“I’m a bit like Greg [Van Avermaet]. I can’t ride alone too well,” Stuyven said after the finish of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
On Sunday he didn’t know what to think about his solo ride. “It’s hard to acknowledge for me what just I did. I’m not the man of solo efforts.”
In the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday, Stuyven missed the right move on the Taaienberg. He made a counter-attack but that ended in a crash when he missed a corner. On Sunday his bandaged hands still showed the signs of that crash.
"I lacked the guts to fight on the Taaienberg. It was stupid that I missed the right move. Then I attacked, hoping somebody would join me but I was alone. I kept going, hoping somebody would eventually bridge up but it didn’t happen. I was talking through the radio with Dirk Demol and because of that I was slightly less focused. Suddenly I saw the motor bike swerving to the left and then I realized it was a dangerous corner. I slipped away," Stuyven told Cyclingnews.
Stuyven is one of Belgium’s biggest talents and he was the 2009 junior road World champion. In 2010 he won the junior edition of Paris-Roubaix and in 2011 he was runner-up in the U23-edition. In 2012 he rode in the Bontrager Livestrong Team and in 2014 he made the logical step to become a professional rider in the Trek Factory Racing team.
Last year Stuyven didn’t have a great spring classics campaign but in the Vuelta a España he captured a breakthrough bunch sprint victory in the stage 8 to Murcia. At this year’s spring classics Stuyven was expected to ride in support of the team’s classics specialist Fabian Cancellara who is riding his final classics campaign. Nevertheless Stuyven was offered a different role in the Belgian opening weekend as Cancellara opted for a different approach to Flanders and Roubaix. It was up to Stuyven to lead the way. On Saturday he missed his chance but on Sunday the Belgian rider morphed into Spartacus.
“We knew for a long time that chances were slim when Cancellara would start here. Way back at the training camp in December Dirk told me, 'Jasper, you’re my man for the Omloop and Kuurne'. Yesterday I lacked the guts to race on the Taaienberg. It forced me into a defensive position. Today I was always riding in the first groups. If there were splits I made the cut. Today I forced other riders in defensive positions,” Stuyven said at the post-race press conference in Kuurne.
"It’s great to win here in Kuurne. The year I was World champion I really wanted to win here because my grandfather had just passed away. It was the heroic edition won by Bobbie Traksel in the Elite category. I was halted by bad luck that day,” Stuyven said. The stormy edition of the Junior race was won by Dutch rider Paul Moerland and Stuyven – in the rainbow jersey – wasn’t able to pay tribute in his grandfather’s hometown. With an emotional tone in his voice Stuyven explained that his grandfather surely was a factor today. “Indirectly I thought about it today, that it was a nice revenge to pay tribute to him. My grandfather was a super fan of mine. He would’ve been extremely proud."
His grandfather Manuel Catteeuw would’ve been proud about the way Jasper captured his win. He marked every move, attacked at first time at more than 40 kilometres from the finish to create a first selection that also included Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), Tom Boonen (Etixx-QuickStep).
"The breakaway group wasn’t working well. I had Boy van Poppel working hard to keep it going but still the peloton was coming back. Dirk Demol told me to try something to bring down the numbers with a move in the crosswind. I went for it and nobody joined me. That’s how I started my journey."