Jasper Stuyven left no doubt who was the strongest in the 59th edition of the Grand Prix de Wallonie Wednesday, leading himself out in the sprint with five men on his wheel and taking the win by a bike length.
It was the teamwork before the traditional finale climb up to Citadelle de Namur that played an essential role in setting up Stuyven, who clearly was on a good day. Notably, Niklas Eg who pulled for 120 kilometers on the front with a Cofidis rider to help control and bring back the five-man breakaway.
“It was really cool racing today – the team controlled the race the whole day, right from the start. Neo-pro Niklas Eg did really a perfect job. Our goal was to make the race hard, and we did, and the team put me in a perfect position at 25-30kms to go. I had really good legs, so I decided to make the race hard myself from that point onward,” explained Stuyven.
With Irish powerhouse Ryan Mullen putting Jasper Stuyven in a great position in the final 25 kilometers, Stuyven took the race in hand. His attack created the first big selection, and just when the decimated bunch began to claw its way back, he attacked again on a climb with 16 kilometers to go, drawing out a select group of nine, with five riders chasing furiously behind.
“It was a pity that in the finale a few riders came back, and I had no one there to help, but Michael (Gogl) was still suffering from the jetlag (Gogl raced the Canadian classics with Stuyven -ed),” continued Stuyven. “But I had good legs, so I didn’t panic. When Barguil went at 1.5kms to go, I knew this was the move I had to counter. I decided to keep going full gas, and obviously, this meant I was racing in the front really early, but I knew that if I could take the last corner first, not many would be able to pass me.”
The two groups came together ahead of the climb to the Citadelle de Namur – not an easy finish after 200 kilometers – and Stuyven looked to have put himself into a precarious position when five riders came back to his wheel in the last 500 meters after going all-in for the final two kilometers. But he continued to push the pace, taking the final sharp corner first, and jumping for the line. No one had an answer. He crossed the line with enough space to raise his arms and savor the victory.
“I felt really one of the strongest in the race today, and it’s a great feeling to finish it off and grab the win to thank the team for their amazing job,” added Stuyven.
“This was a big goal for me today, I know this race, I love this race and have performed well here as a U23 racing with the pros at that time. All in all, I have had good results in the last weeks, and that is motivating to keep going full to the end of the season. It’s not a secret that I would like to grab another win this season. There’s a few beautiful races in my schedule, and I want to give my all and grab my third win.”
Photo credit: Peter De Voecht/PN/BettiniPhoto©2018