Ronde van Vlaanderen: Terpstra Attacks, 2nd in the Breakaway
Etixx - Quick-Step rider Niki Terpstra found the moment to attack with about 28km to go in 264km Ronde van Vlaanderen on Sunday, going ahead out of a select group of riders that had been reduced to about 25 to 30 riders after the Taaienberg. The group, including several of Etixx - Quick-Step, was at 40 riders after the top of the Koppenberg and reduced further in the following kilometers.
Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) went with Terpstra in his late race acceleration, and the two riders were able to stay away until the finish. Terpstra stayed on the wheel of Kristoff as late as he could going into the sprint, but was unable to pass Kristoff, who went on to win the race. Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing Team) and Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) were closing in on the two riders going into the sprint, but were unable to catch them and Van Avermaet finished 3rd. The two riders went ahead of the select group with about 13km to go in the race.
Stybar followed the wheels of riders attempting to bridge and finished 9th in the group behind Sagan and Van Avermaet. Stybar had to remove his teeth, which were replacements of the original he lost in a bad crash at Eneco Tour in 2014, with 70km to go in the race.
The last rider out of the original breakaway was reeled in in anticipation of the race starting to animate at the point of the Koppenberg, which was located at the 45km to go mark of De Ronde. While there was a flurry of attacks, the race was fairly controlled until that point and the select group stayed together until Terpstra finally accelerated.
"I thought it was a good breakaway partner," Terpstra said. "He's a fast rider for sure, but when we went away we still had three climbs to do. So I thought it was possible for me. I hoped to attack there and do something. But on the climbs he was super strong. On the Paterberg he set such a good pace that I could hardly even pass him. He showed his strength in the last weeks and it was true again today. In the last 10 kilometers when he was still there, there wasn't much left to do. In the last 3 kilometers I stayed on his wheel because everyone knows how fast he is in the sprint. I hoped he was too tired to have a perfect sprint at that point. But even then, I came next to him when I launched my sprint, he accelerated, and then showed he was the best guy on the roads today. He deserved the victory. I have to be happy with my 2nd place. It's a big result in a big Monument. Of course I've had too many 2nd places and my goal is to win, but considering the situation I am satisfied and am excited for next week at Paris-Roubaix. I'm showing my shape is very good and I am so proud that I will be wearing the No. 1 on my jersey as the defending winner. We will see what can happen next Sunday."
"It's difficult to say how the loss of my teeth affected my performance, but it's really not nice to deal with it in such a big race," Stybar said. "I was distracted by it and didn't know what to do. It happened before the second trip up the Kwaremont. Because it's a bridge, it was moving, so I took it out. It's not the best feeling to ride without teeth. But anyway, as for my race, I felt pretty good. On the Kwaremont chasing behind Niki we rode away with Thomas, but the gap just wasn't big enough. Niki was in front of us and it would be dangerous to bring him back. I sat on the wheel of Thomas, and then before the Paterberg I almost closed all the gaps forming between the riders, and it maybe cost me the power I could have used to be with Van Avermaet and Sagan when they went away on the Paterberg. But that is also part of teamwork for Niki ahead. I think my shape was good. But it was an odd race. With my teeth, and all the strange crashes happening, it was truly strange. But De Ronde I really think is the most beautiful race in the world, between the parcours and such a big public that truly loves this race. Now I look next to Paris-Roubaix, another race I am so passionate about."
"I'm happy with the team today," Sport Director Wilfried Peeters said. "We made a plan this morning and the riders were there at the moments we asked them to be present. The leaders were also there in the final even with some bad luck. Vandenbergh crashed twice, one time he made contact with a tree with his nose on the Paddestraat. Matteo Trentin also crashed at a key point on the Koppenberg, and by then it was too hard to come back. The race was going too fast by that point. He arrived in the third group, then made it to the second group, but couldn't rejoin the first. Considering these moments and the performances of Niki and Styby, the team did well. We lost to a guy who was simply stronger. I thought Niki could possibly drop Kristoff on the Paterberg but he was even then too strong to distance. So then we had the decision to keep going until the final or wait for Van Avermaet and Sagan, and the decision was to go with Kristoff and see what could happen. Niki went, but when Kristoff accelerated he simply beat him. So in the end we are still 2nd and on the podium. We are showing we are the most consistent team, always in the actions and on the podium. Now we must focus on Paris-Roubaix. I am looking forward to seeing what our riders can do."