Stuyven opens Algarve with third place in bunch sprint


Jasper Stuyven confirmed his sprinting prowess with a strong third place behind Marcel Kittel (Etixx-Quick Step) and Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal) in a thorny finale in stage one of Volta ao Algarve Wednesday.

It was a straightforward opening stage of the five-day race in Portugal with the sprinters’ teams targeting a bunch finish and the overall contenders keeping tight control for the general classification.

“It was a hectic finale with a few crashes in the final local 17km loop,” said Trek-Segafredo director Dirk Demol. “Nothing big but in three different places and the team did a great job to stay out of trouble.

“Contador is here, Aru, Uran, so we knew things would be controlled by these teams, so we did not spend any energy to try and go into a breakaway today. In the end, we gave a hand to Jasper because he had already proved his condition is good, and he deserved it. And he took third behind the big sprinters of Kittel and Greipel – we have to be happy with that.”

Trek-Segafredo’s plan was simple: keep their energy for the finale where they would help Stuyven and with the experience of Fabian Cancellara, Stijn Devolder, Gregory Rast, Edward Theuns, Fränk Schleck, and Yaroslav Popovych surrounding the young Belgian, he was safely led through the chaotic final kilometers.

“The team was good staying in the front, so we stayed out of trouble with the crashes,” echoed Stuyven. “There was a roundabout at 1.4kms to go and a little kicker with 1km to go. There was a crash on the roundabout and part of the peloton went on the left, but we were supposed to go right, and I had to make a little effort here to get back to the front. But with 1km to go, I was on was on the wheel of Kittel and I managed to stay in his wheel until he launched his sprint. I was just trying to hold onto Kittel’s wheel, and he went over Greipel but I couldn’t. But the support of the team was awesome, and this gives me more confidence.”

Stuyven, 23, had his breakthrough win in August when he sprinted to victory in stage 8 at the Vuelta a España. It was also his final race of 2015 when it was discovered he’d won with a fractured scaphoid, and for 2016, he appears to be continuing where he left off. Stuyven flaunted early-season form in Mallorca and Dubai and capped that with his first podium Wednesday, a promising beginning to a new season.

“It’s a nice result,” added Stuyven. “Not only the sprint, but also I felt strong on the little kicker before, and it’s good for the head. Of course you try to win, but I can say that this is already a good start.”

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