Niki Terpstra wins Le Samyn
The Dutch champion opened his 2016 account in Belgium, with a solo victory after an epic day in the saddle.
On a day which announced itself like a 19-century impressionist painting, with grim weather, rain and strong crosswinds, around 190 riders lined up at the start in Quaregnon for what turned out to be a survival test, which is something normal when it comes down to Belgian races. For many, it was a tough one, so they called quits before the race hit its half-point, while others kept on giving their all and continuing the fight in which they were engaged not only with their opponents, but also with the tough conditions.
Le Samyn was gruesome due to the weather, but also because of the course which included several climbs (one right at the finish) and 16 cobbled sectors, which took their toll during the race. This natural selection meant that many riders attacked and tried to leave everyone else behind, but even though the peloton was shattered, those solo actions didn't succeed, and with 30 kilometers to go, the front group still included around 15 men.
At the end of this day, the one to come out on top was Niki Terpstra, who was not only the strongest, but also the one who knew how to dose his effort and when to make the right move. The Dutchman forced a selection twice in the last 20 kilometers of the race, and no one could match his fierce accelerations. Then, as soon as he got a gap over Scott Thwaites (Bora-Argon 18) as a result of his monster attack, Terpstra rode in auto pilot mode and put 15 seconds between him and the Brit before the final pavé.
Soloing to the win, his first since last July's general classification at the Tour de Wallonie, Niki unzipped his rain jacket and showed the beautiful Dutch champion jersey which he took last year, in Emmen. In Dour, where the 48th edition of Le Samyn came to an end, the 31-year-old Terpstra scored the 16th victory of Etixx – Quick-Step since the start of the season.
"It was a really tough race, as we rode full gas from the beginning. The last 10 kilometers were the hardest of the entire race. I knew I had about 15 seconds on Thwaites and I had to continue pulling. To make things even more difficult, the last 3 kilometers had a headwind and an uphill part. The weather conditions made the race beautiful in a strange way. I am happy with this victory, as it gives me confidence and comes as a confirmation that my condition is good for the upcoming Classics", said Niki Terpstra after becoming the first Dutch rider in 13 years to win Le Samyn.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele