Niki Terpstra brought down the curtain on his eight-year run with Quick-Step Floors with panache on Saturday, finishing second in Paris-Tours in his last race with the Belgian team before moving to Direct Energie next year.
Terpstra joined eventual winner Soren Kragh Andersen (Team Sunweb) and Benoît Cosnefroy (AG2R La Mondiale) in a three-rider move that formed on the gravel tracks late in the race, then he beat Cosnefroy in a two-up sprint for second after Andersen soloed away to victory.
“I really wanted to win this race and finish off in style with the team that has shaped me as a rider over the last eight years," Terpstra said. "I worked well together with Kragh Andersen, but Cosnefroy made it confusing as he refused to take part in the work. When Andersen attacked, I hesitated for a second and he quickly built a gap, showing how strong he was by going all the way. At the end of the day, I am happy to be again on in the top three of this tough and demanding race, just like last year.”
Terpstra was third in last year's race behind then-teammate Matteo Trentin and runner-up Andersen.
Quick-Step helped set up Terpstra's successful move by reeling back a six-rider move to less than minute advantage before the first of the day’s nine gravel road sectors added to his year's parcours. With a lead group whittled down to about 20 riders due to numerous punctures and hard racing, Terpstra accelerated on a small climb with about 60km to go and brought with him a small group.
Two-time winner and Terpstra teammate Philippe Gilbert made the group, but an untimely puncture knocked him out of contention as Andersen attacked inside 40km to go and only Terpstra could initially respond. Cosnefroy was able to bridge to the leaders to form a trio on the front, but the AG2R La Mondiale rider refused to work, thinking of team leader Oliver Naesen in the chase group behind.
Andersen attacked again with 11m to go, and this time neither Terpstra nor Cosnefroy could follow. The Sunweb Dane quickly built a gap of 20 seconds that he held to the line. Behind him, Terpstra outmanoeuvred Cosnefroy for second place, 25 seconds later. Naesen led the next group home 1:14 behind the winner.
Despite missing out on the win, Terpstra was happy to make the podium at least as he brought an end to his Quick-Step tenure.
“I am still uplifted, though, and think this season has been a fantastic one, the World TTT Title in Innsbruck serving as a beautiful ending of this cycling chapter I have been writing for Quick-Step Floors since 2011," Terpstra said. "I will miss the amazing atmosphere, my teammates and all the staff I have worked with during these fantastic years."
Terpstra scored 17 victories in his eight years with the team, including Monuments Paris-Roubaix and Tour of Flanders. He also won Dwars Door Vlaanderen, Tour de Wallonie, Le Samyn, Eneco Tour and E3 Harelbeke, among others.
"There’s a special and unique feeling in the team," Terpstra said. "The will to win is like nowhere else, and I have enjoyed an environment where I’ve been able to stay relaxed and focus on doing what I love. It’s a team I will never forget.”
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