Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) remains on course for final overall victory at the Tour of Qatar after a solid showing in Tuesday’s stage 3 time trial at Lusail. The Dutchman finished the 10.9km test in fifth place, 8 seconds down on stage winner Michael Hepburn (Orica-GreenEdge) but extended his lead in the general classification to 21 seconds.
"Finishing in the top five in a time trial is always good, especially when you see who the riders in front were," said Terpstra, who was just two seconds slower than Fabian Cancellara (Trek) on the flat, windswept circuit.
After setting out into a crosswind, riders were pushed along by a stiff tailwind through the middle section of the course, before turning back into a headwind toward the finish. The early starter Hepburn gauged his effort well, and was comfortably the quickest over the back end of the course, but Terpstra was happy with his own display in the conditions.
"I feel good but a time trial is never easy," he said. "I was always fighting against the time, against the wind, but I felt I had some power on the pedals. But you only know in the end how you did when the time shows up. I'm really happy I still have the lead in the GC."
Terpstra’s advantage over Jürgen Roelandts (Lotto-Belisol) now stands at 21 seconds, while his fellow countryman Lars Boom (Belkin) moves up to third overall, 24 seconds off the gold jersey. Always well-placed when the peloton has split into echelons thus far, Boom’s strong time trial showing was a further indication of his form, and Terpstra is mindful of the dangers he faces in the days to come.
"It’s never a surprise that the wind is the biggest point, so I have to be awake all day, together with my team. I can’t miss a group, I always have to be in the first group to defend the jersey," said Terpstra.
Fresh from his second successive victory at the Rotterdam Six, Terpstra is a perennially strong performer in the opening weeks of the season. Twelve months ago in Qatar, for instance, he was a regular man of the match performer in Mark Cavendish’s march to overall victory.
After claiming victory on the opening stage at Dukhan Beach, Terpstra is in the box seat for Omega Pharma-QuickStep this time around, although Tuesday’s time trial was another illustration of the strength in depth at the Belgian team, as four of their number finished in the top 15 on the stage.
Tom Boonen, who won Monday’s stage, lies in 4th place overall, 28 seconds down, and he declared himself pleased with the Omega Pharma-QuickStep showing. "We had a few guys in the top 20 again so it’s looking good for the upcoming stages," he said.