Wout van Aert says he didn’t want to waste his chance in the sprint by chasing Stuyven in Milan-San Remo 2021

Last year’s winner said it was hard to close down the eventual victor, as other riders were looking at him to work in the final 

Wout van Aert said he didn’t want to waste his chance in a sprint by chasing Jasper Stuyven in the final of Milan San Remo.

Jumbo-Visma rider Van Aert, the reigning champion in the Italian Monument, was among an elite 17-rider group that went to the line after the Poggio on Saturday (March 20).

While pre-race favourites Van Aert, Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix), and Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – Quick-Step), all made the final selection in the 2021 Milan-San Remo, it was Trek-Segafredo’s Jasper Stuyven who took the victory with a solo attack 2km from the line. 

Speaking after the finish, Van Aert said he struggled to chase down Stuyven as he wanted to save himself for the sprint. 

The 26-year-old said: “It was a fast descent on the Poggio and right at the bottom Jasper Stuyven went on the attack, which was a really good move. 

“Afterwards it was a bit hard for me to chase because I didn’t want to waste my chances in the sprint, and a lot of guys were looking at me and we just came up short.

“It’s always a difficult final 2km and today I gambled wrong.” 

Van Aert and Alaphilippe launched the decisive attack on the higher slopes of the Poggio, inside the last 10km of the 299km one-day race, but they were pursued by a sizeable group of riders who arrived at the top of the climb together.

With the likes of Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal), Van der Poel and Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) still in that group, Stuyven decided to go all in at the foot of the descent from the Poggio, establishing a gap and just holding on to victory ahead of Ewan.

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Van Aert was forced to settle for third: “It was surprising to me we were with quite a big group at the top. We attacked, I did and Alaphilippe did, but apparently it wasn’t fast enough to make a difference, still it was a good opportunity for me.

“I always have a good sprint after a hard race, but like I said it was difficult to take the right decisions in the end, nevertheless we have a good winner and I have to be satisfied with third place.”