Paris-Roubaix winner Niki Terpstra has been racing the Tour of California this week for his first race back in the peloton since taking a short break after the Classics. The 29-year-old Omega Pharma-QuickStep rider said he's recovered "a little bit" and is using the stateside race to prepare for what could potentially be his sixth Tour de France this July.
"Tour of California is a nice race to get my legs moving again," he told Cyclingnews earlier this week. "I have some big races coming up this summer, and this is the start of preparing for that season. The focus gets on again and I need to get in top shape. I'm not sure if I'm doing the Tour yet. The team will tell us one week before the Tour starts."
The 10-year pro took his first Classics win at Roubaix back in April with a late-race attack that took him clear of a group that included all the race favorites. Terpstra attacked after the final sector of cobbles with six kilometers to go and soloed across the finish line at the velodrome in Roubaix. John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) won the sprint for second place, 20 seconds behind Terpstra, and Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) was third.
Terpstra grabbed the biggest win of his career on his seventh try at Roubaix. He finished third in 2013 and was fifth there in 2012, his second season with QuickStep. With team leader and four-time Roubaix winner, Tom Boonen, present in the front group, Terpstra followed team orders to go on the attack. His move stuck, and Terpstra hoisted the pavé trophy high over his head as he celebrated on the podium.
The move caused a bit of role reversal for Boonen, who finished third in the 2002 Roubaix while working in support of team leader George Hincapie on the US Postal Service team. Now Boonen, 33, is the established Classics rider on Omega Pharma, and Terpstra is the younger support rider who finished ahead of his team leader. But he said there is no inner-team rivalry among he and Boonen, instead they compliment each other.
"I've been racing with Tom for a couple of years now, and we race together really well," Terpstra said. "He's got his strengths, and I have my strengths. We make a perfect team. With all the other riders we are a good block, and we know what our strong points are. If we make good tactics together, then we have a chance for nice results."
Terpstra would like to get some strong results at the Tour de France, and he has several other targets for the rest of the summer. But his goal for the California race is to recover, prepare for the rest of the season and be a good teammate.
"I don't have any special ambitions here at the Tour of California," he said. "I just want to get in shape and help my teammates get good results."
But just like Roubaix, Terpstra will take his shot if he gets one. "If I see an opportunity," he said, "I will grab it."