Jasper Stuyven Calls Worlds Nearly Failed “One of the Best Days of My Life”

To hell with the critics, Jasper Stuyven still considers the world championships in Leuven and the near-accident for the Belgian national team as one of the highlights of his career.

Despite at times sharp criticism after the race over Belgian tactics, Stuyven said he didn’t feel too bitter about finishing fourth and missing out on a medal on a day when many expected Belgium to report. the rainbow jersey.

“Knowing how the race went, I have no regrets,” Stuyven said on a recent media call. “I had one of the best days of my career.”

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While the experience of racing on national roads was good enough for him – Stuyven was raised and calls Leuven home – the performance of the Belgian national team continues to shake the fan base and the Belgian media.

Many of the top 10 lists published in the year-end stories rank the world championships, and what many have called a tactical error by the Belgian national team, as one of the best stories of 2021.

Jasper Stuyven defends Belgium’s tactics at World Championships

Van Baarle and Valgren approach Stuyven at the finish. (Photo: David Stockman / Getty Images)

Stuyven ignored criticism from the quarterbacks and insisted that the Belgium team did their best under the circumstances.

“I think Julian was having a very good day, and the stronger rider won,” Stuyven said at a recent team camp in Spain.

Belgium’s tactics were built around Wout van Aert, but the typically reliable all-rounder fell flat in the final decisive laps.

With Remco Evenepoel already burning his matches in an earlier move – a tactic that continues to boil in Belgian media – it was up to Stuyven to run for home glory.

When eventual winner Julian Alaphilippe jumped in the final laps to win with a thrilling solo attack, Stuyven had the legs to join a four-rider chase squad that also included American Neilson Powless, whose fifth-place finish was the best. America’s elite men’s world result with nearly two decades, and eventual medalists Dylan van Baarle and Michael Valgren.

Although he insisted he was not looking for excuses, Stuyven said his extra efforts to lure van Aert, who ultimately waved him over, may have cost him a podium spot in the final sprint to four for two medals.

“In theory I’m the fastest, but it was such a tough, tough day,” said Stuyven. “If you look at how the race went then you put that next to the efforts I had to make to close the gaps even in the first lap of the final in town, I put a lot of effort there -low.

“Then it’s just about being the freshest at the finish line,” he said. “You could see [the others] had an easy way to get into Leuven. I’m not going to say that was the only reason, but that half wheel could make the difference in whether I win the medal or not. They really didn’t need to work or fill in gaps. If you look at how they ran in the final it’s these little ones [efforts] it made the difference.

Running in front of a million of his best friends

The illustration photo shows the Leuven Town Hall during the elite men's road race of the 2021 UCI Flanders Road Cycling World Championships, 268.3 km from Antwerp to Leuven on Sunday, September 26, 2021. The Worlds take place from September 19 to 26, 2021, in several cities of Flanders, Belgium.  BELGA PHOTO POOL KRISTOF RAMON (Photo by POOL KRISTOF RAMON / BELGA MAG / AFP via Getty Images)
Fans have come in droves to watch the worlds. (Photo: KRISTOF RAMON / BELGA MAG / AFP via Getty Images)

Stuyven has said that despite the controversial final, competing at the world championships on national roads in front of around a million fans will be one of his personal highlights.

And that says a lot for the rider who surprised the favorites to win Milano-Sanremo in a daring raid to win his first career monument in March.

“For me personally, I thought about the [worlds] like one of the best days of my life because I was running in my hometown, ”said Stuyven. “There were so many friends and family on the road, and I got goosebumps a few times during the race. I prefer to remember the positive vibes and the incredible experience that I will probably never have again. “

In September, COVID-19 appeared to be loosening its grip on Europe.

Health restrictions have been relaxed, and after more than a year of watching their heroes race on TV, Belgian fans have turned out en masse look at the worlds in person.

An estimated one million fans came to watch the elite men’s road race.

For Stuyven, who also owns and operates a chocolate factory in Leuven, running on national roads was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and he wanted to imbibe it as best he could.

He also knew he had a job to do.

“I tried to block it,” he said of the massive crowd. “I thought to myself that maybe I would do the first or the second lap, so that I can take that into account, and look for the people I know by the side of the road, so that I can focus on the race by final, that’s how it happened.

Medal or not, the worlds of Stuyven were unforgettable and savored.

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