The young Dane became the 90th different rider to win a race in the Deceuninck – Quick-Step jersey since the team’s inception.
Kasper Asgreen dazzled on the gruesome stage 2 of the Tour of California – his first race since concluding a superb Spring Classics campaign which saw him take a richly-deserved runner-up place at Ronde van Vlaanderen – powering to a highly-impressive victory that catapulted him onto the overall podium.
It’s my first pro win and I can’t tell you how huge this is for me, especially as it came at World Tour level and on this brutal stage.
“I had a free role from the squad, and honestly, I was hoping to notch up a good result, but this is beyond anything I could have imagined before the start. I am very, very happy”, a delighted Kasper said at the press conference.
Coming from a land of ice and snow, from the midnight sun where the hot springs flow, the 24-year-old netted Denmark’s first success at the World Tour race at the end of a savage and punishing day, one of the toughest in the competition’s history, which packed in six classified ascents and over 4000 vertical meters that mercilessly shattered the peloton.
That didn’t stop Asgreen from constantly animating the 215km-long stage, going on the attack and forcing an important selection, while at the same time displaying the same remarkable grit that has led the Wolfpack over the years to a plethora of memorable wins, to which the one on South Lake Tahoe was added on Monday afternoon. Despite not sparing any energy when it came to sharing pulls at the front of the whittled down lead group, our rider was there when the decisive selection was made and just four men were left to fight for victory, inside three kilometers to go.
On paper, Kasper wasn’t the fastest sprinter in that group, but the young Dane showed the same composure and ability to make the right choice under pressure as Arya Stark when she single-handedly changed the outcome of the epic Battle of Winterfell, and measured his effort perfectly on the uphill drag, delivering a strong acceleration and holding off the likes of Tejay van Garderen (EF Education First) and Gianni Moscon (Team Ineos).
“I’ve been on the attack quite early today and even though the chasing group bridged across, I managed to hang on as more and more riders got spat out the back. On the home stretch, Tejay was the first to kick out, but I didn’t panic and felt that the best moment to open my sprint was as we came out of that corner, and even though it was longer than I wanted it to be, I could luckily hold it all the way to the line”, explained the first Danish rider to claim a stage victory at the Tour of California.
Asked by the journalists to give his thoughts on what had happened earlier on the day at the Giro d’Italia, Kasper – who on Tuesday will wear the points jersey – had a message for Elia Viviani and the rest of the Wolfpack: “I didn’t see the stage, just heard that Elia was relegated after winning. I am sad, because he is a great guy and would have deserved to take the stage. I hope that my victory here will give an extra motivation to the team in Italy and we’ll continue to amass many other great successes.”
Photo credit: ©Chris Graythen/ Getty Images