While the Tour of California regularly does not greatly excite me, while checking the Cali startlist my heart went a little bit a flutter. There, in very final position of the cyclingfever startlist for the Bontrager Livestrong team: Jasper Stuyven. Also known as the next next big thing.
Now, you will all know by now that I have my favourites. And my favourites get me very excited. Sep Vanmarcke, Grega Bole, Thomas De Gendt... those are all immediate additions to my VDS team, no thought involved. So, consider this an early warning: in a year or two, when Stuyven joins the big boy peloton, he will be another one for that list.
Jasper Stuyven was born on 17 april 1992 in Heverlee near the university town of Leuven, in the province of Vlaams-Brabant (which to foreigners mostly means: not RVV-area). He first learned to ride his bike without training wheels on 21 May 1995, while living in Boutersem (still not RVV-area). After some dabbling in other sports (roller skating! track and field!) he joined his first cycling team in 2003: Olympia Tienen.
In his very first race, he podiumed. Only eight kids enrolled.
He kept on developing, in one of Lotto's gazillion development teams (Bodysol-Lotto Cycling Team Menen) amongst others. With them, in 2008, he became the Belgian champ in the newbie category (or whatever the category below juniors is called).
One year later is when the real magic happened, and I don't mean that in the creepy way they say on Cribs. Now racing for the Avia Cycling Team (previous home of Gijs van Hoecke, Tosh van der Sande and Guillaume van Keirsbulck), Stuyven won the world championships in Moscow, outsprinting, oh, I don't know, Arnaud Demare.
In his world champion jersey Stuyven won Paris-Roubaix, and you can ask Tombo, there are few things better than that. From the 2010 Offida junior world championships, Stuyven came home with a bronze medal (gold, Olivier Le Gac (Fr), silver Jay McCarthy (Aus)), making him only the third cyclist in history to get medals at two consecutive world champs.
In 2011 he joined the U23 category. It wasn't an easy year for him, but he still managed to come second in Paris-Roubaix espoirs (behind Argos' Roman Sinkeldam, ahead of Barracuda's Jacob Rathe).
The Tour of California will be Jasper Stuyven's first big race and I, for one, cannot wait.
Props to Jasper Stuyven for having such an insanely detailed bio on his website.