Niki Terpstra of Quick Step once again finished second in the Ster ZLM Toer behind Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto). And once again, the intermediate sprints on the final stage played a crucial role in determining the race winner.
In 2009, Terpstra, then riding for Milram, wore the leader's jersey going into the final stage, tied on time with Gilbert. Gilbert took enough time on intermediate sprints to win by two seconds.
This year, Gilbert took over the lead on Saturday's Queen stage, leading Terpstra in GC by one second. The final stage offered two more intermediate sprints, with time bonuses, which were to be crucial.
Neither rider was involved in the first intermediate sprint, where an escape group took all the points. But at the second sprint, at km 160.1, Gilbert went across first to take three seconds, with his teammate Klaas Lodewyck right behind him to take two seconds, leaving Terpstra third and only one second.
That didn't please Terpstra at all, who accused the rival Belgian team of unsportsmanlike behaviour and claimed that Lodewyck blocked him.
"Too bad that Omega Pharma plays that game,” Terpstra told De Telegraaf. “The worst part is that you can do nothing against it. Yes, the jury could set Lodewyck back,but that wouldn't have helped me either.
“Man, I get tired of that bonus sprint. They ruin the whole course. I have already twice had the best time over the entire distance of the Ster ZLM Toer, and yet never won."
Michiel Elijzen, directeur sportif at Omega Pharma-Lotto, dismissed Terpstra's criticism, calling the Dutch champion “a poor loser. He always responds this way when a race turns out wrong for him.”
He told De Telegraaf, “Let's be honest: Gilbert was still by far the strongest in this race.”