Jasper Stuyven finishes second in stage three and claims the leader’s jersey with one day to go.
The Classic-style racing in the four-day Deutschland Tour has been perfect for Jasper Stuyven who already has two fifth-place finishes and topped that in the penultimate stage Saturday with a second-place and the overall race lead.
Stage three saw more hills, paring down the peloton to a select group that crested the final uphill with 12 kilometers remaining. Stuyven admitted he was on the ropes on the climb, and just made it over with the front group that also contained teammate Toms Skujins.
“I was really suffering there,” admitted Stuyven. “I know I come straight from altitude and I feel like I can ride a hard tempo, but I am missing a little bit the racing speed, and on these climbs, I feel this. But I also know that I can keep this tempo, so it was a matter of not completely getting dropped and leave a little bit in the tank for one acceleration over the top. I was able to do that, and then it was up to Toms and me to control [the attacks].”
Skujins has been riding the front all week in support of Stuyven, and again marked the attacks as the group rushed towards the finish. With four kilometers to go, Stuyven timed his move perfectly, getting a good jump on the group. Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck-Quick Step) took off in pursuit and finally caught up to Stuyven less than two kilometers from the line. A quick discussion ensued, and a decision had to be made quickly.
“I saw an opportunity to go from behind, and I did. I had a good gap, and then Asgreen caught me. He said to me immediately, ‘I take the stage and you take the GC’, but I wasn’t sure where he was in the GC until Kim (Andersen, director) said on the radio that he’s not anywhere on the GC. So I knew I had to make a choice. I could gamble, but then we might get caught because then he would not pull with 3 teammates behind. So I decided to keep riding with him to take as much time as possible in the GC, and he takes the stage. That’s how it is sometimes in cycling. I had to think quick, and it was the best choice I could make at that moment.”
Stuyven powered on, his focus on keeping as much distance and time to the chasing group, and with Asgreen’s help, the pair had 17 seconds over the chasing group by the line. Asgreen grabbed the stage victory, and Stuyven finished in second and overtook the race lead.
With one hard day to go and a 13-second buffer, Stuyven hopes his decision was right.
I could have tried for the win and have him sit on and then end up with maybe nothing or make the decision that I take GC and him the stage. Now it’s up to me to not make me regret this decision tomorrow evening.
“I had a good training camp after the Tour, so it’s nice to come here back to competition and feel good and get a reward with this leader’s jersey. It’s never over until the finish line tomorrow, but first let’s enjoy today, and then we will make a plan to keep it tomorrow,” added Stuyven.
With the top of GC tight, Stuyven and Trek-Segafredo will have their work cut out for them. But Toms Skujins, who has been riding strongly thus far, sits in 10th place, only 23 seconds behind, and could make the difference in negating the antagonists. Whatever happens, the challenging final day into Erfurt will be thrilling.