Niki Terpstra’s good form continued on stage one of the Three Days of De Panne. The Omega Pharma-QuickStep rider made it into the winning breakaway and put himself into the driving seat for the general classification.
Directeur sportif Wilfried Peeters was happy with how the race went for the Belgian team. "The collaboration was good in the break and it was a good move for us in terms of the general classification. The time trial on the last day is important and it’s good to have Niki up there on GC already," said Peeters.
It could have been an even better day, with Gert Steegmans also making it into the lead group, however he got stuck behind Terpstra on the last corner and could only manage fourth. "It was a pity that Gert was a little behind on the last corner because he could have won the stage, but it’s not so bad because there was no super time trial specialist in the first group. I think we can look for the classification."
Terpstra went off the front with 11 other riders, with just 10 kilometres to go. Luke Durbridge and Arnaud Démare lost out in the initial split, but soon set off in chase. The pair could see the leaders up the road, but it proved too much and they eventually rolled over the line some 11 seconds back.
With the final time trial often proving to be the deciding factor, the lack of specialists in the group is a big boost to the Dutchman’s chances. "They didn’t know that Durbridge was trying to get back on, but it worked out perfectly for us. We didn’t want Durbridge and Démare, two of the favourites, coming back to the front group."
Terpstra has been on flying form already this spring with a solo victory at Dwars door Vlaanderen and a podium at E3 Harelbeke. He finished last year’s race in third place, behind Sylvain Chavanel and Alexander Kristoff, after his time trial saw him move three places up the general classification.
He is one of the few Tour of Flanders contenders that are racing at De Panne, along with Peter Sagan and Kristoff. The brutal racing that characterises the event generally proves to be a deterrent to those looking for success on the Sunday, with Sagan also stating that he’s unlikely to complete the full event.
However, Peeters batted away any notion that Terpstra’s presence was anything but his own choice and that it would have an adverse affect on his chances at Flanders. "Niki didn’t ride Gent-Wevelgem so he could be ready for this race. Niki wanted to come here, he wants to come here every year. Different riders have different ways of preparing for the Ronde Van Vlaanderen."
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