Paris-Roubaix: Terpstra 3rd Despite Bad Luck for OPQS
Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team rider Niki Terpstra gave everything he had to salvage a podium spot at the 254km Paris-Roubaix on Sunday, after OPQS dictated the race and had Zdenek Stybar and Stijn Vandenbergh in the break of the day with less than 16km to go. That is when bad luck struck the team.
First Vandenbergh, crashed after making contact with a fan on the side of the cobbles. Then, Stybar stayed upright but lost contact with Fabian Cancellara (Radioshack-Leopard) and Sep Vanmarcke (Blanco ProCycling) after another incident with a fan with 14.5km to go.
Terpstra was in a chase group behind, and Sylvain Chavanel in the third group. Chavanel had changed bikes due to a mechanical earlier in the race when groups began to distance themselves. Stybar, who stayed with Cancellara's every move prior to the fan contact, did his best to try and chase back to the duo ahead. But he eventually was caught by the Terpstra group, and Terpstra was with six riders who eventually contested 3rd place.
Cancellara and Vanmarcke battled it out in the final kilometer, as Vanmarcke and Cancellara played some cat and mouse in the velodrome before Vanmarcke led going into the finish. Cancellara bested him for the race victory.
Stybar, in his first time racing Paris-Roubaix, finished 6th for OPQS. Chavanel and Vandenbergh were 19th and 20th.
Earlier in the race, Gert Steegmans was in a break before the peloton began to truly accelerate the pace with 50km to go. Vandenbergh rode at the front as a select group was formed, along with Terpstra and Stybar. It was Vandenbergh who did his best to tire Cancellara by pushing the pace, while Stybar was also on Cancellara's wheel.
Guillaume Van Keirsbulck abandoned after his wheel was completely broken in the Arenberg forest, where he had similar bad luck in the 2012 edition of Paris-Roubaix.
"I'm happy to be on the podium of course," Terpstra said. "The team was really strong. Tom Boonen was not here, and he is our leader, but we had our chances. Sylvain Chavanel was of course our leader here, but also we can go if we have our chance. Chavanel had a bad moment and of course we have to go when the opportunity is there. Of course Cancellara was the big favorite today so we wanted to have as many riders as we could in the first group. We had three riders in the top 10 in the final kilometers, which was perfect. Unfortunately Stijn Vandenbergh and Zdenek Stybar crashed at the end. I didn't see what happened. I was sitting in the group behind and suddenly I see Stijn lying on the side of the road. I was thinking, 'man,' because he was really strong. But I thought 'OK we still have Zdenek there.' Then I heard he crashed but I just kept focusing on the group. Of course I was not working because we had men in front and for me it was to our advantage. So I could then save my energy in the final. Also I could use the experience on the track this winter, training with the team. That is why I could sprint well and take the podium place in the end. I think we could have played a very nice tactical game in the final, but Zdenek and Stijn crashed so I think in the end I am happy to take this podium place. I feel Roubaix is one of the craziest races, but it's beautiful to do because I can do it really well. Of course it's a special race, my specialty as well and that's why I loved it. I proved I could do really well today with a podium."
"I had Stijn in front at first, so I didn't have to pull," Stybar said of the breakaway with Cancellara and Vanmarcke. "I was just following Cancellara. I had really perfect legs and I was feeling very good. Then, there were three of us away and I thought 'I think I am one of the fastest,' so I was really focusing on what I could do in the final. Niki was behind me so I didn't have to pull at all. I was really in a super situation. But after there was some photographer or something in the way and I hit him with my shifter and I nearly crashed. Before I could put my foot back in the pedal I just lost contact with the wheel of Cancellara. Once you have a gap of 5 to 10 seconds, it's impossible to close on this parcour, especially after 240 kilometers. So on the one hand I am extremely disappointed, but on the other hand, for the first time here on the cobblestones and the Classics, I can be happy I was really close. I did a final and I hope to come back and win this race."
"I think as a team we did a really perfect job," Stybar continued. "From kilometer zero there was always someone in the breakaway. There was not once a group without our team. So, I think after the bad luck of Tom Boonen we proved we can still do really well as a team. All the group was very focused and motivated in the last days and weeks. We've just always had bad luck. For this race, once we hit the cobbles and saw all those crowds I realized it's very unique to be so lucky and so strong every single second. One moment you can lose everything, or you can win everything."
"I was just on the side of the road, and a spectator was lined up in front of me, " Vandenbergh said. "So I hit him and I crashed, and that's that. I chose the side and not the cobblestones. I was too close to the spectators and I crashed. In any case, I felt really good when I was away with Sep Vanmarcke earlier in the race. I was riding just 90 percent, and I saw on his face that he was suffering and I felt better. He is 2nd today, so it is hard for me that I am not on the podium today. When Vanmarcke saw Cancellara coming just before the pave he didn't want to ride anymore. He waited, and I also waited. So then we went with four. It was a good scenario for us, but we had bad luck. Maybe I could have even won. When Fabian went, Vanmarcke was able to stay on his wheel and I felt stronger than Vanmarcke. It's always possible to attack when they are busy looking at each other. So, if you can podium, for sure you could always win as well. As for my crash, my left elbow will need some stitches due to a deep wound and there is pain on my leg. But I'm in my rest period now, so I can recover."
"I was pedaling really well, everything was under control," Chavanel said. "Suddenly on the cobblestones sector of Auchy-lez-Orchies à Bersée (number 11) the cable of the front gear brake had a problem. I couldn't shift anymore and the chain was on the small ring. In the front they started attacking but I couldn't follow because of this technical problem. When I changed the bike it was already too late, the race was gone. I'm really frustrated because I showed that I could have been with the best in the final. Once again I had bad luck, but that's also Paris-Roubaix and you have to accept it."
"I was one of the riders who had to try to enter in the early breakaway" Steegmans said. "In the first hour of the race we really flew. When the group caught us I had the power to stay in the front again. It was part of our tactic today to stay always in the front with a rider but ... The bad luck hit us again. It's a shame because as a team we really did a great job and Styby or Vandenbergh could have finalized the entire team's work."
"I think today the guys were really committed to mark the race with a strong performance," Sport Director Wilfried Peeters said. "We were always in the action even if a tecnical excluded a strong Chavanel from the fight. In the final we had three guys and then two of four riders in the front. It was the perfect situation for us, but once again we had bad luck. Vandenbergh hit a spectator and he crashed and a few seconds later Styby was almost on the ground because of another spectator. Fortunately, Niki had the power to do a great sprint and gain a 3rd place that honestly I think the team really deserved, even if with two guys in the final we could have done even better."