The Belgian finished in the top 10 in all WorldTour Northern Classics
Jasper Stuyven has been left frustrated in many of the spring classics, always there, consistently arriving at the finish with the best, but just missing that little bit to be on the podium. However, Sunday in Paris-Roubaix – the queen race of the cobbled classics – he admitted he had given everything he could and was content with his fifth place.
“I didn’t have super legs today, so I am really happy with my 5th place,” said a tired Stuyven. “After Arenberg, I felt that my legs weren’t the greatest anymore. It might have been because this is the first heat we’ve had, and that’s always difficult to come through.”
There were no bad legs for a super strong Peter Sagan (Bora Hansgrohe), whose acceleration 54 kilometers from the finish seemed forlorn, but the World Champion proved that allowing him a few meters, even that far out, was a mistake.
Stuyven explained: “When Sagan went, I didn’t panic. I was pretty sure we would catch him back. I accelerated with Wout (Van Aert); it was a good moment to go I think, and we kept riding and riding, and I hoped to catch Sagan on time so that I could recover a bit, but unfortunately, that didn’t happen. I knew on Mons-en-Pévèle there would be an acceleration in the back, and it was good that they came to us.”
Sagan easily caught the last two leaders from the breakaway, and only one man, Silvan Dillier (AG2R La Mondiale) – who gave an unbelievable performance – was able to hold his wheel. As the kilometers ticked away, it soon became apparent the fight from behind was a battle for the final podium step.
“At one point I thought we would come back to Sagan, I think we came on 35-40 seconds, but we didn’t go fast enough. And then the gap went up to 50 seconds really quickly, I must say,” continued Stuyven.
Sagan for sure was the strongest today. If you go away like that and can keep it like that, then you deserve the win.
“[After Wout and I were caught] I was a little bit afraid that I was going to be dropped on one of the next sectors, but then I also noticed that everyone else was also on the limit. Then I started to believe more again in the podium.”
Over the closing kilometers, the group pursuing Sagan and Dillier whittled to the four strongest: Stuyven, Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), Sep Vanmarcke (EF Education First-Drapac) and Niki Terpstra (Quick-Step Floors).
While the cameras followed Sagan and Dillier dueling it out in the velodrome, behind and out of sight of the live images was the battle for third.
“Terpstra was the strongest of our group, and at the end, he started to ride a few meters behind us, so you just knew he was going to attack,” explained Stuyven. “I decided to go myself then, to be the first, but unfortunately, Van Avermaet decided he had to come for me. And then you just know that Terpstra will go. In the end, Niki made a good attack after Greg was trying to close the gap [to me] on his own.”
Terpstra came across the line for third, and moments later Stuyven finished in fifth, second in the three-up sprint. Another consistent top result, again close to the podium, but this time he knew his legs could not have given more.
Director Dirk Demol summed up the race and spring classics for Trek-Segaferdo:
“Again a hell of a race! We saw again we had a strong team: Boy (van Poppel) and Greggy (Rast) did an awesome job in the beginning to cover the breaks. We wanted to be there if it was more than 10, and when it was a group of nine, it was okay for us. But when it went up to 8mins, to be honest, I was a bit stressed in the car because there were 4-5 super strong guys there. But we also started to put pressure on before the cobbles together with Bora-Hansgrohe.
“Koen (de Kort) was strong and was able to come back after the first massive crash where someone ran into his leg. Greggy later had a broken saddle, so we lost him. John (Degenkolb) had problems with the derailleur and had to change bikes. Mads (Pedersen) had a flat. So, we too had our part of the bad luck. At the end of the day, we once again saw a super strong Jasper, and he finished it off with fifth. In the seven WorldTour races in the North he was seven times in the top 10 – so chapeau!
“I am proud of the team in the classics. We really had guys who were willing to work for each other, each race we managed to be top 10, and one on the podium in Flanders.”
I really wanted that win, but I can only say congrats to my boys.
Mads Pedersen: “Bad luck? I only had a puncture, and that happens in this race. I got a wheel fast and came back to the group, and of course, I spent some energy on that, but it could be a lot worse.
“Good race, hard race – full gas almost the whole day. Jasper finished 5th, and yes it would be nice to have a guy on the podium, but he can be happy with that. He did an amazing job, and we are happy with the fifth place.”
Koen de Kort: “The team plan was to race very aggressively. I felt pretty good also. Ever since Milan-Sanremo I never felt I recovered for the next race, so I always had good legs, but never super fresh legs. Today I had them.
“I positioned the team into the Arenberg forest, and after that, for a second I thought [my race] was over – I went in with maximum heart rate. But I didn’t panic, and I came back, and from there I tried to cover attacks and tried to keep positioning John and Mads and Jasper.
“Then eventually Jasper went away, and behind we could sit in and see what happened. I completely emptied myself. I think as a team we did a good race, and obviously, it would be better if we had gotten on the podium, but we got close.”
John Degenkolb: “I am completely wasted. I gave everything. The luck was not on my side, but that is Paris-Roubaix also. I had to change the bike and had some problems afterward and it cost me a lot of energy. But still I tried to do my best, and I think I still did a good, offensive race to do my job in the team. I was feeling better and better in the race.
“My feeling right now? I am just empty. Just empty. Now I go and have a shower.”