Jasper Stuyven’s gutsy attack steals the victory at Milan Sanremo. He was an outsider for the win. He quietly waited. And his patience paid off.
Jasper Stuyven timed his winning move perfectly, jumping away from a group of favorites and fast finishers at the bottom of the Poggio. The favorites hesitated, eyeing each other out of the race, and Stuyven powered away to the biggest win of his career.
“I just knew I had to try, all or nothing. I prefer to do this than gamble for the sprint and finish in 5th or 10th place, so I prefer to go all-in. Most of the time it’s nothing; sometimes it’s all, and today it was all. It’s incredible. I don’t realize [what I’ve done] yet. I am just incredibly happy,” said Stuyven.
One rider managed to bridge to his wheel from the group. When Soren Kragh Andersen (Team DSM) came across, it actually helped Stuyven.
“In the last kilometer, I saw Soren was coming so I tried to recover a little bit before the chicane,” explained Stuyven. “That gave me 300 meters to recover a little bit and that was necessary. I was hoping he would pull through, and he did.”
With the group in a full-on, desperate sprint behind him, Stuyven gave everything. “And then I started the sprint,” continued Stuyven. “I had nothing left in the legs, but it was enough.”
Yes, it was.
Stuyven even had time to throw his arms high, punching the air for the grandest finish line celebration of his career.
“To be honest, there were a lot of fast guys in the group at the bottom of the Poggio, and I had the instinct that I know if I can find the gap, it’s my strength that I can have a good finale. They were hesitating and I took a lot of speed in the last part of the downhill from the Poggio, and that was only instinct,” added Stuyven.
“I was not going to go to the line with all these fast guys because you never know what you get. I actually said to a friend of mine that I was going to go all-in-all or nothing. There was no one with a teammate and that was also in my advantage. It was nice to find the moment and immediately have the gap and then just empty the legs to the line.”
Peter Sagan shows his form in strong performance sprinting to 4th in speedy Milano-Sanremo
It was going to be a massive day in the saddle for the riders at the 2021 Milano-Sanremo, with 299km to contend with in what has been regarded as ‘the sprinters classic’. Easily the longest race on the cycling calendar, riders would also have to ascend a number of climbs before the finale in Sanremo, the last of these being the famous Poggio, where the race always explodes one way or another. Even with the prospect of nearly seven hours’ racing, the break made their move as soon as the flag dropped to start the day, with eight riders building an enormous advantage of 7:30 with less than 20km covered. Even at this early stage, the peloton was spurred on to bring them to a more manageable distance, but it wasn’t until the race was three-quarters over and the climbing started that this gap dropped to less than two minutes. Here, Peter Sagan, Pascal Ackermann and Maximilian Schachmann were present in the main bunch representing BORA-hansgrohe and had done well to save their energy, protected by their teammates, before the speeds really ramped up – as if the peloton weren’t already covering the kilometers at a blistering pace. Maciej Bodnar, Marcus Burghardt and Daniel Oss were putting the pressure on the break, riding hard on the front of the bunch as the escapees began to fall off the back on the climbs, making the catch with 24km to go. Pascal took to the front on the Cipressa, before Marcus Burghardt battled to keep his teammates safe to the foot of the Poggio, where positioning was absolutely essential. Maximilian, Peter and Pascal were up at the front with the favorites here, the high speeds making an attack almost impossible, but when they came, Maximilian and Peter were ready, matching their rivals as the descent into Sanremo began, the bunch stretching and regrouping as the attacks came and were pulled back. The day was going to be decided by a sprint, and the Slovak rider put his pedal to the metal, surging to fourth in a super-strong effort, his teammates Maximilian and Pascal taking 14th and 20th respectively to mark an excellent ride from the whole team.
From the Finish Line
“It was a bittersweet Milano-Sanremo for me. On the one hand, I’m happy because I’m feeling better and my form is gradually improving, although there is still work to be done to reach a top level. On the other hand, I’m a bit angry because it was another Milano-Sanremo where I missed the chance to get a victory. We worked very well throughout the day, everybody in the team put in a great effort. When the attack was made on the Poggio, a small group went away and I was in the one right behind, together with other strong riders. We didn’t respond to the attack, either because we couldn’t or because we felt we would bridge the gap on the descent. In fact, the two front groups merged and it was clear we would go for a fast sprint finish. I gave my best in the sprint and finished fourth.
Photos – © BORA – hansgrohe / Bettiniphoto