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Stuyven was one of the many riders in the peloton to fall ill in the past few weeks and had to pull the plug on his Milan-San Remo defense, leaving Mads Pedersen to take lead for Trek-Segafredo as he watched from home.
It was a tough call for the Belgian to make, but not riding the longest one-day race in pro road racing gave him a chance to take a step back and avoid running himself down further.
“I would say that I’m in the right place. You never know with the decisions that you make, but hopefully, it will have the right outcome,” Stuyven told VeloNews. “To be honest, I really feel like I made the right choice. I was feeling good in training this weekend and I could just do my own tempo and I didn’t have to go crazy like for a race like San Remo.”
Large swaths of the peloton have been struck down by some ailment or other in recent weeks, mostly either bronchitis or stomach flu. Stuyven picked up the latter, most likely at Paris-Nice where just 59 riders completed the race.
— Jasper Stuyven (@Jasperstuyven) March 17, 2022
Though he may still have been able to line up at Milan-San Remo, Stuyven didn’t want to go in at anything less than full strength and end up being shelled from the bunch before the race really got going.
“I had some stomach problems, stomach flu let’s say,” Stuyven said. “I don’t think that I got the full hit, but it was good enough not to be 100 percent for San Remo and I didn’t want to be in the position of Pidcock and getting dropped on the Capo Berta. I didn’t feel like that was going to do me any good for the rest of the classics.
“I’m happy to be healthy again and it’s good to be at this race to get some speed in the legs.”
Following the unexpected short break from racing, Stuyven got right back into it with the one-day Brugge-De Panne. With so many top sprinters lining up in Bruges, getting into the podium places was always going to be a struggle but he showed he does have some speed in the legs with ninth place.
Despite the illness, he has been able to maintain a good training schedule over the last week.
“In the end, I only had to miss one day. Of course, after Paris-Nice I had to take it easy and then I lost one long training and then I did a training session like a test when we decided that we were not going to race San Remo,” he said. “I’m happy that I didn’t lose too much, and I was on the bike this weekend and I didn’t feel like I lost any form. It was good to have the reset for the body, and hopefully, it will pay off.”
Illness is still taking its toll on the pack and Pidcock has had go back to the drawing board with his spring calendar as he tries to recover from stomach flu. Meanwhile, Caleb Ewan was ruled out of Brugge-De Panne due to being sick and several riders have had to drop out of the Volta a Catalunya this week due to illness.
Stuyven believes that the measures to protect people against COVID-19 over the last two years have meant that riders’ bodies, which are already on the limit, are less resilient when it comes to other illnesses.
“I’m not a doctor, it’s not up to me to say why and how but I think that it’s not a secret that we have been going around with masks for two years and we didn’t build any immunity, and everyone is picking it up,” Stuyven said. “It goes quite fast I think, and you put your body under pressure and stress during a race, so your immune system is already a little bit lower so it’s easy to pick something up.
“I’m still going to be a little bit careful and watch out because I don’t want to get it a second time.”