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The Paris-Roubaix stage in the 2022 Tour de France was highly anticipated by both riders and followers. Most GC-riders tend to fear the cobbles whereas the classics specialists target this stage as their hope for glory. On Wednesday, team Trek-Segafredo’s Jasper Stuyven showed off his pavé-riding skills when he blasted away from the peloton 20km from the finish.
The 30 year-old Belgian finished in the top-five in Paris-Roubaix twice, a race that he clearly loves and targets.
Unsurprisingly he also targeted this Tour de France stage.
“I’ve had a great build-up with the Critérium du Dauphiné and the Belgian national championships. I took it easy during the first few stages of the Tour and focused on this stage. I showed that I’m good. It’s not a guarantee to be successful but it’s nice to ride in the peloton knowing that you’re ok,” Stuyven said.
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Only one rider was capable of keeping up with the 2021 Milan-San Remo winner on the pavé and that was a certain Tadej Pogačar.
Stuyven wasn’t surprised to see the two-time Tour champion mark his wheel.
“For me, no. He already showed in Flanders what he’s capable of on the cobbles. He proved once again that he’s a very versatile rider. He doesn’t need to be afraid of anything. He already accelerated a few times on the cobbles or was there when there were accelerations. For me, it wasn’t a surprise. I just did my acceleration and when I looked behind I saw Tadej. I was happy he pulled with me,” Stuyven said.
He did regret that Pogačar did not commit more to their attack. Stuyven didn’t want to say whether that was intended or not.
“You have to ask him. I can only say that I felt like I was the best among the two of us, both on the cobbles and on the asphalted roads. It’s up to him to say if he was on the limit or didn’t want to ride full gas. Obviously, I don’t want to play down his capabilities but I don’t think he was enjoying a super day. I was clearly the stronger rider among the two of us. Maybe if we both would’ve been at the same level it might have been possible to catch the breakaway, but we’ll never know about that,” Stuyven concluded.
The breakaway group of six riders never gained much more than two minutes on the peloton but then there was the crash of race leader Wout van Aert. The pace in the peloton dropped to allow him to return. Meanwhile the breakaway suddenly enjoyed a bonus of more than four minutes. That gap crumbled to about a minute and that’s when Stuyven attacked.
“It was a very fast stage. For us it was a disadvantage that the cobbles were only coming up after 80km. In that way, the breakaway group got too big of a gap and in the end they stayed away. I couldn’t go too early. For a very long time the teams were pulling, for GC-guys or to control, like Quick-Step for Fabio Jakobsen at one point. You have to wait long enough. I learned in 2018 that you can’t go too early. When I made my move it was nice to have Tadej with me but of course the group in front was very strong and they worked together to stay away and they did,” Stuyven said.
When asked if his attempt with Pogačar lost momentum or the breakaway gained speed, he stated it was the latter.
“I don’t think we lost momentum. In front they probably realized that when we came back to 35 seconds that they had to keep it rolling if they wanted to play for the win, which they did. We knew straight from the start that it was a strong group but we gave them too much in the beginning of the race.”
Eventually, the breakaway held off the Stuyven-Pogacar move and sprinted for the victory with Simon Clarke (Israel-Premier Tech) getting the prestigious win in Arenberg. Stuyven won the sprint for second place at 51 seconds from the winner.
“Of course, for me, it’s a disappointment. It’s nice to be one of the strongest in the race but unfortunately it was only for sixth place. That’s a bummer. That’s part of the sport.”