Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) says that he barely missed victory in one of the few opportunities for him to win in this year’s Giro d’Italia when the stage finished uphill in the spa town of Terme Luigiane on Thursday.
Sulphur odours filled the air and the Belgian sat crushed on the ground metres after the arrival. Swiss Silvan Dillier (BMC Racing) had just pipped him from a breakaway on the uphill drag leading to the town. It took minutes, which seemed like hours, for Stuyven to stand again.
“You are tired after such a day in the sprint, but most of all because I’m just really, really disappointed,” Stuyven said.
“There aren’t that many opportunities, so you have to take them when they are there and that didn’t happen today, so it’s actually pretty… s**t.”
Stuyven escaped with four others early in the day racing from Reggio Calabria up the toe of Italy’s boot.
He had team-mate Mads Pedersen for company, Dillier, Simone Andreetta (Bardiani-CSF) and winner of stage one Lukas Pöstlberger (Bora-Hansgrohe). After Pedersen did work for Stuyven, Stuyven pushed to drop Andreetta.
“I wanted to get rid of him because he wasn’t really pulling hard and was always anticipating, it was hard to tell if he was saving it or was just tired,” Stuyven said.
“It was really hard stage, they said it was going to be tailwind, but it wasn’t really tailwind all the way. The finish was 8 per cent [gradient], which is pretty hard.
“I know Dillier is a strong guy, so actually I was paying attention to him. It’s not that I came to the finish thinking I’d do it, but it’s not nice to end second. It’s a little bit disappointing.”
After the climb up from the coastline over the two kilometres, Stuyven had had enough and got off his bike to gather himself.
“It’s normal that you wanted to just fall down to the ground,” Dillier said. “It was lucky that I had my soigneur and press officer to stabilise me when I arrived.”
The group of overall favourites arrived 39 seconds behind the escape. They had averaged the 217km stage at 43.688kmh.
“It was a really hard stage, over 200 kilometres, most of the stage we had tailwind, but this doesn’t make it easier, you always have to push the pedals.
“In the last couple of climbs or bumps we had to go really hard to stay away. It was for sure really tough, the sprint wasn’t easy as well.”
Pöstlberger led at 700 metres to go, Stuyven took over with Dillier in his wheel. Dillier timed it to the last minute.
La Gazzetta dello Sport compared the long stage with hilly final to Milan-San Remo. Dillier had the same Classics idea.
“It was more for a Classics guy, than sprinters, one who goes well in Flanders or Amstel Gold. In the Grand Tours, you don’t have many stages with this type of style, that’s why I took my chance to win.”