If anyone knows the futility of taking on a full-strength Deceuninck-QuickStep in a straight up fight it's Niki Terpstra. The Dutchman rode for Patrick Lefevere's team for eight years and enjoyed Classics success with wins in Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders. Rather than take on his old team at their own game in Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, Terpstra displayed both patience and cunning, eventually netting third behind his former teammate Bob Jungels and Team Sky's Owain Doull.
The result marked Terpstra's best result since moving from Lefevere's stable to Direct Energie at the end of last season in one of the most surprising switches in recent years.
On Sunday, when Deceuninck-QuickStep turned up the heat on the Oude Kwaremont and then rallied with Jungels breaking clear with the winning move, Terpstra perhaps wisely saved his powder for the latter stages of the race. In previous years, he would have perhaps been more aggressive, but these are early days at his new French home and the level of support they can offer in comparison to Deceuninck-QuickStep is not of the same calibre.
So Terpstra waited and when Doull launched a late attack from the remnants of the peloton with just under 3km to go, he jumped on the chance. He was joined by Yves Lampaert and Jens Keukeleire. Although Jungels was too far up the road and would eventually take the win, Terpstra had enough in the tank to finish ahead of the despairing peloton and secure his first podium since last year's second place in Paris-Tours and his first top three in Belgium since his Tour of Flanders win in 2018.
"I'm happy with my condition and the podium spot today. Overall it was a good weekend," Terpstra said at the finish.
"It was a tough race. I'm not really fast but after a tough race I have the same speed as at the beginning of the race."
More significant tests lie ahead with the cobbled classics taking a brief hiatus as the WorldTour turns its attention to Paris-Nice, Tirreno Adriatico and then Milan-San Remo. However, the signs for Terpstra are encouraging. He has form and his team, while solid in many departments, now have a focal point to rally around, and a proven winner in their ranks to help instill confidence.
"There's still a lot of Classics but I'm happy to race for Direct Energie. The team is happy to race for me and that gives me confidence. I'm looking forward to the next races already. We still need to get used to each other but day by day it's getting better."
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