After demonstrating his early-season form with an impressive shift in the service of Mark Cavendish at the Tour of Qatar, Niki Terpstra will be given the opportunity to ride in a leadership role for Omega Pharma-QuickStep at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday.
Although Tom Boonen will also be in action, he is short of racing miles after an elbow infection saw him make a belated start to the season, and directeur sportif Wilfried Peeters explained that Terpstra and Sylvain Chavanel would instead spearhead the Omega Pharma-QuickStep challenge.
“It’s giving other riders a chance to show what they can do,” Peeters told Het Nieuwsblad. “Niki Terpstra will have a free role, and with Sylvain Chavanel there too, we will certainly have a team that should be able to get a result at Omloop.”
The Dutch champion Terpstra has just completed the Tour of Oman and he was particularly prominent in the previous week’s Tour of Qatar, where he helped marshal Cavendish to four stage wins and final overall victory. Winner of Dwars Door Vlaanderen last year, Terpstra is looking to continue his progress this spring.
“Niki was very good for the past two weeks but that goes for the whole team,” Peeters said. “Niki has already proved that he can finish it off in races like this, such as last year at Dwars Door Vlaanderen. And that was without Tom Boonen.”
Peeters pointed to Lars Boom (Blanco), Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) and Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto Belisol) as the danger men for Saturday, and said that Omega Pharma-QuickStep’s tactic would be straightforward – “Just get as many riders as possible in the final.”
As for Boonen’s prospects, Peeters reiterated what the rider told reporters on his return from Oman at the weekend, insisting that “riding is a victory in itself, but he may be able to help his teammates.”