E3 Harelbeke: Terpstra and Vandenbergh Top 5 After Making Successful Breakaway
Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team riders Niki Terpstra and Stijn Vandenbergh finished 2nd and 4th, respectively, in 211km E3 Harelbeke on Friday.
With about 31km to go in the race, Geraint Thomas (Sky ProCycling), John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano), and both Terpstra and Vandenbergh had attacked a group that included riders such as Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) and Tom Booonen. Peter Sagan (Cannondale ProCycling) was able to connect with the attacking group as they bridged to three riders from the original breakaway.
With 26.1km to go, the gap was down to 16" with Cancellara chasing hard on the front behind. Sagan decided it was time to attack and prevent the catch with about 25km to go, and only Thomas, Terpstra, and Vandenbergh were able to stay with him. Terpstra was racing just days after his solo victory at Dwars door Vlaanderen.
Vandenbergh worked hard on the front and helped extend the gap to 40" with 18.5km to go. OPQS rider Zdenek Stybar suffered a mechanical in the Boonen and Cancellara group around that point, but was able to chase back on.
The lead group would extend their gap following an attack by Terpstra with 5.9km to go. The gap went out to 45", and then following an attack by Vandenbergh with 5km to go, the gap was up to 52" by the time he was caught at the 4.2km to go mark. It was clear the race would come down to the select group.
Vandenbergh did his best to try and attack several times, but Sagan was able to make his way back. Terpstra also tried to accelerate, but everything was neutralized by Sagan in anticipation of the bunch sprint.
Vandenbergh launched a final attack inside the final few hundred meters, but Thomas countered. Sagan then went over the top of Thomas to win the race, while Terpstra gave his all to try and catch Sagan. Terpstra's effort was enough for a 2nd place finish. Thomas was 3rd, Vandenbergh 4th.
Tom Boonen finished 11th out of the chase group.
Watch the video for exclusive OPQS content at E3 Harelbeke, including rider reactions.
"It was pretty hectic," Terpstra said. "In the beginning I had pretty sore legs because I was still a little bit tired from Wednesday of course. That was a hard effort. So at the beginning I wanted to spin the legs, but there were narrow roads, a lot of crashes, up and down, left right, it was really chaotic. That was tough, but we came through really well. In the end, almost all of the team was in front. It pays off to be two guys in the front group. There was a crash, which created a small gap, then we had the Patersberg, the Oude Kwaremont, and it was full gas racing. I directly felt Sagan was in good shape on the small hills. He had good accelerations. Also, when Stijn and I started to attack, he closed the gap easily with a big acceleration. We were already going like 50 kilometers per hour in the last kilometers, so it was hard to attack because you had to go 60 kilometers or something. So, it was a sprint. I knew it was going to be really tough to beat him. He showed he was the fastest one today. But, OK, especially with a win on Wednesday and now 2nd place today, for the team I think this is not so bad. We were in front. We didn't win, but having two guys in the top 4 is really good I think. This is top racing in the WorldTour. This is mainly the same competitors as Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. So, to have these kinds of results is a good performance I think."
"It was hard race," Vandenbergh said. "After the hills I stayed good in front pulling for Keisse and Stybar. After the Patersberg I pulled for Stybar and Tom, but on the Kwaremont the race exploded. Then I was in the second group, but I made the jump to the first group where Niki was. That was a good moment otherwise maybe my race was finished. So, then we were with two guys, but Sagan was really strong. On the second to last climb he was also pulling so the guys of the original breakaway lost contact. That was also a good situation. But in the final we tried not to go to the finish with Sagan. But he closed every gap. So did Geraint Thomas. But, OK, we tried our best. For me it's confirmation that my condition is there and I am solid for the Classics. I always start the race helping Tom staying in position. I lost some energy doing some work, but I felt good in the final despite this. I am happy for that and think two guys finishing in the top five today is a good result for the team."
"Today started OK, but at La Houppe, the first climb of the day where the race really starts there was a big crash at the bottom of the climb." Boonen said. "We were near front of the peloton, 15th position. I hurt my thumb of the right hand in the crash. We were there with five guys of the team in the crash. Straight away I knew it was going to be a very difficult day because that's where the race starts. So we had to go faster uphill than the first guys. IAM and Trek were going full speed as there were a lot of favorites in the crash. So, we had to go faster uphill and then try to have the same speed downhill because they were going 100 percent on the descent. So it took us a lot of time to catch them back. When we did we had all the misery because guys were crashing and having flat tires, so it was hard to make it back into good position. So it was very dangerous to get back. Finally we made it back to the front and I think we regained control over the race. I told Stijn and Niki they had to pay attention as I had a lot of pain in my hand. I was trying to do the maximum but I knew it would be difficult. On the cobblestones it really hurt. In the handlebar it was OK, but on top of the handlebar it was really painful and I couldn't really accelerate out of the saddle. So, on the Kwaremont, I tried for a certain moment, but at a certain point it's just enough."
Another evaluation of Tom Boonen, if necessary, will be done tomorrow.