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"I was so aggressive…mad at myself, motivating myself, [telling myself] I can do this. So I kept pushing. And in the end it was not even so close. Great victory..,it’s why I came to the Vuelta…I knew it was for me t...

Photo: Trek Factory Racing








29.08.2015 @ 22:45 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Jasper Stuyven gritted his teeth.


Hanging on by a thread he dug deep to get over the final climb in stage eight at the Vuelta a España.


He was one of the last riders to crest the tough category-three climb with the front group, and once over his teammates Riccardo Zoidl and Haimar Zubeldia went to work.


Three riders still led out front with over 20 seconds and the amount of real estate remaining was quickly ebbing away. 


Zubeldia and Zoidl pulled hard at the front, and with help from a few other teams the trio was brought back with 3.5 kilometers to go. Zoidl continued to pull, keeping the pace high and thwarting more attacks until less than two kilometers remained. When he finally pulled off there was one more last ditch effort, a serious threat in a late flyer by Adam Hansen (Lotto-Soudal), but the bunch sensed the barn and a wide open door.


With Hansen caught back in the last half-kilometer, Jasper Stuyven launched his sprint early and was never really challenged as he powered to his first professional win by over a bike length.


“We knew it was going to be really hard today,” explained Stuyven. “We were well-placed together with the team and then there was the big crash and we had a few of us go down.


"I was also in the crash, and I hit my wrists pretty bad, they were hurting a lot, but I said to the guys I am gonna try.


"I was involved. The team was all together and I don't know how it happened but suddenly I saw bikes flying in the air. I was trying to go around it. It was really impossible and I hit someone and I fell on my back. I also injured my wrist and it still hurts. After a crash, you're full of adrenaline and you chase but then the pain comes back. On the second climb, it was OK, it was fight, fight for the stage win.


“I suffered a lot the first time up the climb, and I was afraid that I would not make it a second time, but Dirk [Demol, director] was there to say to keep fighting, keep fighting.  And I was in a good position at the bottom so I could drift a little bit back on the climb, and I think I was one of the last guys to make it over with the front group.


“Haimar and Riccardo were there to pull the guys back, they did a really, really great job. I was in a good place, in the wheel of [Tosh] van der Sande, because he was going well. Then we slowed down and with 500 meters to go, guys came from behind and then I was scared that too many guys were in front of me. But like in the Tour des Fjords I launched my sprint from far and only Kristoff (Katusha) was able to catch me there, so I thought I would just go for it. I knew it was not a headwind so in that moment I just pushed the pedals full; I went with 350 meters to go.


“Then [Bilbao] from Caja-Rural came a little bit from the left, but I felt immediately I had more power. I was so aggressive…mad at myself, motivating myself, [telling myself] I can do this. So I kept pushing. And in the end it was not even so close. Great victory..,it’s why I came to the Vuelta…I knew it was for me today.


"After the last climb there were seven guys in the front and I saw  there were Lotto riders. I asked Zoidl and Zubeldia to help me and they did a very good job to set the tempo. I was a little bit afraid I went too much in front. I came from behind a Movistar guy, I jumped on the wheel and with 300 metres to go I made my effort and I was able to go for victory.


"We knew at the beginning of the stage that it would be hard. We knew that Valverde comes from Murcia and that Sagan likes to climb and sprint. It was me and Danny Van Poppel who were the protected riders. The team was behind me all day. I was really focused. I knew i had a chance today and it's nice that the team believed in me.


"This year before the classics I felt very strong. Then I had a bad crash and then I had surgery. It was a pity for my classics. I didn't manage to get the right shape after the surgery. You need to become older, stronger, experienced for the classics. This year Fabian was out after his crash. Next year I will be able to ride for him again and after that him maybe I'll be able to have chances for myself.


"It's my first victory as a professional even I already had very good results this season. It's very nice to  get it during the Vuelta. I'm really happy for the team. It's nice to have a stage win after Fabian had to abandon on stage 3. It was a boost to the team motivation.


"It's nice to get to the next days without stress. This was one of the last chances today. Now I want to keep my good form toward the end of the season and try to get in the Belgian team for the world championships. I think we're going to have a really strong team. The Richmond parcours is really good for us. I think I deserve my place there."


Unfortunately, he may not get the chance as Trek have reported that he has broken his scaphoid. According to Het Laateste Nieuws, he will abandon the race.


For the young, talented Belgian in his second year as a professional it was a long overdue victory, and somehow delaying his first sip of victory champagne for a Grand Tour stage seems uncannily appropriate: he is a rider destined for big things.


"I was kidding with Jasper a little bit during the training camp we had during the Tour [de France] that you cannot finish the season without a victory and it’s not going to be easy because you are only doing the Vuelta. And he did it! I am so happy for him!” laughed director Dirk Demol.


“He is a young rider that has invested a lot in his career. He is often going on his own to do his own training camps, he is really focused on his job and he is strong in the head. It’s a nice win, his first as a professional. A really nice win.


"Also, a big part of the victory is thanks to Riccardo. He did awesome, awesome work, he was pulling forever, forever in the finale. He has been our best rider so far with all the work he has done in the first week already." 


Stuyven ended: “I always aim high and sometimes aiming high can give you only disappointment. After having so much bad luck this year, it is finally nice to be able to do something with the good legs and it’s really nice to take the first victory in a WorldTour race. I am really, really happy. The team did well to pull everything back and even after the crash I kept fighting, kept fighting. Yeah. It pays off.”


The large crash before the first time up the narrow, twisty climb claimed many victims, and one was Trek Factory Racing’s GC leader Fränk Schleck. However, Schleck was fortunate and escaped with only minor injuries. He made it to the finish, arriving over 11 minutes and 40 seconds in arrears, unlike a few others who were forced to abandon with more severe injuries.


“I have some bruises on my back,’s not the first crash and it won’t be my last,” said Schleck. “But it was a good day for us, just with some bad luck – Jasper’s win was fantastic!


“There is not much else to say – I am not the guy who is going to complain. We will have to see how it will go now in the next days, obviously my overall is done.”


“The unfortunate news is losing Fränk's GC from the massive crash, and there was no way for him to come back because I think we were held up by 3-4 minutes and he had to change the bike. Markel [Irizar] and Boy [van Poppel] were in the crash, too, Markel is okay and Boy has more pains, but he finished as well," Demol said.


“This was the bad news of the day because we still felt that Fränk could make a good GC, I am not talking about a top, top place, but we were working to protect him as much possible so he would have a chance to move up. On the other side, we are super excited to get a stage win.” 



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