Instead of racing Sunday at the Tour of Flanders, the classics star will be sitting at home, wondering if and when he will be racing again this season. The coronavirus crisis stopped the spring classics, but Stuyven is hopeful they can be rescheduled later this season. VeloNews caught up with Stuyven on what it’s like to be at home instead of racing the northern classics:
VeloNews: How important was Flanders to your racing calendar?
JS: Flanders wasn’t particularly so important. I think for me, as a classics rider, all the classics are important, so I don’t really see Flanders as the one. I always look to the classics as a whole, all the races together. But still, it was a big goal for the year.
VN: What was your reaction to hearing that Flanders was canceled?
JS: Actually, because Milan-Sanremo was already canceled and we were having a hard time in Paris-Nice, then E3 and Gent-Wevelgem were already canceled, so it was not the first big race that was canceled. So I don’t think it came as a surprise for me. It also wasn’t a big hit because in my head it was already canceled when they started to cancel E3 and Wevelgem. Of course, it’s not nice to hear but at that point most of the classics season was already ruined.
VN: How optimistic are you that the races will be rescheduled later this season? What would be the ideal date for your preparation?
JS: Ideal date for me and my season would be 2021, or just this year. I don’t think there is an ‘ideal’ preparation. At this point, there are so many scenarios that you can work out, but as long as you don’t know when we will start racing again and when we will be allowed to go for training camps and go training outside, there isn’t a lot to plan in my opinion.
Of course, I hope that the races will be held at the end of the year — I think it’s good for cycling. I think cycling needs to have the monuments ridden. I have no idea, really, when would be a good time because it’s not even clear if the Tour de France will take place — or if it will be shortened or delayed — which would have a big impact on rescheduling the other races. I think it’s up to the UCI teams to find a good moment in the season and the race organizers if they are willing to reorganize.
VN: Flanders is such an important cultural icon and social event for the region — what will it be like to not host the race this weekend?
JS: I have no idea; I will not be there. It actually comes back to the same thought — we’ve been in lockdown for three weeks, I’m really not busy with thinking about how it would be cycling through the people and the crowds. We have been missing the classics, all of them, so it’s not like I’ll be crying on that particular Sunday. It’s over and we’ve already known for three weeks; it’s not like it is fresh news, that would be different.
VN: What does Flanders mean to you as a rider? What was your first Flanders memory as a kid watching?
JS: Like I said, Flanders is not the one and only race in the classics. I look forward to them all; I also really love Roubaix, Wevelgem, E3, and Waregem. All are beautiful classics, if you can win one of them, I think it’s a really nice victory. Of course, it’s about the monuments and everything surrounding them, but I haven’t won one of them so I’m not going to say that I only want to win Flanders.
For me every classic is exciting, there’s always a lot of people on the road. At Flanders especially there are more people from sponsors because it’s a really big event. I think the first Flanders that I remember really well was Stijn Devolder winning in 2008, but that’s already pretty late. I’m not so sure, but that’s the memory that comes to mind.