Jasper Stuyven: Olympic Games are losing value for cyclists

Belgian critical of decision to limit the men's field to 90 riders

Clock10:38, Saturday 30th December 2023
Jasper Stuyven has yet to ride an Olympic Games road race

© Velo Collection (TDW) / Getty Images

Jasper Stuyven has yet to ride an Olympic Games road race

Jasper Stuyven believes that the decision to decrease the men’s field to 90 riders in the Olympic Games road race in Paris is a mistake and that some of the shine has been lost concerning the event.

To reach parity between the men’s and women’s disciplines, the governing body of cycling (UCI) and IOC (International Olympic Committee) reduced the men’s field to 90 riders - the same number of athletes that will take part in the women’s race, growing from 67 in Tokyo.

Criticism has been levelled at sports governing bodies for the small teams allocated to the races, with a maximum of four riders for the top nations in the world. Stuyven's Belgium have four spots for the men's events, with Remco Evenepoel and Wout van Aert set to lead the team.

Stuyven, who has yet to represent Belgium at an Olympics, believes that reducing the men’s field, while still asking the riders to race 273km, erodes the value of racing on show.

“By bringing the size of the peloton down, the Olympic Games are losing a lot of value for cyclists because it’s not a cycling race anymore,” he told GCN at the Lidl-Trek training camp in Calpe, Spain.

“Just to make it equal with the peloton of the women is just…. We have to do 290km with 90 riders, so I think it should be bike racing and not just thinking about having the same amount of competitors as the women.”

Stuyven isn’t the only rider to criticise the decision taken concerning the drop in field size for the men. According to the Belgian rider, the race, while unpredictable due to the lack of control, could also be over within the first hour.

“You can’t control that. It could be finished after 10 minutes. It could be like Worlds with a peloton going nuts or it could be a super boring race. After 10km, if riders from Belgium, and the Dutch go clear, and if eight riders attack who is going to chase? If one country misses it who will try and pull it back with just a few riders? It could be a race of eight guys from 20km. It’s just not nice for 90 riders. It’s a pity that this decision has been made but we have to deal with it and still try and make the team. I’d still love to go. I’ve not done the Olympics before and it’s a goal in the back of my mind.

“I’d love to go but we have to be realistic because there are only two spots. It’s quite hard to get in the team. We have four spots in total but Wout and Remco are on the team,” he added. 

Stuyven’s main focus in 2024 will once again centre on the Spring Classics, where he will lead the line alongside Mads Pedersen. Stuyven had a frustrating Spring this year, with 10th in Milan-San Remo his best result. Bad luck with crashes set him back and he was required to work for Pedersen at times.

The former Milan-San Remo winner has his eyes set on a successful return in 2024, with hopes that a top result in the Classics could propel him onto the team for the Olympic Games.

“The Spring, it wasn’t super for me. I had my share of bad luck in the Classics and I get judged based on those races. If you don’t perform there, for whatever reason, then you’re at the Tour and this year it wasn’t a race for the sort of rider that I am. At the end of the year, I was competitive and fighting for the win in the races that I did but if end up short then there’s nothing you can do about it. It puts a bad feeling on the season but you can do nothing about it,” he told GCN.

“I’ve been on the lucky side before, winning a Classic every year but now I haven’t for the second year in a row. It was all falling into place but now it’s the other side for me. I had those two crashes, five or six flat tyres and some bad moments,” he added.

During the off-season, Lidl-Trek strengthened the team in almost every area. Tao Geoghegan Hart signed for the American team and will target the Tour de France, while Jonathan Milan and Tim Declercq strengthened the Classics core.

“I’m still as motivated, that’s for sure. If I weren’t then I’d be slowing down but that’s not the case. There are still lots of nice things to achieve and in general, we’ve got a stronger team, not just for the Classics, but for everything. We have a lot of new guys and that’s exciting. We have Tim and Jonathan and you can’t compare them because they’re different but we’ve made the team stronger in every way,” Stuyven said.

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