The Dane survived the six categorised climbs on the 161.1km route starting and finishing in Bessèges with enough left in the tank to outsprint Milan Menten (Lotto Dstny) and Rasmus Tiller (Uno-X Mobility) after the peloton reeled in a last-ditch attack from Kévin Vauquelin (Arkéa-B&B Hotels).
A strong seven-rider break including the in-form Simon Carr (EF Education-EasyPost) had got up the road in the opening 20km of racing. But they were caught on the final categorised climb where attacks from Benoît Cosnefroy (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale) and Rémy Rochas (Groupama-FDJ) weren’t enough to get rid of Pedersen and the remaining fast men.
Pedersen took over the race lead from stage 2 winner Axel Laurance (Alpecin-Deceuninck) thanks to the bonus seconds gained on the line, with the Frenchman now six seconds down heading into the final two stages.
How it Unfolded
After Etoile de Bessèges got back underway with stage 2’s ramp finale, the third stage proved to be the first full uphill test for the riders with five categorised and two uncategorised climbs lining the 161km route starting and finishing in Bessèges itself.
Just 20km into the day’s action, a very strong seven-man break would get up the road including Carr, Sander De Pestel (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale Team), Alexis Gougeard (Cofidis), Thibault Guernalec (Arkéa – B&B Hotels), Jonas Abrahamsen (Uno-X Mobility), Thomas Gachignard (TotalEnergies) and Théo Delacroix (St Michel – Mavic – Auber93).
As the leaders built a lead past the four-minute mark, Abrahamsen was the most active in front, working to earn as many King of the Mountains points as possible over the first and second-category climbs that lined the middle phase of racing.
Behind, race leader Laurance’s Alpecin-Deceuninck team worked to keep the time gap manageable alongside Groupama-FDJ and Arkéa-B&B Hotels.
Minor attacks out of the peloton brought the speeds higher at the foot of the Col des Portes (6.7km at 3.6%), bringing the time gap down to under 30 seconds with 15km left in the day and just one climb left to navigate – the Col des Brousses (2.4km at 5.1%)
Lidl-Trek moved to the front with Julien Bernard taking up more work on the front at which point Carr shot out of the break to try and attack away again. He brought Abrahamsen and De Pestel with him,…