Dutchman Niki Terpstra on Sunday was fighting back the tears after completing a personal cobbled classics double by winning the prestigious Tour des Flandres.
Four years after triumphing at Paris-Roubaix — another of cycling’s five “Monument” one-day races — the Quick-Step Floors rider launched a daring solo breakaway with 25km left to take a hugely impressive victory.
Danish 22-year-old Mads Pedersen of Trek-Segafredo was 12 seconds behind in second with last year’s winner Philippe Gilbert of Belgium, also of Quick-Step Floors, third at 17 seconds.
“Winning Paris-Roubaix and now the Tour of Flanders, for me it was always a big dream,” an emotional Terpstra said. “When I was a kid, I was crazy for these races. I can’t describe how happy I am.”
With all eyes on world champion Peter Sagan of Bora-Hansgrohe, Olympic gold medalist Greg van Avermaet of BMC Racing Team and last year’s winner in Flanders Gilbert, Terpstra took his chance to slip away and take another major victory.
In the past, Terpstra has had to play second fiddle to illustrious teammates such as three-time Flanders winner Tom Boonen and Gilbert, but he insisted he deserved this success.
“It’s not only Boonen and Gilbert, but the whole team has quality behind it,” the 33-year-old said. “Sometimes you give something and sometimes you get something back, like last year. I was third here and I was the break [foil] for Gilbert, who was in front. The whole year around I try to be a good teammate, but now the luck is on my side — all the work I put into the team, I get it back now.”
Four years ago his Paris-Roubaix attack came a bit later, in the final 12km, but this time Terpstra latched onto an initial break by Milan-San Remo winner Vincenzo Nibali of Bahrain-Merida, before leaving the Italian in his wake.
There were still three breakaway riders left up the road, but Terpstra caught them on the Oude Kwaremont climb, the penultimate of 18 along the torturous 265km course, with 18km left.
By the final Paterberg climb, 13km from the finish, Terpstra had a 40 second lead over the peloton.
Sagan tried to attack from the peloton near the top of the Paterberg, but he soon sat up to wait for the rest of the favorites.
Only Pedersen, one of the three riders Terpstra had caught earlier, remained in a position to try to hunt down the Dutchman, but he did not have the legs and held on for second place, while Gilbert won the sprint for third.
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