As Trek-Segafredo’s designated Hammer Captain, Jasper Stuyven, will lead his team in their fight for glory in the Hammer Series this year.
Jasper, what has been your best moment on the bike this year?
This year? I don’t think I have had any good moments on the bike this year! [Laughing] But if I had to pick I would say Tour of Flanders. At least that day I felt in a better flow with everything.
What do you think about when you really suffer on the bike?
That depends. On bad days, you only think about the pain in your legs but on good days, you are actually able to think about anything but the pain. On training rides, when I need to go deep and suffer, I like to think about holidays or times with friends because that’s all non-cycling related. It’s a good way to shift the focus away from the pain in the legs.
If I called your coach and asked him in which aspects you could still improve what would he say?
Being better at listening to what he says! [Laughing]
You are Trek-Segafredo’s Hammer Captain this year. What do you think is a captain’s most important role in the team?
I would say to treat all equally. Everybody has his job to do and nobody is more valuable than others are when trying to achieve the overall goal.
How are you going to motivate your teammates then?
By letting them know that this is going be a war! Hammer is not like a normal race. You need to be ready from the get-go and always be aware of what’s going on.
What would you say is the best thing about the Hammer Series?
That it’s really exciting to both ride and to watch. In no other races do the spectators get to see 80 riders go flat out from start to finish. I have heard stories about guys who took maximum points on the first climb but then didn’t even make it to the finish afterwards because they blew up. For the fans watching, this is great. There is no waiting around. It’s a showdown from kilometer zero.
Can you think of a situation where you had to make a quick decision on the bike that changed the outcome of the race?
I remember two incidents from BinckBank Tour two years ago. On stage 3, Jempy Drucker attacked at the end and I had to think fast. I closed him down and my teammate Edward Theuns finished second in the sprint behind Peter Sagan. I know I started my leadout too early that day but had I not done so, we wouldn’t have brought back Drucker. The next day, the same thing happened. Yves Lampaert attacked on the last kilometer and I was forced to start my leadout early again. Only this time, Theuns won the sprint! These decisions, where you start pulling earlier than planned, need to be taken so quickly. Either you start your leadout early and pull back the rider in front or you don’t pull him back and you sprint for second place. You can’t hesitate.
When you find yourself in a select group with a rider you don’t know much about, what is the first thing you look for?
Hmm.. Probably which gear he’s in and if he looks comfortable. I think those are the most important things to look for.
Has anybody surprised you in that regard this year?
Not where I was in the races! [Laughing] But this guy Tadej Pogačar from UAE Team Emirates has been really impressive all season!
If you could get one quality from a teammate what would it be?
That’s a good question. Maybe being a little bit better at climbing or at sprinting. Actually, I would like to be like Toms Skujins. His climbing abilities are just good enough to make him competitive in hilly races. I’m not saying that I want to _be_ him [laughing], but if I could just have his climbing abilities, it would be great!
Last question. Imagine this scenario. You’re in a select front group with your fellow Belgians and Hammer Captains: Greg Van Avermaet, Tim Wellens and Philippe Gilbert. Only the four of you. You’re going under la flamme rouge. How will this last kilometer play out?
Hmm.. Let me think.. Okay! Tim will try to attack. Greg is going to pull him back and then Phil starts his sprint from pretty far out, around 300-350 meters to go I’d say. On the line, it’s going to be a close call between Phil, Greg and me - but I win, of course!