Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) got his classics campaign off to a perfect start as he won a two-up sprint over Yves Lampaert (Deceuninck-Quick Step) to claim the win in the first Classic of the season, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
“I told the team that we needed to be in the front all day, and I think the focus from start to finish was excellent; we were always there,” said Stuyven. “And I got to finish off today. Last year was a disaster, but this year is a good start. Today we showed as a team that last year was a mishap. We have a good group, and we finished the season well last year with Mads winning Worlds, and we were really motivated to keep this vibe going this year, We proved today that it worked out really well.”
The winning selection came perhaps unexpectedly early with 65 kilometres to go, and tt was a strong group of eight that moved clear, holding a two-minute advantage over the final 50 kilometres that never wavered much as the oomph gradually sizzled out of the chasing bunch behind.
“We said yesterday in the team meeting that the move could happen early in this weather, and with the crosswinds early on, there were already tired legs in the peloton,” explained Stuyven. “And then I was following some moves, and I saw a group going, and I saw all the big teams were there. I think it was very important to jump [into it] and not get into a defensive mode. Then I heard immediately in the radio that everything was slowing down behind, so it was a good group to go to the line with.”
But the Muur van Geraardsbergen still lingered. The iconic climb was decisive once again as over the top, only three riders emerged: Stuyven, Lampaert, and Soren Kragh Andersen of Team Sunweb.
“Steven (de Jongh, director) encouraged me to try on the Muur,” continued Stuyven. “I wasn’t feeling the strongest, but I also knew everyone was tired. Once we started the Muur and no one accelerated, I thought I would try to accelerate myself, and we would see what happens at the top – I only looked back at the top, and I think I made a good split.”
Coming into the final two kilometres, Lampaert and Stuyven traded blows, purging Andersen but not each other, and a sprinting dual decided the victor.
“After [the Muur] Soren was not really committed, and I was not sure if he was dying or playing a little bit, so it was hard – I didn’t want to do most of the work; I was not sure of the win, that’s for sure,” added Stuyven.
“Steven told me, ‘it’s your day, you’re the fastest, ’ and Yves was also telling me, “you’re the fastest,’ but I didn’t want to get overconfident. I was not 100 percent sure I would beat Yves in the sprint, but I managed it really well.
“When we started the sprint, Yves was on the left of my wheel, so I went a little more to the left and held my position, and I managed to close the door on him well.”
It was a massive win for Jasper Stuyven and Trek-Segafredo after two dry years in the Classics.
“In 2018, I was always there but didn’t win, and so of course expectations were high last year, from everyone and also myself, to take that win, and that went really badly,” said Stuyven. “It’s super nice, especially since it’s the opening classic of the season and after the super teamwork today and how everything fell into place.
“It’s really nice to have a victory in the pocket already as that makes me even more relaxed,” he added.