Tour of Qatar Stage 1: Niki Terpstra Wins Following Brilliant Strategy, Teamwork
Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team likely couldn't have played the first stage of Tour of Qatar any better on Sunday. With two riders in a five man escape group — Guillaume Van Keirsbulck and Niki Terpstra — and Tom Boonen and several other OPQS riders in the group behind, the advantage was theirs going into the final kilometers.
It looked like the break, which also included Martin Elmiger (IAM Cycling), Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto-Belisol), and Michael Schar (BMC Racing Team), might be caught for a bunch sprint finale with 18km to go and the gap at 20 seconds. However, just a few kilometers later the gap was back up to 32 seconds. The same happened in the final 7 kilometers. The gap hovered at about 22" with 7km to go, but grew to 31" at 5km to go. Van Keirsbulck sacrificed his own chances in the final to ensure Terpstra had a chance to contest the stage, as it looked like the sprint for victory would be into a tough headwind.
In the final kilometer Martin Elmiger (IAM cycling) attacked first, but Terpstra immediately reacted and jumped on his wheel. Terpstra then launched his own sprint and was able to hold everyone off for the first OPQS road win of 2014.
Roelandts was 2nd and Schar finished in 3rd place. Van Keirsbulck, after his tremendous effort helping Terpstra, was also 5th and teammate Tom Boonen was 6th, winning the group sprint.
Winds played a factor throughout the race, but OPQS is known for doing well in such conditions.
"First part of the stage was crosswinds so actually that was the hardest part," Terpstra said. "In the end we had front wind, so the speed was going down, but then we attacked with five riders. Luckily we could keep a small gap until the finish. Fighting against the wind is always hard. But in the end we made it. I'm really happy Guillaume was in the front group with me. He worked really hard. He gave me some motivation and in the end I still had enough energy to do the sprint and it worked out well. So I have to say thanks to him for using all his energy to help give me the best chance for a victory."
OPQS was able to take a total team effort to put the two riders in the breakaway.
"The team was great all day," Terpstra said. "When we had an echelon after 55km we were there with five riders. A big group came back, but not everyone. Then in the final after the bonus sprint we got in a breakaway of five. In that group we participated really well together, especially Guillaume. What he did in the last kilometer was perfect for me and I'm happy I could finish the job."
Van Keirsbulck said truly gave everything to help his teammate in the breakaway.
"It was pretty windy today," Van Keirsbulck said. "But, I had a good feeling. When me and Niki were in the break I asked him if he felt good and he said yes. So, then I started riding until I was dead. At one point I lost them for about 20 meters, but not more, so I tried to come back. I managed to do it and then tried to attack, which put Niki in a perfect position because the others had to react and use energy. I'm really happy we won today and I could be a big part of it."
OPQS CEO Patrick Lefevere was proud of the first road victory of 2014 for the team.
"It's always a pleasure to get the first victory of the year," Lefevere said. "Today the team was strong. They took the initiative and Niki had a great win, so of course with this I am happy."