Stuyven claims the first GC win of his career, and first victory this season.
With a strong Trek-Segafredo team rallying around him, Jasper Stuyven successfully defended the overall race lead on the final stage of the Deutschland Tour to capture the first stage race victory of his professional career.
Although there were no big climbs on the finishing circuits, the twisty roads with an intermediate time bonus sprint on offer in combination with the finish-line bonus seconds could easily unseat Stuyven. And a gap in the final sprint could also spell disaster for the Belgian. But when Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Merida), sitting 13 seconds in arrears and the biggest threat to Stuyven, failed to win the intermediate sprint on the last lap, the 10 seconds for the win would not be enough. Stuyven only had to focus on keeping everything tight in the sprint ending – never a sure thing!
“I was really, really suffering the second-to-last lap, and to be honest I was not sure that I was going to be able to hold it,” said Stuyven. “But then on the last lap, the guys set the pace and then it was up to me to not lose a gap to Colbrelli. He could win the stage as long as there was no gap.
“Toms made a great leadout, but I didn’t have a sprint left. To be quite honest, I was quite stressed today, and I think I could feel it in the finale. It’s just super, especially after how I saw the guys give 110% to defend this jersey, that I didn’t let it slip away.”
While there were no tough ascents in the local laps, there were a few situated in the middle part of the race, but Trek-Segafredo came into the final day with a solid plan in place and carried it out to perfection. “The plan was for sure not to let a big group go, or certain riders like (Kasper) Asgreen who, if he gets two minutes is so difficult to control, and that’s why Mads (Pedersen) was in his wheel,” explained director Kim Andersen. “Then behind we tried not to let a bigger group go to them as that could make it difficult on us too.
“After we used Julien (Bernard) and Richie (Porte) on the hilly part – they worked all the climbs. And I left Mads being in the [break] so that he could pass these climbs, and since he was in the front, he was able to make it and we could use him for the end where he did a super job. All the riders were incredible today.”
Coming into the local lap, Trek-Segfredo still had Michael Gogl, Mads Pedersen and Toms Skujins, and it would take their full concerted effort with the pace on the technical circuit keeping everything strung out.
When the final time bonus passed, and Colbrelli failed to secure the three seconds, the team cleared a major hurdle. Pedersen and Skujins again came to the fore for the last six kilometers. A late attack of two riders was negated by Mads Pedersen, and Toms Skujins took control in the last two kilometers, positioning and providing a stellar leadout for Stuyven.
We knew it wasn’t going to be easy [to defend the jersey] and it wasn’t; it was super hard to get it under control. Sunweb made it hard in the two climbs in the middle and even after there was some danger for echelons.
The final circuit there was a lot of turning, left and right, and accelerations, which made it really hard. We were super good in the front: Even after Julien and Richie were dropped, they fought back and kept riding. Mads was amazing – everyone stayed in control. The team was just super today!
Coming into the final thousand meters of the race, Skujins gave the last big pull. Stuyven finished it off with another 5th place – his third of the four-day race – and cemented the overall victory. His second place in Saturday’s Stage 3 was his highest stage result of the four stages, and it netted him the race lead; although Stuyven is more accustomed to throwing his hands in the air in victory, his consistency paid off with the overall win, something he had never experienced before.
“This is not the biggest win in my career, but the first stage-race win, and the first one of the season, which makes it special. I am super happy that we finished it off today. I have never experienced this feeling [of winning the GC], which makes it unique and adds something special to the nice feeling of winning,” said Stuyven.
“Some nice races are coming up – next week Brussels and the two races in Canada. And like all Belgians, I hope to be part of the World Championships. So many Belgians have been winning lately, and now I also did.”
“I was quite confident this morning that we had a good chance to reach this goal, but I also know with only six riders and a strong peloton and a lot of good attacks, it would not be certain,” summed up Andersen. “But when I saw Colbrelli didn’t win the sprint bonus, we just needed no gaps in the finish. Then I also thought that Jasper maybe had a chance to win the last stage.
“It has been a while since we win a stage race, so I am very happy. It has been a very nice week for the team, for this race, and the sport of cycling – it has been full gas every day. I love it!