Omega Pharma – Quick-Step Cycling Team rider Niki Terpstra just won the biggest race of his career — the most prestigious monument of cycling — in commanding fashion. He won Paris-Roubaix solo on Sunday.
With three OPQS riders in an 11 rider select group approaching 6 kilometers to go, including Tom Boonen and Zdenek Stybar, Terpstra decided to take matters into his own hands. The group included almost all of the race favorites including Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing), Sep Vanmarcke (Belkin ProCycling), and Peter Sagan (Cannondale).
It looked to be very close in the final kilometers. Terpstra’s gap was down to less than 9″ inside 4.5km to go. However, Terpstra’s teammates helped to control the pace of the chasing group behind, and he continued to go full gas. As a result of his fantastic effort on a perfectly timed attack, he reached the Roubaix velodrome with a gap between 16 and 20 seconds.
Terpstra still looked behind him before celebrating during the bell lap, but had plenty of time to raise his arms in celebration for the 24th (22nd road) victory for OPQS, in three disciplines, in 2014. Stybar finished 5th and Boonen 10th. Terpstra is now ranked 3rd in the UCI WorldTour Individual Classification with 200 points, and OPQS has further solidified their 1st place UCI WorldTour team ranking with 543 points.
Boonen was a major factor in the success of OPQS. He attacked with about 64 kilometers to go, and that was the major animation of the race. A selection of riders slowly bridged to his group as the race pressed on. One rider included Peter Sagan. Sagan tried his best to attack out of a new select group formation with more than 20 kilometers to go, but the pace of the chase group behind him was too much and he was caught with 15.3km to go by Cancellara, Vanmarcke, OPQS rider Zdenek Stybar, and John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano). Boonen was behind with Terpstra.
That group caught the leaders inside the final 10 kilometers, and it was up to that very powerful group to decide who would win Paris-Roubaix. OPQS had the advantage with three riders present.
It was Terpstra who decided to not give any other riders a chance, and his gamble proved to be the right one as he went on to victory.
“I feel happy, but really tired,” Niki Terpstra said with a laugh. “When we came together in the last cobblestone section — at the end of the cobblestones — Wilfried Peeters told us if we go for the sprint we go with Tom. But, if you can attack, it’s always good to open the final. So it was up to me and Zdenek to attack and they know I like to do it. So, 20 seconds later I attacked. It was the good one. When I looked behind me I saw there was a gap, so it was just full gas to the finish line. Don’t look back, because that doesn’t help. They will come back anyway if you check or not. Then, when I was crossing the finish line, it was just really special. I’m so satisfied. Finally I won a big one. We had a healthy, comfortable pressure from within the team to perform. The kind that motivates us to do well. We won a lot of races but not a big one yet. We wanted to prove we can win a big one. Today we really proved we are a strong team that can also win the biggest races. As for me, two years ago I was 5th, and last year I was 3rd. If you can finish in the top 10 here you can also, with a bit of luck, win it. Last year I was really close and this year I made it. Since I was a little child and I started cycling, Paris-Roubaix was the most special race for me. Now I won it. It’s a dream come true. Paris-Roubaix is a crazy race, old fashioned, but that’s why it’s special and why I love it that much. It was really my lucky day. I think we’re going to have a nice dinner with the team tonight to celebrate this great victory, and then I will enjoy my time at home this week with my family.”
“It’s an improvement,” Stybar said of his 5th place finish. “I felt better than last year which is important for me. Of course I am happy the team has won after the perfect timing of Niki’s attack. I think as a team we’re really strong, but I think we proved that, as a team, we can also win. It was not an easy race today with a headwind. Once you go on the head of the group it kills you. It was really hard, but the final results count. At the crucial points I was lucky, and other times it was about important decisions. I was in the crash after Arenberg. I was lucky it was without any consequences for me or my bike. Then, in the final kilometers, I was in the breakaway with just Sagan, Degenkolb, Vanmarcke, and Cancellara. I didn’t try to collaborate as I knew Tom and Niki were chasing our group. With Sagan and Degenkolb, it would be hard to go to the line with them. So I waited to work with my teammates, and it worked out for the team. We’ve had a good Spring Classics season, but this really puts the finishing touches when you win Paris-Roubaix.”
“I’m happy with the feeling I had and the fighting spirit I displayed,” Boonen said. “I’m of course happy that we won in the end, but I of course wasn’t doing all the efforts to get 10th place, I was doing them to win the race. I had a lot of bad luck today. But, I managed to get back in front on time, every time. Then, we were on the front with five or six guys and I thought ‘OK, it’s a good move,” but with the headwind it was hard to motivate people to ride. There were two or three guys who didn’t have to ride and maybe some who could have collaborated better. It was just me and Geraint Thomas going hard to stay in front. Then in the final when they came back with us and Sep Vanmarcke went with Fabian, I went straight away and Lars Boom crashed in front of me. So, I lost 100 meters. Then I couldn’t find my pedal on the cobblestones, it just kept turning. But I managed to get back in the front with Niki and he launched he attacked with six kilometers and he managed to win the race. So, I’m happy for Niki. I’m very happy. As I said a couple days ago, if someone else on the team wins besides me today I will be excited as if I had won the race myself.”
Photo – OPQS/Tim de Waele