The second stage of the 2016 Tour de France from Saint-Lô to Cherbourg-En-Cotentin in the Normandy region was not only marked by the uphill sprint victory from world champion Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) but also by the surprising performance from 24-year-old Belgian rider Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo).
Stuyven was part of the long breakaway move of four riders. Per usual, there’s a rider in a breakaway group that survives just a little bit longer, but this time Stuyven did much more than that. While riding along the Normandy coastline towards Cherbourg-En-Cotentin he won the battle for the polka dot jersey. When approaching Cherbourg the three remaining leaders still had quite a large bonus. With only 10 kilometres to go the advantage dropped under two minutes and then Stuyven steamed away, clearly being much more fresh than his two breakaway companions. Stuyven battled fiercely on the undulating course and briefly seemed to be on his way to a surprise victory in his Tour de France debut. Any hesitation in the now-unleashed peloton could’ve been enough to get the stage win but it didn’t happen. When hitting the final kilometre the peloton was on his heels and at 450 metres from the line the peloton was blasting by.
Stuyven nearly managed to surprise the peloton with his strong solo ride, almost repeating his solo ride towards a surprise victory in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne at the beginning of the season. Even more than his performance it’s his approach and reaction afterwards that stand out. Most riders in their maiden Tour would be satisfied with the polka dot jersey and the combativity prize. Stuyven stated before the start of the Tour he wasn’t here just to fill the pack. After his strong performance in stage 2 he also wasn’t planning to be satisfied with his Tour if this stage would turn out to be his best performance. He’s not even impressed by the Tour circus, claiming it wasn’t all that special so far.
Stuyven is regarded as one of the biggest talents of his generation. He stormed into the spotlights by winning the 2009 Junior World championships in Moscow. In the following years he remained a strong force in the youth categories, winning Paris-Roubaix in the Junior category (2010) and finishing as runner-up in the U23 category (2011).
- Porte suffers ‘disaster’ at Tour de France
- Tour de France: Contador caught up in stage 2 crash
- Tour de France stage 2 highlights - Video
- Tour de France stage 2 finish line quotes
- Tour de France: Sagan takes uphill sprint to win stage 2
In 2012 he joined the American Bontrager-Livestrong team for his two final years in the U23 category. It reminds one of Tom Boonen, who surprisingly joined the US Postal team when he turned professional. While Boonen quickly switched back to the QuickStep team, Stuyven seemed to be pleased where he is. He recently extended his contract with the Trek-Segafredo team.
Stuyven captured his first big win in 2015, winning the sprint of a small peloton in the eighth stage of the Vuelta a Espana. Clearly Stuyven is fast when he’s reaching the finish line in a group. In Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne he learned that he’s also capable of finishing solo. Unsurprisingly, Stuyven is the next big thing in cycling crazy Belgium and created a large following; there are a few fan clubs already. Since 2015 he was also one of the young riders who were followed throughout the cycling season in a Belgian TV-documentary.
Any other young rider might go crazy under all this attention but Stuyven seems to be down to earth. He’s combining his cycling career with studies in communication sciences. He’s a good talker and also does that actively on Instagram and Twitter. The man can also be followed on Strava. This year he also launched a chocolate company – he’s clearly from Belgium – together with his uncle.
Brecht Decaluwé: It’s certainly not the last time we'll hear about Jasper Stuyven - maybe even in this Tour de France. The young man from Leuven is talented and eager enough to continue his improvement. He’s aiming high and seems to dislike it when others don’t expect him to do so. To me, he’s likely to become one of the strongest riders of the peloton. It’s hard to make a comparison with other riders but did I already mention that Fabian Cancellara is his teammate? Stuyven doesn’t like the comparison. There’s more than just luck in what he’s achieving, so a comparison with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory wouldn’t be right. What I like most about Stuyven is his open perspective. It’s great to see that he’s not only focusing on the bike but also on life outside the cycling bubble. No fear for a VDB-scenario here.