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"I didn’t have my best day but that’s normal in Qatar. One day you can be there and the next you’re not. It’s not a case of me waiting to ride strongly just tomorrow in the time trial. You’re either in or...






09.02.2015 @ 18:57 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Jasper Stuyven was the lone survivor for Trek Factory Racing in a group of 15 riders that arrived to the finish line to contest the win after a ruthless second stage run in typical Qatar conditions.


Stuyven had little left to give to the finale after almost four hours of relentless mental and physical extremes, and he battled to ninth place as Katusha sprinter Alexander Kristoff summoned enough from his legs to take the win.


“It’s pretty hard to get into the echelon when you are alone; it takes a lot of energy by yourself especially when some other teams have two or three guys there,” explained Stuyven about the tough finish. “I tried to do my best, but if you look at the sprint everyone was in the saddle, not standing up, so I think it was a really hard day for everyone, and we were all at the limit.”


Behind the front 15 there was no peloton. The force of the wind kicked up sand and obliterated the riders into groups, over and over again. It was a race where one mental lapse, one easing up, even slightly, perhaps to drift back to catch one’s breath, could end it all.


And it did. 


“You have to be focused from the start,” Stuyven continued, “[You can lose contact] any second because there was always some crosswind, and you have to be ready every moment. In the beginning you can sprint to the front if you are a little too far back, but in a stage like today, you pay at the end if you did too much early on. There was a sandstorm out there today at the start, and again a little at the end. It was just a brutal day."


“We decided to go hard together as a team at the beginning and that was going pretty well until some crashes happened, and we were only three in the front group,” he added. “And even though the others came back on later, they were caught at the back fighting and the echelons started again, and then it was just me and Boy in the lead group.” 



Boy van Poppel was the next highest finisher for Trek Factory, arriving with a group three minutes later.  Van Poppel was with the front group until a final acceleration once again split everything, leaving 15 riders the surviving contestants for the finale.


“It was just a really hard day, and hard finale,” Stuyven pointed out. “All day long it was echelons and a lot of wind. With around 20 -25k to go BMC made another acceleration and that is where Boy was caught out with more riders.” 


“It was super, super fast – after two hours we had done 109k with an average of 54.5km/h – and in the wind it was a big fight, a big war,” agreed Trek Factory Racing's sport director Dirk Demol. “It split into four or five groups. It came back, but then just split again.”


Fabian Cancellara finished over nine minutes later, eliminating any chance of a high GC for him, and the focus now turns to a stage result in the short 10-kilometer time trial tomorrow.


“It was a pretty chaotic and nervous. They went full gas that’s how it is in Qatar. If you miss a split then you’re out,” Cancellara told Cyclingnews.


“We went through one corner and I was already suffering a bit because it was quite hot,” Cancellara said.

“I had made the first split and we were well represented at that point but Qatar is a special race.


“We’re here to grow and to develop as a team for the season and that’s what we’ll continue to do. I didn’t have my best day but that’s normal in Qatar. One day you can be there and the next you’re not. It’s not a case of me waiting to ride strongly just tomorrow in the time trial. You’re either in or out of the front group.



For Jasper Stuyven, tomorrow's race against the clock will be a chance to see how he can fare compared to the top finishers of today, and he is ready to take on the role of the team’s GC leader:


“Tomorrow the TT is on the normal road bike, and for sure I am going to go full-gas. I pushed some good numbers on the last day of the Vuelta last year, it was also 10 kilometers, so we will see. I am feeling good these days, but I am not a specialist in the TT. All I can do is give it a go and then we will see where we are. After that it’s up to me to keep focus for the rest of the week.”


Alexander Kristoff donned the leader’s jersey with his victory today, and Tom Boonen (Etixx-Quick Step) slotted into second, one second back, with Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) in third, at three seconds.


Jasper Stuyven rests in ninth (+10 seconds).


“I am disappointed we were not more represented today,” ended Demol. “Condition-wise, we are okay, but today it looked like we still have work to do. But it was good to see that Jasper was again there. Now we have the time trial tomorrow and it’s too bad that Fabian is out of the GC.  But okay, now we just change our focus a little, and we will be back to fight again.”



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