Terpstra comes fourth in tough Gent-Wevelgem
Following a consistent week of racing in Belgium and Spain, Quick-Step Floors tops the World Tour standings.
Cobbles, punchy climbs ramping up to 22%, gravel roads and a 249km-long and leg-sapping course, that was the menu of the 79th Gent-Wevelgem, which welcomed a star-studded field at the start line in Deinze. Once the riders rolled out, it took more than an hour for a break to form, and when nine riders finally managed to slip away, they put around seven minutes between them and the peloton.
Quick-Step Floors was the team to take up the initiative behind and chew into the escapees' advantage once the race hit its famous climbs, with the likes of Julien Vermote, Yves Lampaert and even Tom Boonen leading the bunch. Same Lampaert, the winner of last Wednesday's Dwars door Vlaanderen, was the one to cover several moves launched before the narrow and tricky plugstreets which made their debut at the race this year.
Then, on the second of the day's three gravel roads, Zdenek Stybar and Matteo Trentin pulled clear and were joined by Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo) and Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Wanty-Groupe Gobert). After leaving the last of the sectors behind, they enjoyed a 20-second lead, but with the peloton still being a sizeable one, it was difficult for them to hold on to that advantage.
Over the Kemmelberg, Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) and Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) fired away and opened a gap, but our team responded immediately with Stybar, Trentin and Niki Terpstra. Other riders bridged across, and inside the last 30 kilometers the 14-man group had 25 seconds over the peloton, a margin which continued to stretch out as they approached Wevelgem.
The front group disintegrated with around 20 kilometers to go, and shortly after Van Avermaet and Jens Keukeleire (Orica-Scott) got away. After a moment of hesitation, Terpstra, Sagan and Soren Kragh Andersen (Team Sunwen) began to chase, but despite their strong effort they came short on the line, and Niki finished the race in fourth place, his best result in a one-day race since the start of the season. The bunch arrived seconds later, and Tom Boonen took sixth, two places ahead of teammate Fernando Gaviria.
"We were five riders in the front. When Greg and Jens attacked, I didn't chase immediately, because I thought it was up to Sagan to close the gap, as he was the fastest of the group. Unfortunately, we couldn't come back until the line and that was that", explained Niki Terpstra, whose feelings were echoed by Patrick Lefevere: "Niki, Sagan and Kragh Andersen missed the timing when the other two went away, but sometimes races are decided by details and today we probably made a small mistake. I'm sure that if they could play those final kilometers again, they would choose a different approach. That's racing sometimes."
One of the five riders to have won Gent-Wevelgem on three occasions, Tom Boonen saw the bright side of things following the sixth place he got at his last presence here: "It was another good race for me. To score a top 10 finish in my final appearance at Gent-Wevelgem isn't that bad, considering how tough the race was. This just comes as extra proof that I'm on the right road for Flanders and Roubaix."
In this past week, not only that Quick-Step Floors racked up a win and three other podiums in the four races the team has completed in Belgium and Spain, but thanks to this consistent display of strength and versatility, our team was catapulted at the top of the World Tour classification.
"I am happy to see the squad in the lead, because it shows how competitive we are on all kinds of terrains. These first months of the season were really impressive, as our team was a key player in all the races. We have a great mentality, our staff and riders are motivated every time we race and in the past years we have made a significant leap in quality", said Patrick Lefevere, Quick-Step Floors' CEO. "It's not by mistake that 21 of our riders have scored points in the World Tour rankings, with 5 of them winning a World Tour race. I'm satisfied of this first place in the standings, a reward for all our hard work, and I'm sure the team will continue to perform in the months to come."
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele