Nikki Terpstra solos to Dwars door Vlaanderen victory
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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Nikki Terpstra solos to Dwars door Vlaanderen victory

by Ben Atkins at 11:38 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Race Reports and Results
Sylvain Chavanel leads home the chasers to take an Omega Pharma-Quick Step one-two in the Belgian semi-classic

Niki TerpstraNiki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) opened his own personal account for the season’s most successful team of the year so far, with an impressive solo victory in Dwars door Vlaanderen. The former Dutch champion escaped the rest of an eight-man breakaway group in between the climbs of the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg, with 34km of the 199.5km race remaining, and managed to hold off the disorganised chase to take the Waregem finish line alone.

“For me, it's the best victory ever together with the 2010 national road championship,” Terpstra said. “Today I had super strong legs; going solo was something I have done in the past, so I know it is possible to finish in a great solo like today.

“The road to victory was through my Specialized,” he added, having made an ‘S’ shape with his fingers in tribute as he crossed the line. “I really rode a great solo in the final kilometres thanks to my perfect bike. It was a good moment for me before the big classics. Now I want to stay prepared for the next races where I will take part.”

Having protected his teammate’s escape from behind, French champion Sylvain Chavanel - who’d been the aggressor that had forced the eight-man group away from an original breakaway - followed the late attack of Koen de Kort (Project 1t4i) some four kilometres from the line. With Terpstra safely away, Chavanel finally agreed to help in the attack and they managed to distance the rest of the chase group.

“Sylvain and I worked really well together to catch the first group,” Terpstra explained. “When we bridged to the first group we understood immediately there was room to try a big action.”

De Kort looked have beaten Chavanel in the sprint for second, but the Frenchman edged past on the line to make it one-two for Omega Pharma-Quick Step.

“I am really happy,” said Chavanel.  “It doesn't matter who is the winner, whether me or Niki. I am super happy for him and the team. For me, the most important thing is I am in good shape after the bronchitis I had. Now I feel better and I look forward to the next races.

“I will ride E3 Prijs Vlaanderen and then De Panne,” explained the French champion. “Last year at De Panne I was 4th. This year — why not — I will try to do a little bit better in De Panne. There is a TT in the last day of racing. The goal for me and the team will remain Ronde van Vlaanderen, however. I hope to do a good race at that moment.”

Terpstra and Chavanel had originally been in the company of Michael Mørkøv (Saxo Bank), Lloyd Mondory (AG2R La Mondiale), Maarten Wynants (Rabobank),, Jan Ghyselinck (Cofidis), Vincent Jerome (Europcar) and Jelle Wallays (Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator) in the breakaway, before the Dutchman jumped away.

A five-man group of Sep Vanmarcke (Garmin-Barracuda), Alexandre Pichot (Europcar), Filippo Pozzato (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia), Jens Keukeleire (GreenEDGE) and de Kort escaped the peloton on the Patererg and eventually made it across to the seven chasers. Terpstra was too far gone by this point though, and Chavanel’s disruption of any attempted chase ensured that nobody was able to get near the victorious Dutchman.

A fast, messy race stays together to halfway

The flat first half of the course - featuring just the climb of the Nieuwe Kwaremont after 87km - meant that the peloton stayed together, with a number of minor crashes in the peloton.

Finally though, as the race approached the Kattenberg after 104km Ghyllebert, Mørkøv, Mondory and Ghyselinck got away, along with Said Haddou (Europcar), Reto Hollenstein (NetApp), Eliot Lietaer (Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator), Troels Vinther (Saxo Bank), Manuel Belletti (AG2R La Mondiale), Travis Meyer (GreenEDGE), Davide Cimolai (Lampre-ISD), Ronan van Zandbeek (Project 1t4i) and Arkimedes Arguelyes (RusVelo).

Recognising the danger, Terpstra and Chavanel bridged across before the group could get too far away; Chavanel then attacked on the climb of the Leberg, after 115km, pulling Mørkøv and Mondory away with him.

As the race was coming together behind them, Wynants, Terpstra, Ghyselinck, Wallays, Ghyllebert and Vincent managed to catch up with the three leaders, and the eight-man group was formed.

With Vacansoleil-DCM leading the chase behind them, the eight riders managed to open up a lead of two minutes, over the Berendries and Valkenberg, and the approach to the Eikenberg climb.

Garmin-Barracuda moved forward to take over from the Dutch team as the final phase of the race approached, and the gap began to come down over the Steenbeekdries; as the peloton crossed the top of the Knokteberg with 42.6km to go, it was down to 1’33”.

The Paterberg approaches and the attacks begin

Chavanel led the break up the Oude Kwaremont, with Garmin-Barracuda’s Jack Bauer and Vanmarcke stringing out the peloton behind them. Terpstra led the leaders back on to the tarmac at the top of the climb, then attacked as they began the approach to the Paterberg, and Wallays was the only one able to follow.

With the peloton just 1’10” behind at the top, Alexandre Pichot (Europcar) attacked in the same spot that Terpstra had done and tried to fight his way up to the leaders.

Terpstra led up the steep cobbles of the Paterberg, steadily gapped Wallays as the gradient rose over 20% in the mid-section, and was alone as he rode over the top. As the peloton hit the climb behind him, Vanmarcke accelerated, and caught and passed Pichot as the Frenchman was struggling on the steep cobbles.

He too was now alone as he chased the breakaway riders into the final 30km of the race.

Terpstra was now soloing along the flat roads on the way to the Varent cobbles, Wallays was between him and their six former companions, with Vanmarcke chasing behind them.

The Omloop Het Nieuwsblad winner was being chased by the quartet of Pichot, Pozzato, de Kort and Keukeleire, so he sat up and allowed them to join him; they were just 18 seconds ahead of the fractured peloton however, but there was no organised chase.

As he left the cobbles with 24km to go Terpstra was 53 seconds clear of the original six-man breakaway group, with Wallays still holding out halfway between, while the Vanmarke/Pozzato group was still at 1’26”.

Over the top of the none-too-tough Vossenhol, with 21.5km to go, the Dutchman was increasing his lead over everybody, while the second chase group was on the verge of making contact with the first. Wallays was now at 44 seconds, but their former companions were at 1’15”

With 20km to go, the rest of the peloton was all-but out of it, now 2’40” behind and the gap was growing.

The chase comes together but Terpstra is long gone

Terpstra was still climbing strongly on the Holstraat, whose 5.2% slopes topped out with 17km to go. The six chasers were steadily gaining on Wallays however, and they two were being closed upon by the five behind them.

Shortly after the two groups crested the top of the climb, the five-man Pozzato/Vanmarcke group made contact, and Wallays held out for less than a kilometre more as de Kort led the group across. There was now a group of twelve together, but they trailed Terpstra by 1’24” with 14km to go; Pichot tried to escape alone, but the others were in no mood to let him get away again.

There were attempts from a number in the group to organise a chase, but Chavanel’s presence was proving disruptive and there was little cohesion.

As he entered the last ten kilometres, following the winding, narrow farm roads towards the Nokereberg, Terpstra was still 1’24” clear, as the chasers lined up behind Pozzato. At the base of the cobbled climb the Dutchman had pulled out another second and, as he crested the top with 7.9km to go, he’d pulled out another.

Vanmarcke hit the front again, as he had on the Paterberg, but the Nokereberg was not steep enough for him to do much damage to the group. The two Europcar riders now came to the front, but had just five kilometres to make up 1’20” on the lone Terpstra.

As Terpstra rode under the 3km banner, the chasers were just passing under the 4km one, and De Kort jumped away again. Chavanel was right on his tail and the Project 1t4i rider pulled the French champion away; for the first time since Terpstra’s attack - knowing that they weren’t about to catch him - Chavanel began to do some work on the front as the pair steadily distanced the rest.

With the win all but guaranteed, Chavanel was now working to make sure there were two Omega Pharma-Quick Step riders on the podium.

Entering the finishing straight Terpstra finally sat up from his time trial position, sitting up to punch the air as he took the victory.

Chavanel found himself on the front as he and de Kort came around the corner, and was initially passed by the Dutchman; a second wind from the French champion pulled him past in the final metres however, taking a one-two finish for the Belgian team.

Result Dwars door Vlaanderen
1. Niki Terpstra (Ned) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
2. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
3. Koen de Kort (Ned) Project 1t4i
4. Jan Ghyselinck (Bel) Cofidis
5. Alexandre Pichot (Fra) Cofidis
6. Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Farnese Vini-Selle Italia
7. Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Garmin-Barracuda
8. Maarten Wynants (Ned) Rabobank
9. Lloyd Mondory (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
10. Jens Keukeleire (Bel) GreenEDGE


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