With a monument in the pocket, Jasper Stuyven enters Ronde van Vlaanderen with a calm mind and strong legs
Two weeks ago, Jasper Stuyven took a great coup in Italy, snatching a Monument on the Via Roma with a savvy attack in the last 3 kilometers. Quick thinking from the Belgian gained him a gap, but it was down to his legs after that.
One week later, in Belgium, the Trek-Segafredo team was struck by big disappointment. Stuyven, defending champion Mads Pedersen and the rest of the Classics Team were withdrawn from Gent-Wevelgem as a precaution after Covid-19 tests revealed a few positive results. Fortunately, Stuyven was cleared to race the midweek classic Dwars door Vlaanderen, a precursor to the big one, De Ronde, Sunday.
“To be honest, I didn’t spend energy worrying about the decision of the team not to race Gent-Wevelgem,” said Stuyven. “Of course, it was still a disappointment, but it was the wait to find out if we could race on Wednesday that caused a little bit of stress. It was not immediately a yes or no, so it was nice when we got the confirmation that we could race.
“Of course, you feel that you have some stress, but all in all, I think I managed well to keep focussed on Dwars door Vlaanderen and, of course, De Ronde. It’s not ideal, but on the other hand, if you look at how hard Gent-Wevelgem was, combined with E3, maybe at Dwars door Vlaanderen, I would not have had such a good feeling. I raced aggressively, and I go into Sunday with a good feeling, so I think it turned out not so bad.
The Trek-Segafredo men lined up with five riders on Wednesday, and a commanding ride by Stuyven showed his win in Sanremo was no fluke. The result on paper, 10th place, doesn’t accurately reflect Stuyven’s performance. He was active throughout, spending the latter stages of the race driving the select group before an untimely catch by the peloton in the last 500 meters.
“On Wednesday, for myself, and also for the team, I was hoping to have good legs. I was hoping to show I could be up there to motivate the whole team so they feel that we can really go for it on Sunday. I saw it as a chance to take the team back to the positive thinking and mentality rather than worrying about only being five riders.
“I think I’m in one of the best shapes of my career so far, especially the mental and physical combination. It’s hard to say if it’s the best shape ever, but for sure it’s one of the best moments shape-wise. Knowing and feeling you’re good, as well as having a big victory in the pocket gives me a calm and relaxed feeling. I can arrive on Sunday with the confidence that I’m going well and can be competitive with the others for the win.”
Having already taken what is arguably the most unpredictable monument, Stuyven has the chance to double his haul by winning De Ronde, although he admitted that this isn’t at the front of his thoughts.
“Two monuments? It’s possible but I’m not looking into those statistics. I’m just focussing on the race on Sunday to do the best possible race, hoping that everything goes right for the team and for me. Then it’s up to the legs to make the best result possible.
“I think going into the second passage of the Oude Kwaremont we will be close to the 200-kilometer mark. It’s important to not be too far in the back in the 30 minutes before because the speed goes up and if you’re in the back you have to spend a lot more energy. For me, that’s a very important point going into the finale.
“In the past, people mostly talk about the last time on the Kwaremont but we’ve seen that the winning move can happen anywhere in the last 60 kilometers.
“If you have the legs, it’s a good finish. If not, you would prefer a flat road to the finish. I think there are normally only 13 kilometers after the last climb. We’ve seen in the recent Classics that there has been a longer finale, without real big climbs. That does change how you race the finale, and it’s a longer race than Dwars door Vlaanderen or E3. I like it, of course, but we will see on Sunday!”