After a stressful day with crosswinds, stage three at Tirreno-Adriatico ended with the expected bunch sprint. It was a finish that suited Jasper Stuyven, and he was positioned perfectly inside the final kilometer after great teamwork. Then disaster struck.
"It was really chaotic out there," explained Stuyven about the finish of stage three. "It was a tailwind and very fast, and there were a lot of teams fighting. We were there perfect, and then some guy tried to squeeze by me in no space at all! He hit me and crashed into a guy on his left, and my front wheel was completely broken, so my sprint was done."
Although Stuyven managed to stay upright, behind a chain reaction caused numerous riders to fall, including teammate Fabio Felline. Felline fell hard but could get up and finish. A post-race analysis revealed scrapes and bruises and a very sore left foot.
I was there to help Jasper for the sprint, I felt good, he felt good, and we were surfing the bunch, as they say, going from wheel to wheel.
For Stuyven, who was feeling good and in prime position before the crash, it was a massive chance lost.
Stuyven: "The last 50 kilometers I was feeling better and better and better. Koen (de Kort) kept me in perfect position for the entire finale, I was not one second in the wind, and I was feeling really good. This finish is something I like; it’s a long sprint, longer than 15 or 20 seconds, and it's something I am better at, so I was really looking forward to it. I was confident, we were there, I hadn't spent any energy, and then it's over in less than a second. Today was a big chance, there are not a lot of opportunities this week, so it's a big disappointment."
While Stuyven and Felline limped across the line, leadout extraordinaire Koen de Kort, who had lost his cargo, did the best he could and finished in 12th place.
"It was a bit of a nervous day, and when a big group went we knew it was going to be a high pace all day, "explained de Kort about the race. "We heard from Ivan Basso that it was open and windy in spots on the course, and I think the whole peloton knew the same, so it made it stressful, but we were always there, staying together with the whole team. Bauke (Mollema) impressed me today. He is a climber and not an echelon specialist, but he looked like one today!
"I was there to help Jasper for the sprint, I felt good, he felt good, and we were surfing the bunch, as they say, going from wheel to wheel. We were in a perfect spot going into the last kilometer, and then Jasper basically gets crashed off my wheel. He just managed to stay upright. I looked back and saw Jasper wasn't there and tried to go again, but I didn't have all much left in my legs at that point.
"It's a bit of a deception with [his crash]. There was definitely a good chance for him today, and at least he shows he is in good shape for the Classics, and I believe I am as well."
Bauke Mollema avoided the crash and finished safely with no time loss. Mollema sits in 25th place overall (+57") ahead of the queen stage tomorrow.