Despite missing out on victory in Harstad, Niki Terpstra said that he was happy to be in the mix in the final of a race again.
The 37-year-old's last victory came at the Tour of Flanders back in 2018 and he was metres away from taking a 23rd career victory on the final stage of the Arctic Race of Norway on Sunday afternoon.
Terpstra had made the nine-man break of the day along with eventual winner Philipp Walsleben, and the two proved the strongest of the lot on the final climb to the line, but it was the German who prevailed in a two-up sprint.
"I'm super happy to be able to ride a final again," Terpstra told WielerFlits at the finish. "It's been a while since I was able to do that. That's the most beautiful thing there is.
"It's what I live for, and I enjoyed it. I had that kick again today and I'm happy with that."
Terpstra – who won the most combative rider prize on the stage – is out of contract at the end of the 2021 season following three seasons at Team TotalEnergies. He told Cyclingnews earlier in the race that he didn't know what his future held, offering little hints about a contract renewal, a move elsewhere, or possible retirement.
Walsleben, on the other hand, is set to retire this winter. The 33-year-old cyclo-cross specialist had only one pro win on the road to his name heading into the Arctic Race – a stage of the Boucles de Mayenne back in May.
Now, despite another win on his palmarès, he said after the podium ceremony that the win looks like a special way to go out rather than a result to change his mind about his future.
"It could be a very special victory because my plans were to stop professional cycling this year." He said. "I don't know if I will reconsider it but it's still a lot of work and a lot of suffering that goes into these victories. Obviously, I am still pretty good. But normally I made a decision."
Nevertheless, Walsleben was thrilled to beat Flanders and Roubaix winner Terpstra, even if he expected that he could outpace the Dutchman on the slope to the finish.
"I'm very satisfied. It was very hard; we made it a hard race today. But when I'm in such a group from the beginning of the race I immediately start thinking about the stage victory. But in the end, it was a lot of suffering and I was a bit surprised that I was the strongest. But I'm happy.
"It's hard to deal with him because he's very strong. He's very heavy so normally I would be better uphill, but Terpstra is Terpstra so you never know. He didn't want to pull in the last kilometres and it made it even harder. But I had the impression I was stronger in the uphill, so I had to keep the pace high and wait for him to go. Then I made it a pretty perfect sprint."
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