Sean Kelly has blasted Trek-Segafredo after star rider Mads Pedersen revealed he was not told about the withdrawal of green jersey rival Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) before Tuesday’s individual time trial at La Vuelta.
Pedersen began Stage 10’s dash from Elche to Alicante with a five-point lead over Bennett in the points classification, prompting him to go “all in” over the 30.9km course to ensure he kept the jersey. The fastest 15 riders were set to score points.
However his exertions proved unnecessary given Bennett had earlier failed to appear on the start ramp, with Bora later confirming the Irishman had abandoned the race with Covid.
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“I didn’t save anything,” admitted Pedersen.
“I didn’t know that Sam was out with Covid. I went all in today to try to get points but if I knew before that he wouldn’t be at the start line, I might have taken it a bit more easy.
“I just hope I managed to do a top 15 today to get a few points.”
Kelly was surprised that Bennett’s absence was not mentioned to Pedersen by his team, given a hard ride could harm his bid to win future stages.
Wednesday’s Stage 11 is one for the sprinters and in Bennett’s absence, Pedersen would fancy himself for victory. The Dane finished second behind Bennett on Stage 2 and Stage 3 during the Dutch ‘gran salida’.
‘I didn’t know he was out with Covid’ – Pedersen in the dark about Bennett withdrawal
“It’s totally crazy to hear that the team did not relay him the information,” began Kelly.
“When you consider that tomorrow’s stage is a stage for the sprinters and we have seen Pederson against Bennett – he is a guy who can win a stage against the real fast men.
“With Bennett gone now, that is a crazy one to ride that time trial, put in such an effort and get maybe nothing out of it.
“I just don’t understand, with all the communication we have and all these preparations, it’s a real funny one not to have that information given to him.
“If I was directeur sportif with Pedersen’s team I would say today ‘there’s no point in really going full gas, wait for the days to come, there’s possibility of winning stages and opportunities to pick up points’.”
Although Bennett’s withdrawal strengthened his grip on green, Pedersen was sad to see his rival leave the race.
“It’s a pity. It would have been really nice to keep fighting for the jersey. It’s fun to compete and try to take points in front of each other,” said Pedersen.
Bennett is the 12th rider to leave the Vuelta with Covid, with Ethan Hayter (Ineos Grenadiers) also among those withdrawing after the second rest day due to the virus.
“It’s difficult. A lot of guys are catching Covid and we’re sitting there in the peloton, spitting on each other and stuff like that…” added Pedersen.
“It’s a problem. But if you look around here, people are standing 1.5 metres from me without a mask on. So it’s not only in the peloton, it’s also all the people around who might not do enough right now.”
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