Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) successfully defended the overall race lead on the final stage of the Deutschland Tour to capture the first stage race victory of his professional career.
Although there were no big climbs on the finishing circuit, the twisty parcours had time bonuses on offer that, combined with the finish bonus seconds, would be enough to unseat Stuyven. And a gap in the final sprint would spell disaster for the Belgian. But when Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Merida), sitting 13 seconds in arrears and the biggest threat, failed to win the final intermediate sprint on the last lap, the 10 seconds for the win would not be enough, and Stuyven only had to focus on keeping everything tight for the sprint ending.
“I was really, really suffering the second-to-last lap, and to be honest I was not sure that I was going to be able to hold it,” said Stuyven. “But then on the last lap, the guys set the pace and then it was up to me to not lose a gap to Colbrelli. He could win the stage as long as there was no gap. And Toms made a great leadout, but I didn’t have a sprint left. To be quite honest, I was quite stressed today, and I think I could feel it in the finale. It’s just super especially after how I saw the guys give 110% to defend this jersey that I didn’t let it slip away.”
With the final time bonus out of the way, the Trek-Segafredo team came to the fore for the last kilometers. A late attack was negated by Mads Pedersen, and Toms Skujins took control in the leadout, positioning Stuyven at the front for the sprint.
Stuyven: “We knew it wasn’t going to be easy [to defend the jersey] and it wasn’t; it was super hard to get it under control. Sunweb made it hard in the two climbs in the middle and even after there was some danger for echelons. The final circuit there was a lot of turning, left and right, and accelerations, which made it really hard. We were super good in the front: Even after Julien (Bernard) and Richie (Porte) were dropped, they fought back and kept riding. Mads was amazing – everyone stayed in control. The team was just super today!”
Skujins provided the last big pull, and Stuyven finished it off with another 5th place – his third of the four-day race – and with it cemented the overall victory. His second place in Saturday’s Stage 3 was his highest stage result of the four stages, and it netted him the race lead; although Stuyven is more accustomed to throwing his hands in the air in victory, his consistency paid off with the overall win, something he had never experienced before.
“This is not the biggest win in my career, but the first stage win, and the first one of the season, which makes it special. I am super happy that we finished it off today. I have never experienced this feeling [of winning the GC], which makes it unique and adds something special to the nice feeling of winning,” said Stuyven.
“Some nice races are coming up – next week Brussels and the two races in Canada. And like all Belgians, I hope to part of the World Championships. So many Belgians have been winning lately, and now I also did.”