Niki Terpstra rides to victory in Eneco Tour
A strong performance on the treacherous cobbles of Flanders and a flawless tactic of Etixx – Quick-Step catapulted the Dutchman at the top of the overall standings.
Rain, cobblestones and a tough course with 17 hills made for a psychedelic picture on Sunday, when the 12th edition of the Eneco Tour wrapped up after one of the most thrilling stages in its history. The day started under a blue sunny sky, but things changed dramatically in the afternoon, when the rain made the roads really slippery and split the group, before taking out of the race general classification leader Rohan Dennis (BMC), who crashed inside the last 50 kilometers.
On the second of the three laps the peloton had to cover in the final part of the punishing stage 7 (Bornem – Geraardsbergen, 197.8 kilometers), Luxembourg champion Bob Jungels attacked and forced an important selection. The newly-formed group, that included also Niki Terpstra, quickly opened on the chasers a gap of 20 seconds, which continued to grow thanks to the tremendous pace setting of an indefatigable Bob Jungels, who pushed the pedal to the metal and played a decisive role in the outcome of the week-long race.
Victorious in Le Samyn and Dwars door het Hageland this season, both wins which came in atrocious weather conditions, Niki Terpstra was the main engine of that small group after Bob's job was done and spent a huge amount of energy at the front, taking the Golden Kilometer bonus seconds and taming the cobbles of the Muur-Kapelmuur and Bosberg, two climbs which throughout the years witnessed how legends were born and dreams got shattered.
His glittering display under a sky full of tumultuous, dark and ragged clouds, coming straight from a painting of fellow Dutchman Jacob Abels, helped 32-year-old Niki take overall honors at the end of the grueling stage which he concluded in second place, behind Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data).
"I'm extremely happy and proud to finish off this great job of the team, who was incredible today!"
The Muur van Geraardsbergen has a special place in cycling and it means a lot for me to seal the overall victory here.
"We were aware of the fact that we had several cards to play in the general classification at the start of the day and we were keen to make use of this strength in numbers", said Niki, who surged to contention following the excellent display of the squad in Friday's team time trial.
The second Etixx – Quick-Step rider to win the Eneco Tour, an event in which he came third at the 2012 edition, the consistent Dutchman explained how he nabbed the team's 52nd victory of the season: "When it started to rain, we were already on the attack and we gave it our all to keep tht advantage. We rode a really smart race today and Bob did a fantastic job at the front, so I must thank him for his huge pace setting. In the closing kilometers of the stage, my focus was to stay with the other riders and make sure I win this beautiful race, which I did in the end. It's a great day in my career."
Besides Niki Terpstra, also Zdenek Stybar (7th) and Bob Jungels (10th) finished the Eneco Tour on a high note, helping Etixx – Quick-Step win the teams classification for the fourth time at the Dutch-Belgian World Tour race.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele