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Jasper Stuyven and his sometimes bumpy rise up the classics ranks

'Maybe I should do some media training, but I am who I am,' says Trek-Segafredo star.

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Jasper Stuyven promises to keep knocking on the door of the northern classics going into 2023 in his quest for another big win.

Along with Trek-Segafredo teammate Mads Pedersen, the Belgian helps form a formidable one-two punch across a variety of terrain and scenarios.

By his own admission, Stuyven is not a frequent winner, something he’s come to terms with over the years of close-calls and big wins.

“Of course, I’d like to win more races,” Stuyven said. “I’m still hunting for a stage victory at the Tour de France. And that combined with was another classic win be would be great. So it’s not easy.

“And I’ve been quite spoiled, let’s say in the last few years by always winning one classic,” Stuyven told VeloNews and Cyclingnews in a recent interview. “There was not a monument this year, but that doesn’t mean that I will not continue again next year.”

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Now 30, Stuyven counts nine wins on his palmares, and while there might not be many wins, there are some big ones.

The biggest one is Milan-San Remo, which he won in 2021 after attacking late coming off the Poggio.

“Milan-San Remo means wins a lot. And if you see to the past few years, I made my progress,” Stuyven said. “And then last year was very successful year and it’s just nice to continue the journey together with the team that makes you feel welcome. It’s a connection you have and it’s nice to to feel at home now.”

Stuyven also counts Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne on his list of victories.

Stuyven: ‘The classics are like the Tour de France’

ARENBERG, FRANCE - SEPTEMBER 30: (L-R) Mads Pedersen of Denmark and Jasper Stuyven of Belgium and Team Trek - Segafredo during the 118th Paris - Roubaix 2021 - Training Day 1 / #ParisRoubaix / on September 30, 2021 in Arenberg, France. (Photo by Bas Czerwinski/Getty Images)
Mads Pedersen, left, and Jasper Stuyven use their friendship to balance mutual ambitions. (Photo: Bas Czerwinski/Getty Images)

For Belgian riders like Stuyven, racing the classics is part of a cycle of every season.

For three weeks, starting with Brugge-De Panne in late March and all the way to Paris-Roubaix, the classics stars take over.

“It’s an intense period. Very tense, stressful, and, you know, everyone is at their best,” he said. “And for me, it’s a bit like a Tour de France. It’s a level where everyone is ready to fight and commit and go 100 percent. Mentally and physically, it’s a hard race because it’s ‘our races.'”

Stuyven turned pro at the end of the era dominated by Fabian Cancellara and Tom Boonen, and watched how the classics style of racing has changed into something more dynamic and explosive.

“When I started was still the end of Fabian and Boonen, and it was fully control until the last 20km,” he said. “And now, it’s completely changing. So I’ve seen I’ve seen the change.”

Winning doesn’t come often, but it’s sweet when it does.

“It’s kind of a special emotion that you feel. There’s nothing else but pure happiness,” Stuyven said. “You think about nothing else. So I don’t know if that’s still the case if you win 20 races a year. It’s not something in my position to answer that question because I’m not in that position to win a lot. I still have some big goals and vision.”

Stuyven’s also come close to other big wins and podiums, with top-5s at Paris-Roubaix, a fourth at the 2021 UCI Road World Championships on home roads — which he called “the best day of my career” — and other top-5s at the Tour de France.

After so many close calls to some very significant results, Stuyven is sometimes known to be a bit testy with the media who are quick to ask him about another near miss.

Stuyven: ‘I am who I am’

Stuyven celebrates a win at Milan-San Remo. (Photo: Dario Belingheri / POOL / AFP)

Stuyven admitted it’s not easy answering the pesky questions sometimes, but also said he doesn’t want to hide his emotions at the heat of the moment.

“I know at that point, I’m disappointed. But in one way, if I would react with a fake reaction, it would not be real. We get criticism sometimes that we are not real. And then when I’m real, I get the reaction that I should show respect.

“Maybe I should do some media training, but I am who I am. And I always be authentic,” Stuyven said. “It’s who I am.

“That’s also maybe the beauty of the sport that we are really there we are really approachable. But that also means we’re not always smiling, and we can also have bad days,” Stuyven said. “I am not going to apologize for for when I’m really disappointed.”