Trek-Segafredo's Jasper Stuyven said that he had nothing to lose when he attacked from the breakaway on stage 14 of the Tour de France. Stuyven was caught by eventual stage winner Omar Fraile (Astana) just two kilometres from the finish in Mende, and less than a kilometre from the top of the final ascent.
It was a hectic start to the stage with echelons breaking up the peloton, and Stuyven was part of a 32-man group that managed to get clear on what was widely expected to be a day for a breakaway.
The 26-year-old Belgian later followed a move from Spanish national champion Gorka Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida) on the Col de la Croix de Berthel, and caught him – and Dimension Data's Tom-Jelte Slagter – with around 50 kilometres remaining. When Izagirre began talking with Slagter about working more, Stuyven seized his opportunity to go.
"There were echelons at the start, and a strong group managed to get away, and then we rode tempo on the climbs," Stuyven told the press in Mende. "Izagirre went, and I had a plan to go early because I had nothing to lose. It ended up with there being three of us in the front, and at one point the other two were talking, and I had a bit of a gap, so I went for it. I had a good gap, but not good enough in the end."
Stuyven had close to two minutes by the time he reached the final ascent of the Côte de la Croix Neuve, and for a few kilometres he thought he might have done enough to secure the win. But the last metres of the climb took everything he had.
"After the first steep kilometre, I still believed in it because I had a good gap, but I felt like my legs were empty. I tried to keep going and keep the cadence high, but in the last steep kilometre, I was dying," he said.
After being passed by Fraile, Stuyven was caught by Quick-Step's Julian Alaphilippe, and the pair tried to chase down the Astana rider. They crossed the line just six seconds down on the stage winner.
However, Stuyven wasn't prepared to get wrapped up in the what-ifs of the situation.
"If, if, if," he said when asked if he'd gone too early. "Those other guys [in the break] weren't pulling that hard, so maybe we wouldn't have got much time, and maybe they would have also dropped me on the climb. At the moment, it's only ifs. I went hard, I got my gap, and if I'd stayed with them, then maybe I wouldn’t have got such a big gap. Afterwards, you can say 'if', but I think I played it as well as I could. I went all-in."
Stage 15 from Millau to Carcassonne is another opportunity for the breakaway to take victory, so will Stuyven have another go?
"First I'll go for a massage, and then I'll think about it," he said.
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