Niki Terpstra today added a second Dwars door Vlaanderen victory to his palmares, two years after his first win in the Belgian semi-classic. The Dutchman from the star-studded Omega Pharma - Quick-Step team completed a 30km solo attack from the Paterberg for the win, just like two years ago.
While Terpstra had a comfortable gap over the nearest pursuers in his first victory here, this time around he had to contend with not only a headwind but also an elite four-man chase group hot on his heels. Belgian champion Stijn Devolder (Trek Factory Racing), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Nicki Sorensen (Tinkoff-Saxo) led the pursuit, but Terpstra's teammate Gert Steegmans, too, made the move and enjoyed an armchair ride in the race finale.
The quartet closed to within 15 seconds, but Terpstra managed to increase his lead to over 30 seconds in the final 20km. The chasers were swept up at 1.5km to go and Terpstra ultimately finished 17 seconds ahead of a charging peloton.
"Every win is nice," said Terpstra at the post-race press conference in the stadium of Waregem, finish location of the 1957 road world championships won by Rik Van Steenbergen. "Before the start of the season I said that I wanted to perform as well as possible in every race. I haven't won that much that I can say that I'm going to focus solely on the Monuments.
"This is a top race even though it's not a WorldTour race. This is a big fish. Of course there are bigger races but I'm going to be at the start of those with even more morale. I arrived here with good morale after an ideal build-up to this race. The last ten days after Paris-Nice I was able to train super-well at home. Now my Spring season is already well shaped."
Terpstra has been flying this season. The 29-year-old Dutchman won his first race of the year, a stage plus the overall classification at the Tour of Qatar. Afterwards he rode the Tour of Oman (88th) and kicked of his Spring season with a good ride at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in which he finished fifth. At Paris-Nice he continued his work to be ready for the Spring Classics.
Despite Dwars door Vlaanderen not being the most well known one-day Classic, Terpstra was in a mood to celebrate his third win of the season and enjoyed the bottle of champagne. "I took quite a few sips," Terpstra smiled. "My son [Luca] already has a horse (the Dwars door Vlaanderen winner's trophy) and now I also have a daughter [Zoey] of one year and I promised her to do all I could to get one for her and I succeeded."
The Omega Pharma – Quick-Step riders were omnipresent at the decisive moment of the race, at 30km from the finish when tackling the steep cobbled Paterberg climb. There was Nikolas Maes who had been in the breakaway group that was caught near the top of the Paterberg and there was Guillaume Van Keirsbulck who had bridged up alone to the break a few kilometres earlier after the Oude Kwaremont.
Terpstra claimed it wasn't possible to communicate at that stage of the race without race radios, but the Belgian team expertly played their hand entering the race finale.
"There's no breath to talk, too. Before the race we knew that it was one of the points where we have to race. After the Oude Kwaremont he (Van Keirsbulck) caught up with that group but thanks to the work from [Ian] Stannard and [Sylvain] Chavanel we bridged up as well on the Paterberg."
On the Paterberg most riders ride in the gutter to avoid the cobbles. At the foot of the climb Terpstra tried to move over but bumped into Ian Stannard (Sky) who had similar designs on the edge of the road. "I was already there but then he still tried to pass me but there was no space," Terpstra said.
Unfazed by a bumpier ascent of the Paterberg, at the top of the climb Terpstra blasted away solo.
"After descending the Paterberg I asked myself what kind of mess I put myself in," he said.
Despite the headwind and the trio of Devolder, Valverde and Sorensen trying to chase him down, Terpstra managed to stand tall in front. The talkative Dutchman claimed he might have been benefited because he rode alone.
"It doesn't matter who was behind. You're assuming they're good riders because otherwise they would not be there. Even though not all the big names were here because this was not a WorldTour race. If you're alone then you know that nobody's taking profit from you, that nobody's going to beat you in the sprint.
"If you're sure about the other – like I did with Jens Mouris in the past – then you can go flat out. But in a group you're always wondering about the others. They had Gert Steegmans with them and probably thought that even if they closed the gap then he would win the sprint. That's why sometimes it's better to ride alone rather than in a group.
"Even if I was caught back it was better if it happened as late as possible for Gert. Then he could be launched in the sprint. We were always where we had to be. We're OK. We'll see what the rivals will do in the upcoming races."