersen’s points total would have been the ninth-highest of all time. The only blemish on his performance was his defeat in the final mass sprint in Madrid by the unheralded Juan Sebastian Molano (UAE Team Emirates), who had never won a Grand Tour stage before.
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Of course, Pedersen was delighted with the green jersey win and saluted the work of his team after the race. “I am just super, super happy for this Vuelta. To have the green jersey here and three [stage] wins, it’s really special. I am really thankful to the whole team, fighting, and I think we showed that a team with different types of riders can survive for sprints, what I am good at. All our climbers were digging so deep every day to perform in the sprints, and that shows that if everyone has the commitment, and the teamwork is there, we can fight for wins no matter [the] terrain.”
What makes his performance special is that there were only six truly flat stages in this year’s Vuelta, therefore few chances to pick up points. But Pedersen is a special sprinter, fast in the flats and strong enough in the mountains to stay with the likes of Primož Roglič on moderate climbs. I believe that Pedersen would have won the ŠKODA Green Jersey even if Bennett – who won the first two sprint finishes – had remained in the race, though his margin of victory would have been smaller. I am guessing that, unless future Vueltas contain a few more stages suitable for mass sprint finishes, it will be a long time before anyone approaches Pedersen’s points total.