A new-entry on the calendar, the Figueira Champions Classic is scheduled to take place just a couple of days before the Volta ao Algarve. The course is one for the attackers, with an undulating first part followed by three laps of a tough circuit featuring two climbs: Florestal and Enforca Cães. Averaging 8.8% over two kilometers, the first of these includes ramps of 14% and is the place where the race is expected to explode, long before the finish.
Pedersen breaks the ice in the Soudal Quick-Step jersey
Casper Pedersen became the latest rider to add his name to the Soudal Quick-Step winners’ circle, sprinting to victory out of a select group at the inaugural edition of the Figueira Champions Classic and racking up the team’s 899th win.
The most important one-day event ever held in Portugal, Sunday’s race took the peloton along the stunning Atlantic coast over a hilly terrain that comprised a total of six classified climbs. The testing route proved to be too much for the sprinters, who were taken out of contention with more than 50 kilometers, leaving a depleted bunch in the mix in what was slowly but surely turning into a race of attrition.
Rémi Cavagna tried to take advantage of that, launching one of his trademark attacks from the distance, a move which only five other riders could follow. The “engine” of that newly-formed group, the Frenchman dug deep to help the sextet gain almost a minute over the chasers, putting in a spirited effort that saw him remain off the front until with 17 kilometers to go, when the combined effort of several teams brought him back.
After being caught, Cavagna continued to stay in the group together with teammates Casper Pedersen and Ilan Van Wilder, the latter countering some potentially dangerous attacks on the final climb and keeping things together. A strong headwind awaited the riders on the finishing straight, and Casper Pedersen timed his acceleration to perfection, hitting out with just 100 meters to go on the left side of the road – an acceleration that put his opponents into the rearview and netted him his first victory since 2020.
“The course was difficult, and we knew that already from the training that we had here on Saturday, but each time we did the climbs I felt better and better and managed to remain in the front group. I didn’t expect to arrive with this select group and fight for victory, but I did it with the amazing support of Rémi and Ilan, they made it possible, and I am very grateful for that”, an elated Casper said after powering to the 899th victory in the history of Soudal Quick-Step.
For me it’s incredible to be part of the Wolfpack.
“It’s just my third race with the team and we always raced for the win, which tells you a lot about the mentality everyone has. I love it here. The fact that this victory brought Soudal Quick-Step closer to another milestone just shows what a long, incredible and rich history this squad has. It’s incredible and I don’t have the words to describe it”, added Casper.
Photo credit: ©João Fonseca Photographer