"Afterwards you always say 'if, if' but I played as hard as I could," says defeated Stuyven

Belgian Jasper Stuyven’s massive 32-kilometre solo attack brought him agonizingly close to a Tour de France victory at Mende’s airstrip on stage 14.

The Trek-Segafredo rider “played hard” with his solo bid, but his legs were unable to push out enough watts to keep him free on the steep slopes leading to the airstrip where Brit Steve Cummings last won in 2015.

Stuyven was part of a large early escape that contained as many as 32-men and included the likes of Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), Philippe Gilbert and Alaphilippe (Quick-Step). The group had over 7 minutes on the peloton with 90 kilometres remaining.

When Stuyven attacked the group, his breakaway companions pulled him back at two kilometres remaining, right before the climb reached the runway finish.

“I felt good on the climbs, then Gorka Izagirre went. I had a plan to go early enough because I have nothing to lose,” Stuyven said.

When he had Gorka Izagirre (Bahrain Merida) and Tom-Jelte Slagter (Dimension Data) for company, he caught them distracted and went.

“I had three in the front, and when they were discussing, I went all-in to go for it. I had a good gap, but not good enough.”

“Afterwards you can always say ‘if, if’ but I played as hard as I could and went all-in.”

The final climb is also known as the Montée Frenchman Laurent Jalabert thanks to the Frenchman winning the national jersey on its debut in the Tour. The ascent pitches up at 10.2 per cent over three kilometres.

“After the first steep kilometre, I still believed in it because I had a good gap, but I felt my legs were empty. I tried to keep going and keep the cadence high, but the last steep kilometre of the climb, I was really dying.”