The post-mortem began shortly after Niki Terpstra wheeled to a halt outside the Hotel Fox, one street back from De Panne's sea front promenade. While the disappointed Dutchman quickly ducked inside the lobby, Omega Pharma-QuickStep manager Patrick Lefevere and his staff took charge of his time trial bike outside and assessed the damaged pedal that had cost him overall victory at the Three Days of De Panne.
Terpstra had been poised for overall victory before the afternoon's concluding time trial, but his chances were dashed almost as soon as his effort began, when his foot came out of his pedal as he rolled down the start ramp. Terpstra he lost over 10 seconds simply trying to clip back in and with them went all hopes of overall victory, which instead fell to his surprised teammate Guillaume Van Keirsbulck.
"It was a good day for the team in the end, but unfortunately Niki had some bad luck," Lefevere told Cyclingnews after checking over Terpstra's bike with a mechanic. "He broke his pedal on the start podium probably when he pushed off to go down the ramp. So he did the time trial on one leg."
For a man riding at limited capacity, then, Tersptra's time trial was still rather remarkable, as he fought gamely to limit his losses over the 14.3km course. He had to settle for 19th place on the stage, 30 seconds down on winner Maciej Bodnar (Cannondale) and he finished the race in fourth place overall, 15 seconds off Van Keirsbulck, while QuickStep's Gert Steegmans finished in third place.
"Niki still rode well, but if you have this already on the start then in your head you are already gone," Lefevere said. "He came here to perform, and after that, if you're there in a position to win, you want to try to do it. Still, we had a luxury situation with Gert, Niki and Guillaume all there. And if you can win, you win, because Sunday [the Tour of Flanders] is another race."
It was not Terpstra's first time to suffer ill fortune in the Three Days of De Panne's final time trial - in 2011, he crashed and broke his collarbone on the corresponding stage, missing that year's Tour of Flanders.
After winning Dwars door Vlaanderen last week, Terpstra's showing over the past three days has done little to dispel the notion that he is one of the favourites for victory in Oudenaarde on Sunday, but his annoyance at missing out in De Panne was palpable.
"My shoe was coming lose, and I couldn't stand up on the bike," Terpstra told De Telegraaf later on. "This is very frustrating. But I'm happy for the team that we still won here."
While a disbelieving Van Keirsbulck pedalled back towards the podium area to receive his bouquet and white jersey, Lefevere was asked about the strength in depth of his QuickStep team. So far, the men in black have claimed victory at Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, Dwars door Vlaanderen, Strade Bianche and now the Three Days of De Panne, but Lefevere is well aware that their spring will be judged squarely on what happens over the next four Sundays.
"We are very happy with the results until now," Lefevere said. "But don't forget that after Liège-Bastogne-Liège, if we haven't won one of the big ones, everybody will say, ‘what happened?'"
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