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Like he did two years ago, Terpstra shows excellent condition ahead of the big classics by taking an impressive solo win in Dwars door Vlaanderen. A frustrated Farrar wins the sprint for second

Photo: ASO / B. Bade

BORUT BOZIC

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DWARS DOOR VLAANDEREN

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NIKI TERPSTRA

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SOUDAL - QUICK STEP

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TYLER FARRAR

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26.03.2014 @ 18:54 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) proved that he is ready to play a key role for Tom Boonen in the cobbled classics when he took a fantastic solo win in today's Belgian opener, Dwars door Vlaanderen. Like he did in 2012, the Dutchman attacked on his own in the finale and despite the concerted effort of a very strong chase group and a hard chase from the peloton, no one was able to bring him back while a very frustrated Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp) beat Borut Bozic (Astana) in the sprint for second.

 

Two years ago Niki Terpstra took a fantastic solo win in the opener of the holy period of Belgian cycling, the Dwars door Vlaanderen, when he and then-teammate Sylvain Chavanel put on an excellent Omega Pharma-Quick Step showing to prove that they were fully ready for the big classics. Today he repeated that performance when he did it all again in the Belgian semi-classic.

 

Terpstra bided his time in the peloton in what was a non-selective version of the race that has often been a hard-fought affair in brutal weather conditions. While none of his fellow favourites seemed to manage to make the difference, he hid himself in the peloton until he finally pounced on the climb that was always expected to be decisive.

 

With 30km to go, he launched a fierce acceleration on the Paterberg that nobody could match. He not only reached the remnants of the early break, he went straight past them and quickly opened up a big gap.

 

At the top of the climb, a small group of favourites caught the early escapees and Trek went straight to the front to set a hard tempo. However, they failed to get any closer to Terpstra who continued to build on his advantage.

 

Another big group rejoined the chasers to form a 30-40 rider peloton in which Garmin-Sharp and Orica-GreenEDGE combined forces in the chase. Stijn Devolder (Trek), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Gert Steegmans (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), and Nicki Sørensen (Tinkoff-Saxo) attacked on the Vossenhol 20km from the finish and formed a very strong chase group.

 

Despite the combined efforts of Devolder, Valverde, and Sørensen - with Steegmans protecting his teammate on the front - the quartet never got closer than 15 seconds. Instead, they started to lose ground and ended up being swallowed up by the peloton 2km from the finish.

 

With Terpstra still being 25 seconds ahead, the main group admitted defeat and so the Dutchman could take his second solo win in the race. Behind, the sprint for second unfolded, with Tyler Farrar narrowly edging out Borut Bozic, hammering his first into the handlebars to show his frustration over another near-miss.

 

Today's actors will be joined by riders like Fabian Cancellara, Peter Sagan, and Sep Vanmarcke when the big dress rehearsal for the Tour of Flanders, E3 Harelbeke, takes place on Friday in the second big race in the holy period of Belgian cycling.

 

A Flemish semi-classic

As usual, the Dwars door Vlaanderen brought the riders from Roeselare to Waregem over som classical Flemish terrain. As many of the Flemish classics, the 201km race had a flat start before they headed into the Flemish Ardennes for the tricky finale. The riders had to cover no less than 11 of the famous hellingen and three paved sectors, with the duo of Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg 30km from the finish set to be decisive. The final challenge was the Nokereberg 8km from the finish and from there it was flat all the way to the line.

 

The race took off under a cloudy sky, with Robert Wagner (Belkin) being the only non-starter. However, the riders were in no mood to let the average weather conditions dampen their spirit as the race was off to an extremely fast start.

 

A fast start

In the first part of the race, several attacks were launched but the peloton was in absolute no mood to let anyone get clear. Instead, the fierce pace brought down a number of riders, with Jesse Sergent (Trek), Dylan van Baarle (Garmin), and Florian Senechal (Cofidis) being some of the riders to hit the deck.

 

It took 25km before a rider finally managed to get a small gap when Alex Dowsett (Movistar) took off. The British time trial champion was never able to build more than a 5-second advantage though and he was quickly swallowed up.

 

Zordan takes off

The fast pace started to take its toll as riders were now falling off the pace. Just before the first passage of the finish line at the 42.9km mark, Andrea Zordan (Androni) was the next rider to get clear but his attempt was similarly short-lived.

 

The peloton briefly split into two but the gap never grew to more than 50m and things quickly got back together. Soon after, the first bigger break was created when Dominic Klemme (IAM), Maxime Daniel (Ag2r), Frederik Veuchelen (Wanty), Jelle Wallays (Topsport), and Louis Verhelst (Cofidis) took off but they were quickly swallowed up.

 

Three riders get a gap

The riders covered 51km in the first hour and still no escape had been created. Finally, it seemed that the break might go when Kris Boeckmans (Lotto Belisol), Kenneth Vanbilsen (Topsport), and James Vanlandschoot (Wanty) got clear.

 

The trio built up a 20-second gap when David Millar (Garmin) took off in a quest to bridge across. He made the junction while behind Aldo-Ino Ilesic (Unitedhealthcare) tried to make a similar move.

 

A big group gets clear

The Slovenian was joined by Gatis Smukulis (Katusha) but couldn't match the pace of his new companion. However, the peloton had still not slowed down and suddenly an 18-rider group took off in pursuit of the leaders that were now 30 seconds ahead.

 

Paolo Longo Borghini (Cannondale), Chris Sutton (Sky), Stephen Cummings (BMC), Markel Irizar, Fabio Silvestre (Trek), Nikolas Maes (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Dmitriy Muravyev (Astana), Jay McCarthy (Tinkoff-Saxo), Gediminas Bagdonas (Ag2r), Jos van Emden (Belkin), Aleksejs Saramotins (IAM), Frederik Veuchelen (Wanty), Tom Van Asbroeck (Topsport), Romain Zingle (Cofidis), Songezo Jim (MTN), Blaz Jarc, Daniel Schorn (NetApp-Endura), and John Murphy (Unitedhealthcare) joined Smukulis and they quickly closed the gap to the front quartet to form a 23-rider group.

 

Jarc falls off the pace

Only Androni, Movistar and Orica-GreenEDGE had missed the move and so most teams seemed to be content with the situation, the gap quickly grew to a minute and by the time, the leaders approached the Nieuwe Kwaremont at the 91km to go mark, they were already 2.12 ahead.

 

The gap went up to three minutes before the peloton started to react. At this point, Jarc fell off the pace, leaving his teammate Schorn as the only NetApp-Endura rider in the move.

 

Devolder crashes

At the top of the Nieuwe Kwaremont, the gap had come down to 2.30 and when they reached the Kattenberg, it was down to 2.17. With the battle for position starting to heat up as the riders reached the hilly zone, a crash brought down Stijn Devolder (Trek), Matthias Krizek (Cannondale), Jetse Bol (Belkin), Nikolay Trusov (Tinkoff-Saxo), Salvatore Puccio (Sky), and Marcel Aregger (IAM) but all riders got back on their bike.

 

When the riders reached the Haaghoek with 80km to go, Orica-GreenEDGE had brought the gap down to less than 2 minutes, with the two strongmen Jens Mouris and Sven Tuft powering over the cobbles to bring the Australian team back in contention. Alejandro Valverde - who did the race to get a taste of the cobbles ahead of the Tour de France - was staying very attentive near the front.

 

Silvestre punctures

Silvestre was unfortunate to puncture out of the lead group, leaving Irizar as the only Trek rider in the front group. In that group, there was no great cohesion as several riders were not contributing to the work and this prompted Van Emden who had been doing a lot, to take off when they hit the Valkenberg 69km from the finish.

 

There was no immediate reaction from his companions but as he failed to get a big gap, he quickly decided to wait for them. In the peloton, Michael Hepburn had now joined Tuft and Mouris on the front, with the Orica-GreenEDGE trio keeping the gap stable at around 1.30.

 

Eikenberg does some damage

With 65km to go, the riders were close to the first crucial point of the race, the Eikenberg, and this caused a fierce battle for position in the peloton. Despite the presence of Millar in the front group, Garmin-Sharp hit the front and their fierce acceleration brought the gap down to 55 seconds.

 

Sensing the peloton approaching from behind, Smukulis decided to attack from the front group. Smukulis managed to build up a 20-second gap over his chasers by the time he reached the Eikenberg.

 

Marcato shows his cards

When the peloton hit the steep slopes, IAM had take control of the group, with Sylvain Chavanel being well-positioned near the front. Marco Marcato (Cannondale) made an immediate attack to string things out but Chavanel, Valverde and Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quick) were quick to respond, making it impossible for him to get away.

 

Over the top of the climb, Cyril Lemoine (Cofidis) attacked and he was joined an Omega Pharma-Quick Step rider before being brought back. Up ahead, Zingle had set a hard pace up the climb which had caused the group to split and brought back Smukulis. Cummings, Murphy, Muravyev, Jim, Longo, Boeckmans, and Millar had all been dropped but they managed to get back on shortly after.

 

Vanbilsen takes off

In the peloton, Orica-GreenEDGE again took control, this time with Mitchell Docker doing the work. The gap was now down to 46 seconds as the riders headed towards the key climb of the Taaienberg.

 

At the bottom of the climb, Vanbilsen attacked from the front group and he quickly built up a big gap. In the peloton, Boonen did what he always does on that climb when he launched a fierce attack that only Jens Keukeleire (Orica-GreenEDGE) could match.

 

Things come back together

Steve Chainel (Ag2r) managed to bridge across to the duo while Maarten Wynants (Belkin) led a small chase group a bit further behind. The group also include Drucker, Van Keirsbulck, Bozic, Mørkøv, Mondory, Stannard, Puccio and a few more and they made the junction shortly after the top. As there was no big cohesion, a big group got back together and things slowed completely down.

 

Up ahead, the front group had splintered, with Irizar bridging across to Vanbilsen. Behind, Van Asbroeck, Maes, Zingle, Saramotins and Van Emden formed a chase group that finally made the junction. At this point, they had a 46-second gap as Bagdonas was the final rider to join them.

 

Lotto take control

Debusschere, Kuznetsov, an Ag2r rider, and one from Garmin used the standstill in the peloton to attack but they were quickly brought back by a strong Stijn Vandenbergh. Instead, Mathew Hayman (Orica-GreenEDGE) attacked and he quickly made it across to the big chase group that had formed behind the leaders.

 

A few more attacks were launched but the chase group was brought back. As Lotto Belisol took control with Boeckmans, the situation calmed down and when they caught Smukulis, only the 8-rider front group was left ahead of the peloton.

 

Keukeleire accelerates

It would now all come down to the Oude Kwaremont and the Paterberg. On the first climb, Jens Keukeleire (Orica-GreenEDGE) and Ian Stannard (Sky) set a hard pace that created a huge selection.

 

Over the top, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) took off and he started to close the gap to the 8-rider escape. He joined them halfway up the Paterberg while behind the real battle was going on.

 

Terpstra makes his move

Terpstra showed impressive strength to rid himself of all his fellow favourites and he not only reached the front group, he went straight past them. A little later, Sylvain Chavanel (IAM) and Stannard led a small group of favourites to the top and despite a short-lived move from Saramotins, they closed the gap to the remnants of the early break.

 

A small chase group has now formed 11 seconds behind Terpstra and Irizar and some of his Trek teammates went straight to the front as they tried to close the gap. However, they kept losing time, and instead a bigger peloton made the junction 23km from the line.

 

Devolder takes off

Orica-GreenEDGE started to organize a chase with Mathew Hayman doing an awful lot of work. However, the cohesion was broken on the Vossenhol with 20km to go when Devolder took off.

 

The Belgian champion was joined by Steegmans, Valverde, and Sørensen  with the exception of Steegmans, they worked very well together. With 13km to go, they had the gap down to just 15 seconds while the peloton - now led by Garmin and Orica-GreenEDGE - was 45 seconds behind.

 

The peloton gets closer

The chasers never got any closer and now started to lose time. The peloton was by now the fastest group and they gradually approached all the escapees.

 

Nick Nuyens did a huge work for Garmin and with assistance from the Orica-GreenEDGE team, they caught the chasers 2km from the line. At that point, however, Terpstra was still 25 seconds clear and it was evident that there was nothing to be done.

 

Terpstra had plenty of time to celebrate his second win in Waregem while Farrar narrowly edged out Bozic to take another podium place in the Belgian semi-classic.

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