Terpstra Wins Paris-Roubaix
In making Paris-Roubaix predictions, one observer wrote (page 2) of Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), “He will not be a free agent, but he could surprise in support of Tom Boonen. One overlooks him at one’s peril.” Today, the peloton learned the truth of that statement. Terpstra slipped away from an 11-man lead group with six kilometers remaining and won the 257-km Hell of the North in 6:09:01. John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) outsprinted defending champion Fabian Cancellara (Trek) for second at 0:20.
At the start line, the weather was chilly but sunny. Three kilometers after the flag came down, John Murphy (United Healthcare), Kenny de Haes (Lotto-Belisol), Andreas Schillinger (NetApp-Endura), Clement Koretzky and Benoit Jarrier (both from Bretagne-Seche Environnement), David Boucher (FDJ.fr), Tim De Troyer (Wanty-Groupe Robert), and Michael Kolar (Tinkoff-Saxo Bank) sallied off of the front. The octet ran up a nine-minute lead within an hour, at which time Belkin, Omega Pharma-Quick Step, Trek, and Katusha began to chase. The escapees’ advantage began to drop as the peloton approached Sector 28 (97.5 kilometers), the day’s first section of cobbles, in Troisvilles.
Crashes and flats began to make themselves felt, as they always do in Paris-Roubaix. Boonen punctured and rejoined easily, and Arnaud Demare (FDJ.fr) punctured and then crashed. Still, the bunch had cut the break’s lead to six minutes at the end of Sector 20 (142 km).
Near Denain, the misfortunes increased. Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) punctured. Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) was the victim of a large crash. Peter Sagan (Cannondale) punctured and chased hard to rejoin the peloton before it reached the Arenberg Trench.
Sky led the field up to the Trench. Ahead, attrition took its toll. Boucher, Koretzsky, and De Haes punctured, although Boucher got back on, and Kolar was dropped. In the peloton, Gregory Rast (Trek) flatted, as did Kristoff. When the peloton entered the Arenberg Forest, it was 4:20 behind the fugitives.
After leaving the Arenberg, a train crossing stopped Boucher. Just before Sector 16, Hayden Roulston (Trek) crashed and took many riders down with him. The mishap took down Trek team captain Cancellara and split the field into several groups. Omega Pharma-Quick Step led the field onto Sector 16. Cancellara and Peter Sagan (Cannondale) chased to catch the lead group. Thor Hushovd (BMC) attacked from that that group, but Omega Pharma-Quick Step reeled him in. The former world champion tried again and was caught again.
The break, which led the peloton by one minute, was down to three riders. After the lead group left Sector 14, Bert De Backer (Giant-Shimano), Maarten Tjallingii (Belkin), Geraint Thomas (Sky), Mathieu Ladagnous (FDJ.fr), and Yannick Martinez (Europcar) attacked. One sector later, Boonen bridged up to the move. BMC went to the front of the peloton and kept the move from getting too far ahead of the bunch.
Boonen accelerated again, and De Backer, Martinez, and Thomas stayed with him. BMC throttled back, but no one took up the chase. With 40 km left, the break led the bunch by 0:50.
With 35 km left, Sagan attacked from the peloton, and Maarten Wynants (Belkin) joined him. The pair joined the leaders with 22 km to go. Other riders joined the group, among them Sep Vanmarcke (Belkin) and Cancellara.
Sagan attacked and got a gap, but the peloton kept him within reach. On the Carrefour de l’Arbre, Vanmarcke, Cancellara, Zdenek Stybar (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), and Degenkolb caught the Slovak, while Terpstra towed Boonen up to the move and Bradley Wiggins and Thomas (both from Sky) joined the group. The lead group consisted of 11 riders.
De Backer accelerated on behalf of team captain Degenkolb. Omega Pharma-Quick Step, with three riders in the lead group, had cards to play. The Belgian squad played one of them. With 6.3 km left, Terpstra attacked.
The Dutchman’s lead was never large, and a concerted chase would have caught him. Such a pursuit, however, was not forthcoming. His teammates in the lead group blocked, and the other riders refrained from taking the initiative to chase. Terpstra, the first Dutch winner of the Hell of the North since Servais Knaven in 2001, pumped his fist and grinned as he crossed the finish line.
"I feel happy, but really tired," Terpstra said after the race. "When we came together in the last cobblestone section — at the end of the cobblestones — [Omega Pharma-Quick Step directeur sportif] Wilfried Peeters told us if we go for the sprint we go with Tom. But, if you can attack, it's always good to open the final. So it was up to me and Zdenek to attack and they know I like to do it. So, 20 seconds later I attacked. It was the good one. When I looked behind me, I saw there was a gap, so it was just full gas to the finish line. Don't look back, because that doesn't help. They will come back anyway if you check or not. Then, when I was crossing the finish line, it was just really special. I'm so satisfied. Finally I won a big one."
"We had a healthy, comfortable pressure from within the team to perform. The kind that motivates us to do well. We won a lot of races but not a big one yet. We wanted to prove we can win a big one. Today we really proved we are a strong team that can also win the biggest races. As for me, two years ago I was fifth, and last year I was third. If you can finish in the top 10 here you can also, with a bit of luck, win it. Last year, I was really close, and this year I made it. Since I was a little child and I started cycling, Paris-Roubaix was the most special race for me. Now, I won it. It's a dream come true. Paris-Roubaix is a crazy race, old-fashioned, but that's why it's special and why I love it that much. It was really my lucky day. I think we're going to have a nice dinner with the team tonight to celebrate this great victory, and then I will enjoy my time at home this week with my family."
The cobbled classics are over. Next up are the Ardennes classics, the first of which will be next Sunday’s Amstel Gold Race. Dutch squads Belkin and Giant-Shimano will want to win on their home ground. By the same token, riders such as Roman Kreuziger (Tinkoff-Saxo Bank), Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing Team), and Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Merida), all of whom have won the race, will seek to add to their palmares with a prestigious win. Who will triumph? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!