Jasper Stuyven made a gutsy attack with three kilometers remaining in stage seven at the BinckBank Tour Sunday and successfully held off the chase to grab a magnificent win and move into third place in the overall classification.
It was a cunning move and came at a perfect moment at the top of the penultimate uphill and after numerous attacks in the last lap had been chased back. One moment of hesitation amongst the competition was all Stuyven needed; he quickly opened a gap as everyone looked to the others to chase.
"I didn't plan the attack, I went with the moment," said Stuyven. "I was near the front on the last climb and saw some gaps were opening and so I decided to just go for it. I actually didn't feel that good today, but I knew that everyone was probably feeling the same after such a hard week of racing, so I just decided to try."
Stuyven gained 10 seconds on a chasing group that numbered around 30, but the uphill to the finish still loomed. It was going to take a grisly effort to hold off the likes of Greg Van Avermaet, Peter Sagan, and Philippe Gilbert amongst others.
Stuyven still had a handful of seconds' lead with 200 meters to go, and he threw everything he had into the pedals as the cobbled road pitched ruthlessly steeper.
"I didn't know how much time I had, I just told myself to just go all-in and not think of anything else," continued Stuyven. "I still felt I had something left for the uphill, and I looked back with 150meters to go - I probably looked back a little too much - but then I knew that I was going to hold it. The final 200meters were really hard; I was completely empty after the finish."
Two stage wins, a second, a third, third overall, and winning the team GC. Yeah, it was a great week, and I am a happy man!
One final glance behind with 25 meters to go and Stuyven knew the victory was his.
A solo attack in the final kilometers of a race is one of the most courageous and hardest ways to win. It takes a solid mental and physical aptitude; a rider needs confidence but also the legs to match. Stuyven proved this week he had both, and a strong, cohesive team backing him.
"The whole team worked well again, all week, and today Mads (Pedersen) was a machine. We came here with ambitions for the GC for me and Edward (Theuns) with the sprint. In the first stages I helped Edward out, which resulted in a victory for him, and then the team protected me very well in the last three days. I was always there, and I could move up in the GC, but I also could take a stage win," said Stuyven, then added: "It was a great week with great teamwork."
Trek-Segafredo also won the team classification, capping a successful week of racing that included two stage wins and third place overall. Director Dirk Demol echoed Stuyven's praise of his teammates as he summed up what turned out to be a fantastic BinckBank Tour.
"What can I say?" exclaimed a pleased Demol. "We came with ambitions, and I knew that we had a strong team here. They were ready to go every day to the fight with each other. It's also the first time that I appointed Jasper as the leader in a stage race, and he got a more than deserved stage win and third overall. Also the other nice results all week – seventh by Matthias (Brändle) was our worst result, and if he had not crashed in the recon, that too could have been more. Two stage wins, a second, a third, third overall, and winning the team GC. Yeah, it was a great week, and I am a happy man!
"Today Matthias and Marco (Coledan) completely sacrificed themselves until the circuits, until kilometer 135-140, and then their work was done. They did a fantastic job so not once did the others have to take a pull in the wind, and then we had six fresh guys to start the local circuits.
"Everybody played a part. We lost Ruben (Guerreiro) on the circuits, he wasn't far behind, and he did very well for his first time on this parcours. The final selection was 35-40 riders, and we still had five in there: Boy (van Poppel), Gregy (Rast), and a super strong Mads, and when Jasper attacked, Edward was there to help slow things down behind in the group. It helped just enough so Jasper could win by one second. It was pure teamwork, not only today but the whole week. They did really, really, really, really well!"