Team Milram had many reasons to celebrate "a perfect day" at the end of the third stage of the Deutschland Tour Sunday. It was probably not so big a surprise that Erik Zabel won the stage and took over the sprinter's jersey. But going into the day, no one would have expected time trial specialist Niki Terpstra to take over the lead in the mountain ranking.
"It was a very good day," said the 37-year-old Zabel, who won his thirteenth Deutschland Tour stage. "I felt good underway. "I oriented myself on Gerald Ciolek the last two or three kilometres, because I had the feeling that T-Mobile with its four or five riders would be in the position to prepare the sprint. In the end I had a little luck and a little intuition, that it would work out. 250 meters before the finish line I still had the feeling that I was boxed in, was still on the rear wheel of José Joaquín Rojas of Caisse d'Epargne and actually just tried to get my front wheel free and find a hole."
"That with the points jersey is great, of course," he continued, on the team's website, team-milram.de. "Clearly I wouldn't have anything against the idea of wearing it to Hannover and winning it in the end. But there is a whole week of work in front of us. We have to look from day to day."
And how important was this win, in the overall scheme of things? "Whether that was my 199th or 200th win in my career? I don't think anybody really cares, that is more a personal thing."
His younger team-mate, the 23 year-old Dutchman Terpstra, broke away with Christian Leben of Team Wiesenhof after only 15 km. When they hit the Allerheiligen, a Cat. 1 climb, the German couldn't keep up, and Terpstra won the climb and continued on alone. He was also able to take the points on the second Cat. 1 climb, thus assuring himself of the mountain jersey. When he was caught by the first chasers, he bravely hung on until it all came back together and managed to finish only 1'3" down, in the second large group.
"I wanted to try it today," he said. "At first I was alone. When I heard that someone was coming up from behind, I waited. After all, there was still a long way to go."
"But I didn't have any illusions about the stage win. I knew that CSC would control things. But I speculated on the mountain jersey. I want to defend is as long as possible." It wasn't' all that easy for the young man, though. "At the end, it was just pain."