While the Omega Pharma - Quick-Step team had an unlucky run of affairs in the final of Paris-Roubaix, the third place of Dutch champion Niki Tersptra made up for some of that disappointment. Teammates Stijn Vandenbergh and Zdenek Stybar featured in the decisive breakaway move with eventual winner Fabian Cancellara (Radioshack Leopard) and Sep Vanmarcke (Blanco) before getting knocked out of the group when they both collided with spectators on the cobbles of the Carrefour de l'Arbre.
Terpstra protected their presence up front in the chase group. When both riders were eventually caught and left behind, Terpstra went on to win the sprint for third place from Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) and Damien Gaudin (Europcar). When talking with the media after the race the 28 year-old Dutchman's hands showed the signs of a tough ride through the 'Hell of the North' with two nice blisters. Terpstra didn't mind much and figured they were two souvenirs of his splendid ride. Meanwhile his son was standing on top of the podium proudly sporting the medal of his father around his neck on top of the jersey of Dutch national champion.
"I wasn't on the highest step of the podium like my son," a smiling Terpstra said. "My dream is to win this race but I'm very happy with this third place too as I was really bad last week in the Ronde. Things were looking great for us as we had two men out of four up front. That allowed for a tactical game. But they crashed out which is really sad for them. It's good we were still able to salvage this third place. It's the result of a good team performance and this podium result is theirs too. My third place was only possible because they fell back."
While Terpstra was being the perfect teammate for Vandenbergh and later also Stybar, he nearly lost touch with the front of the race when there were only 30km to race. Several riders attacked the lead group and Cancellara didn't want to do the work for the others to catch them. Eventually there was only Cancellara, Terpstra, Lars Boom (Blanco) and Luca Paolini (Katusha). Suddenly Cancellara attacked and surged away on his own.
"When Cancellara attacked I was switching bikes. Earlier I was always on his wheel and I should have been on his wheel at that moment too but I wasn't. I couldn't hold him. In the end I was able to close the gap to the front group quite quickly and being able to do that so quickly gave me a kick."
When Cancellara accelerated again in an effort to get back to Vandenbergh and Vanmarcke it wasn't Terpstra's task to chase them down. That wasn't until his teammates lost touch with their two companions and Terpstra ended up racing for third place in a group of six riders. Besides Terpstra there was also Van Avermaet, Gaudin, Sebastian Langeveld (Orica GreenEdge), Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil-DCM) and teammate Stybar.
"Just before entering the vélodrome the three of us [Terpstra, Van Avermaet and Gaudin] rode away from the group of six. I felt really good and Zdenek was covering the move behind me. For once I figured I had the right to play team tactics and skip the work in our group," Terpstra said.
While the trio was battling for third place Cancellara and Vanmarcke were duelling it out for the win on the same track. It didn't influence Terpstra in his sprint.
"I noticed the other two were looking at the other side of the track to see what was going on. I couldn't be bothered because I'll see it on TV later. I focused on a podium result. I felt good... reasonably good after such a distance. I felt quite sure until we had to manoeuvre to the outside as another group was coming by. I used my experience from the track to sneak through the inside. I've been racing on the track for ten years which is more than enough training. It was time to bring it to practice. It finally delivers," Terpstra laughed.
Last week in the Ronde van Vlaanderen the team had to switch from having one team leader with Tom Boonen towards a shared leadership with Sylvain Chavanel and Terpstra. The leadership wasn't converted into a good result as Terpstra was never in contention for the win and finished outside the top-100.
"As weak as I was last week, as strong I was today. Maybe Tom Boonen's crash possibly influenced my performance then. It was hard to make the switch and I wasn't having a good day. Right after the Ronde I was having doubts for Roubaix. The next day I spent time with the kids at the playground and recharged the batteries. From there I started training again and re-adjusted things. I was very motivated to show what I was capable of. I felt so strong that I was very confident when starting Paris-Roubaix."