Jasper Stuyven says he knew he had to go “all or nothing” to beat an elite group in the final of Milan San-Remo 2021.
Stuyven, 28, said he realised he needed to try a long range attack as a strong group reached the top of the Poggio together, including Mathieu van der Poel, Wout van Aert, and Caleb Ewan.
Speaking after the victory, the biggest of his career, the Belgian said: “The final was going well, I was there on the Poggio but of course there was a lot of fast guys, so i knew that i had to try all or nothing, which I did.
“If I went to the line I might have finished fifth to 10th place, but I preferred to go all in and end up with empty hands, or go all in and take the biggest victory of my career.”
Heading into the race, all eyes were on Van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix), Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) and world champion Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – Quick-Step), as the favourites to take victory on the famous Via Roma.
But despite a stinging attack from Alaphilippe and Van Aert on the final climb of the day, the Poggio, a sizeable group held together on the descent, including bunch sprinter Ewan (Lotto-Soudal).
As the lead group hit the foot of the descent, Stuyven launched his move and was allowed to break free of his rivals, as only Søren Kragh Andersen (Team DSM) was able to bridge across.
After some half-hearted attacks from those behind, Stuyven was able to hold on to take the win with a minimal margin over Caleb Ewan, who led in the rest of the group.
On beating the favourites, Stuyven said: “There were three guys who are really strong, everyone knows, I think everyone talked about it. That didn’t mean we weren’t going to race for the win.”
He added: “I felt really good all day. The final was going well.
“I think the boys put me in the perfect position on the important parts of the parcours and I was feeing good, there was a good gap.
“The legs were empty at the end but if you win by one minute or one centimetre it’s enough.”
Milan-San Remo is Stuyven’s first Monument victory and he adds the result to wins in the 2020 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, the 2016 Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and a stage of the 2015 Vuelta a España.