Niki Terpstra has acknowledged that he is unlikely to win the Tour of Flanders again but the veteran Dutchman believes that he still can be of help to his new TotalEnergies teammate Peter Sagan on the cobbles next Spring.
Terpstra only confirmed this week that he had signed a new deal with TotalEnergies, but in an interview with the In het Wiel podcast, he said that he had never feared that his career might end this winter.
“No, although of course I was nervous at times. But the manager of Total said every time, ‘It will be fine.’ So I had confidence that it was going to work out,” said Terpstra, who was still hindered last season by the lingering effects of his heavy training crash in June 2020.
“That fall had a huge impact,” he admitted.
“Sometimes to the outside world it might seem as if it was just a crash. It wasn't. I've had bad falls before, but they weren’t a shadow of that one. Circumstances meant that I was back on the bike quickly, but I was not quickly back at my level.”
Indeed, Terpstra confessed that he is unlikely ever to regain the condition that carried him to a solo triumph at the Tour of Flanders in 2018, which remains his last victory. The Dutchman also won E3 Harelbeke that Spring and he opted to part company with QuickStep at the end of the season, signing a with Jean-René Bernaudeau’s squad, then known as Direct Energie.
Terpstra crashed heavily in his first Tour of Flanders with the team in 2019, which also forced him out of Paris-Roubaix. His best results at the squad came in his debut season, when he took third at Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne and second at Paris-Tours.
Now 37, Terpstra is aware that he is in the final phase of his career, and he expressed hope that he could avoid crashes and injuries in the new season.
“I'm getting older, it's harder to get to the top level,” he said. “I will never again be so good that I can win the Tour of Flanders. But I think I can still be an above-average rider, if I can just race and train for a while. A lot of training and a lot of races, then I will start to pay off.”
During his time at QuickStep, Terpstra occasionally jousted with Sagan, perhaps most notably when they marked one another heavily in the finale of Gent-Wevelgem in 2017. In August, Sagan said he hoped Terpstra would remain at TotalEnergies in 2022, and the Dutchman is prepared to work on behalf of the three-time world champion.
“The past few years I rode the Classics with ambitions mainly for myself,” he said. “I have turned the switch, adjusted my goals. Maybe I won't be able to achieve the results of the past, but I also enjoy racing in a different way, by helping the team: with material, nutrition, but also in the race. I already did that in recent years, but next year I will concentrate even more on that.”
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