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Jasper Stuyven: ‘Tour of Flanders is such a hard final and the legs will speak’

Trek-Segafredo tandem bracing for long-range attacks from key rivals at Tour of Flanders.

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WAREGEM, Belgium (VN) — Trek-Segafredo’s classics crew know they have to follow the attacks to have any chance of winning Tour of Flanders on Sunday.

Mads Pedersen and Jasper Stuyven are bracing for searing, long-distance surges from the likes of Tadej Pogačar and Mathieu van der Poel.

Stuyven said there’s only thing they can do: “Follow.”

“We know van der Poel, Pogačar, and [Tom] Pidcock, guys we know who are capable to race from far. There is no reason to sit back and try to be tactical,” Stuyven said Friday. “It’s never black or white.

“If you look at 2014 or 2015, people only talked about the last time up the Kwaremont. Now the last few years, there is a big selection on the Koppenberg and people already went there. I think that is already quite far out.”

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Speculation of when and where the peloton’s attackers might try to attack to make a move.

“We saw it already that they are not afraid of going a bit earlier. They will keep the same mentality on Sunday. Early doesn’t mean after 100km, but maybe after 160km or 180km,” Pedersen said. “They are not afraid of trying. We just have to follow.”

That is easier said than done.

Trek-Segafredo searching for big ride Sunday

Mads Pedersen is hoping for a big ride Sunday. (Photo: PETER DE VOECHT/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images)

Stuyven is trying to bounce back from illness that prevented him from defending his crown at Milan-San Remo, while Pedersen won twice early in the season, but has been wildly uneven across the spring’s major dates so far.

Trek-Segafredo will also race without Quinn Simmons, who posted three straight DNF’s after coming down with a cold after Strade Bianche and Tirreno-Adriatico. The American was flying in Italy but struggled to keep pace in the opening Belgian races. He’ll take the weekend off and try to take the start later this month.

With Wout van Aert likely out of the race Sunday, everyone is wondering which team might try to control the race.

“It’s a pity for him, but it doesn’t change our race,” Pedersen said. “I prepared pretty much the other years and I feel the same. Of course, I hope I have a good day, but I cannot tell you now.”

Stuyven said that without van Aert, the race will change, leaving a mix of top teams and favorites wrestling for the victory.

“We don’t know who is making it to the start line and who is not,” Stuyven said. “It’s a mix of teams. Ineos is one of them, we are one of them, you can never rule out Quick-Step. And Jumbo-Visma is still a pretty strong team, even without Wout. Without him, they are a little bit less strong. The day will decide which falls into the right place.”

Trek-Segafredo needs a big ride Sunday. Stuyven, who was fourth at Gent-Wevelgem, said he’s already feeling better.

Both riders are bracing for all scenarios on Sunday, from long-range attacks and reduced bunch sprints. The pair wants to be there, but no matter what happens, Stuyven said there are some things about Flanders that never change.

“To see a ‘mano-a-mano’ with 100km to go, which means before the second time up the Kwaremont, that would surprise,” he said. “I still think we’re in the peloton with a lot of strong riders. Never say never. You cannot not think about that scenario.

“Flanders is such a hard final and the legs will speak,” Stuyven said.