All the attention on Quick-Step Floors in the past few weeks has been on Tom Boonen and his final ride at Paris-Roubaix on Sunday. If Boonen were to win on Sunday, it would be a fairy-tale ending to his career that would put him into the record books as the most successful Paris-Roubaix rider with five titles overall.
The Hell of the North doesn't do sentimentality, however, and there is every chance that the race could close out Boonen's time at the Classics as disappointingly as it did for Fabian Cancellara last year. Quick-Step Floors have other options alongside Boonen with former winner Niki Terpstra and podium finisher Zdenek Stybar. Either rider could seal the deal for the team on Sunday, but Terpstra says that they are behind their departing leader.
"Of course, we have to race the race, but I think that everybody supports Tom to make history," Terpstra told Cyclingnews.
Terpstra has been teammates with Boonen since joining the team in 2011. Boonen admitted that he hadn't been too happy about Terpstra joining the team at the time, but in the intervening years the pair have developed a good relationship on and off the bike, and the Dutchman says he'll miss Boonen both on and off the bike.
"For sure, I'm going to miss him, but that's life, and we go on," he said. “I'll miss him in races, but I'll also miss him outside the race. He's always good fun to have in the team, and that's the thing I'm going to miss."
Terpstra won Paris-Roubaix in 2014 by 20 seconds over John Degenkolb, after a late attack following the last sector of cobbles. While the attention has been on Boonen and the high-flying Philippe Gilbert, Terpstra has enjoyed a solid spring campaign with fourth at Gent-Wevelgem and third at the Tour of Flanders. It is this weekend that he has been looking forward to most and he's raring to go.
"I feel really good, because I'm obviously confident that I'm in really good shape and now my favourite Classic is coming, and I'm excited," he said. “It's so tough, and it's always a hard race. It doesn't matter if you're first or right at the back, it's a tough race. I think it's one of the only races where everybody keeps on riding to even make the stadium on time. If you're that far back then normally, you would stop and go into the last car. But here, everybody keeps racing it's just a special race."
Quick-Step Floors as a whole has been on a high since their victory with Yves Lampaert at Dwars door Vlaanderen. They took the race to their competitors last Sunday at the Tour of Flanders, forcing the key split on the Muur, which would eventually set up Gilbert's 55km solo ride to victory. Much of the same attitude can be expected going into this Sunday's race, as they look to shake off their strongest competitors before the Roubaix velodrome.
"That's our style. Normally yes, if you go and attack early then others have to chase us," said Terpstra. “If it is the other way around and we have to chase others then that is never good. It's our style of racing, and we keep going like this.
"Of course, Van Avermaet and Sagan are the two biggest opponents at the moment. But there's also John Degenkolb. He also won Paris-Roubaix, and he's in good shape, so I expect him to be in front. There's also Alexander Kristoff. I don't have a surprising name for you."
There has been little rain in recent weeks, and the cobbles are going to be as dusty as ever. This weekend is expected to be dry yet again, with the mercury rising to 20 degrees at times, which Terpstra says presents its own challenges.
"It's going to be pretty warm, and that's actually hard because you have to adapt from the fresher weather. 20 degrees on the cobblestones over 260k is going to dehydrate you. You're really going to feel it in the end. It's only 20 degrees, but it's going to feel like more."