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"Today I had extra motivation for Igor Decraene who was killed a week ago. He was a good friend. I had looked at the road book and pinned this stage as one where I might be able to try and win for Igor."

Photo: Trek Factory Racing




05.09.2014 @ 20:27 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Riding his first grand tour, Jasper Stuyven was again in the mix when he joined the early break in today's stage of the Vuelta a Espana. In the end, the finale was a bit too hard for the determined Belgian who wanted to win the stage for his friend, fellow cyclist Igor Decraene who died a few days ago.


Trek Factory Racing has been searching for a big result at the Vuelta a España. There have been plenty of sparks, including the opening day team time trial where Trek Factory Racing finished fourth despite the entire team crashing in the course reconnaissance earlier in the day; Jasper Stuyven, 22, twice finished in fourth place against some of the world’s best sprinters; and the individual time trial proved again the team has strong legs with Fabian Cancellara, Jesse Sergent and Bob Jungels all riding to top 13 places.


But today in the finale another opportunity was missed and Luca Guercilena pulled no punches in expressing his disappointment at stage end:


“It is evident that on some finish lines we are not competitive as we should be. We know our limits but the wish to fight for victory must always be present.”


Trek Factory Racing began stage 13 with plenty of fighting spirit. Soon after the flag dropped to begin the 188.7-kilometer hilly stage a large bunch absconded, and Yaroslav Popovych and Jasper Stuyven were part of the group keen to ride a daylong escape. 


The breakaway was forced to ride at a breakneck speed with the gap hovering at 60 seconds as the kilometers ticked over. The carrot at the end of today’s stage was a sharp uphill finish, and certain teams had an eye on a stage win. The hunt was on.


The break’s intense effort dropped a few riders, including Popovych, and 11 men rode on, valiantly trying to snap the taut rubber band to the pursuing peloton.


Finally the chase behind eased and the gap swelled to almost three minutes, not more.


The parcours pitched upwards in the final 90 kilometers, and on the third of three categorized climbs the break split.  Five men rode clear, while Stuyven pushed hard just behind to keep pace. He was eventually swept up by the Orica-led peloton.


“It was a small road to start so we knew that there was a good chance that if the right people were in the front that [behind] they could block it immediately, so we went from the start," he said. "It was a good group, maybe 17, and we had to work hard because the peloton kept going. After 10k we hit a pretty hard climb and we went hard and ended up with 11 after that. We lost Popo there and of course it would have been better with two, but in the end it was hard and they did not let us go, and that is a little bit of a pity.


"But the peloton kept us close so [Alexey] Lutsenko attacked at the bottom of the category two climb. I tried to go to my pace and for a while I was holding 15 seconds to the five guys, but it was just too hard of a climb for me. I think if the break had more time they would not have had to attack so hard on that climb, and there would have been more chances [for me] to finish it off. But it didn’t happen.”


The fight intensified to the final kilometers into the Cabárceno Natural Park, and the five leaders were eventually brought back. The three successive climbs had pared the peloton but Trek Factory Racing had Fabio Felline, Haimar Zubeldia, Kristof Vandewalle, and Bob Jungels still in the mix for the uphill finale.


In the end Bob Jungels was the highest finisher in 41st place, arriving with a 23-strong select group 20 seconds back of the stage winner (Daniel Navarro of Cofidis). For Jungels, who has been struggling to find his legs back since a series of crashes, it was a positive omen ahead of the next three mountain stages.


“Today I had the best feeling of the race so far and it was a pity that I did not make it into the break," he said. "It was so stressful in the beginning, and also again in the end, and after my crashes I am not willing to take the same risks on the bike, so I had some troubles to get a good position. But overall I am happy with my performance and can build this up for the next days.”


The spirit Trek Factory Racing displayed at the start had subsided by the finale; although the steep climb to the finish suited explosive climbers, and Julian Arredondo - who has been struggling to find some sort of form - was not in the game, the team’s desire to throw everything but the kitchen sink into the battle at stage end was inexplicably missing.   


On the other hand, the young team has shown plenty of glimmers in the Vuelta, and Jasper Stuyven is proof of that. Perhaps it may just be a matter of time, or that the stars just need to align again for Trek Factory Racing, but the game is far from over. There are plenty of stages, and chances ahead, and although fatigue is evident the fight is not dead.


“I am definitely feeling that we are 13 stages in, but I am still motivated and not completely done," Stuyven said. "I was suffering a little bit with my back, but I kept telling myself to suck it up, pedal a little bit harder and the pain will go away.


"Today I had extra motivation for Igor Decraene who was killed a week ago. He was a good friend. I had looked at the road book and pinned this stage as one where I might be able to try and win for Igor. It did not work out in the storybook ending, but Igor was in my thoughts.”



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