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Having made it into a 13-rider front group on a windy, rainy day, Terpstra launched a solo move on the final lap to take an impressive victory in Le Samyn; Thwaites was second and Senechal third

Photo: Etixx - Quick-Step / Tim de Waele




02.03.2016 @ 18:04 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Niki Terpstra made up for the poor Etixx-QuickStep performance in the opening weekend by claiming an impressive solo win in the Walloon season opener, Le Samyn. On an epic day with wind and rain, the Dutchman emerged as the strongest in an elimination race from a 13-rider group and reached the finish with a 19-second advantage over Scott Thwaites (Bora-Argon 18) while Florian Senechal (Cofidis) won a three-rider sprint for third.


The opening weekend ended as a real disaster for Etixx-QuickStep which failed to place a single rider in the top 10 at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and had to settle for fifth with Lukasz Wisniowski in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. One of the riders who failed to deliver in the important home races for the Belgian team was star rider Niki Terpstra who was never in contention during the weekend.


The result made the Belgian team hungry for success when the Wallonian season kicked off in today’s Le Samyn semi-classic and apparently Terpstra was inspired to make up for the disappointment. The Dutch champion made things right as he came out on top in an epic race that had it all: cobbles, rain and wind.


The tough conditions had turned it into a true elimination race and with 45km, only 13 riders were still in contention. Surprisingly, Terpstra was the only survivor from Etixx-QuickStep and he found himself ina group with Tosh van der Sande (Lotto Soudal), Maxime Daniel (Ag2r), Loic Vliegen (BMC), Sven Erik Bystrøm, Nils Politt (Katusha), Dylan Groenewegen, Maarten Wynants (LottoNL-Jumbo), Scott Thwaites (Bora-Argon 18), Florian Senechal (Cofidis), Tony Hurel (Direct Energie), Daniel McLay (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) and Tim Declercq (Topsport Vlaanderen). They were being chased by Marco Marcato (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Gediminas Bagdonas (Ag2r), Floris De Tier, Sander Helven (Topsport Vlaanderen), Guillaume Van Keirsbulck, Davide Martinelli (Etixx-QuickStep), Sean De Bie (Lotto Soudal), Twan Castelijns (LottoNL-Jumbo), Ralf Matzka (Bora-Argon 18) and a Cofidis rider but that group was constantly losing ground and soon found themselves 30 seconds back.


With 40km to go, Vliegen took off in a solo move and stayed clear until they hit the new difficult pave sector that had been added to the 25km finishing circuit that the riders did four times. Here, Wynants accelerated hard and brought the young Belgian back. Meanwhile, the chase group was whittled down to just Martinelli, Helven, De Tier and De Bie but they were all out of contention.


Politt launched an immediate counterattack from the front group and he got a solid advantage. Van der Sande tried to join him but fell back to the chase group.


Terpstra played with the muscles as he tried to bridge the gap but Wynants didn’t give him an inch. The LottoNL-Jumbo Belgian was doing a lot of work to keep Politt at 20 seconds and try to set Groenewegen up for a sprint.


As they hit the final pave sector 2km from the finish line, Senechal and van der Sande tried to split the group and they were joined by Wynants, Groenewegen and Thwaites. Surprisingly, Terpstra had missed out but the chase group made it back as they climbed to the finish.


Politt started the final lap with a 5-second advantage over his chasers that had distanced van der Sande, McLay and Hurel on the tough uphill drag to the line. The former had cracked and decided not to do the final lap, taking Lotto Soudal completely out of contention.


There was no cooperation in the chase group and so Politt managed to push his advantage out to 10 seconds while McLay and Hurel managed to rejoin the group. Furthermore, it opened the door for Senechal to attack and he quickly rejoined Politt.


Terpstra realized the danger and with 20km to go he accelerated hard in the crosswind. Only Thwaites and Groenewegen could match his speed and they quickly caught Politt and Senechal.


Senechal tried to attack as there was no cooperation in the front group but as he failed to get clear, the seven chasers made it back. Wynants tried to go straight past but he failed.


This is when Terpstra used another crosswind section to make his move. The Dutchman accelerated hard and only Bystrøm, Declercq and Thwaites could keep up with him. Wynants tried to neutralize the move but when he went again, the Dutch champion made the difference. Bystrøm and Declercq cracked and only Thwaites could hang onto his wheel.


Thwaites did his best to keep up with his rival but with 14km to go, he had to surrender. He quickly lost 10 seconds but then did really well to keep the gap around that mark. Further back, Declercq and Bystrøm were caught by the group that had distanced Daniel.


On the new pave, McLay was the next rider to get distanced while Terpstra pushed his advantage out to 15 seconds. In the chase group, the two LottoNL riders and Senechal did most of the work but they found themselves 35 seconds behind with 8km to go.


Thwaites stayed at around 15 seconds for a while but the chasers lost ground and were 45 seconds behind with 5km to go. Moments later, Politt made a move that was marked by Senechal before Groenewegen and Vliegen joined them.


Terpstra hit the final pave with less than 3km to go with a 14-second advantage over Thwaites and the outcome was no longer in doubt. While he marshalled on, Senechal, Politt and Vliegen dropped Groenewegen and hit the uphill finishing straight with a solid advantage.


No one was stopping Terpstra who had plenty of time to celebrate his win. An impressive Thwaites crossed the line 19 seconds later to take second while Senechal narrowly edged out Vliegen in the sprint for third. Groenewegen was first from the chase group but that was only good enough for sixth.


With Le Samyn done and dusted, most of the riders will head back to Flanders for the Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen which runs from Friday to Sunday.


A course with more cobbles

The 48th edition of Le Samyn was held on a 202.6km course that could be split into two halves. First the riders tackled 102.3km from Quaregnon to the finishing city of Dour, covering four Belgian hellingen after around 50km of racing. However, the real challenge was the four laps of the 25.1km finishing circuit that included two small climbs of which one was cobbled, and three pave sectors. Two of them had the maximum three-star rating and the final of those was located just 2.5km from the finish. The final 1500m were an uphill drag to the line.


As forecasted, the riders were greeted by windy and rainy conditions when they gathered for the start. Rick Zabel (BMC) was absent as he hadn’t recovered from the illness that took him out of Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.


The peloton splits to pieces

The conditions made the start very stressful and the first crash came already after four kilometres of racing when Joshua Hunt (ONE) hit the deck. While he tried to rejoin the peloton, the wind and rain split the peloton into several groups during the first 30km of racing as no one managed to escape.


Four riders managed to get clear and were joined by another three to make it a septet that fought hard to get an advantage. It was a tough job as the peloton had split into four groups, separated by 30 seconds. Meanwhile, Hunt crashed again and left the race.


A 47-rider group gathers in front

More riders managed to bridge the gap to the leaders and so it was a sixteen-rider group that emerged. ONE had three riders in the group, including Yanto Barker, while Loic Vliegen was there for BMC and Marco Marcato for Wanty. Niki Terpstra (Etixx-QuickStep), Moreno Hofland (LottoNL-Jumbo), Alexey Vermeulen (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Lukas Pöstlberger (Bora-Argon 18) had also made the selection.


The group managed to get an advantage of 45 seconds over the first peloton but as they started the first lap of the finishing circuit, they were caught by the first big group. 47 riders gathered in the front with a 28-second advantage over a 12-rider chase group while a bigger field was at a minute. At this point, the hard conditions had taken their toll as Philippe Gilbert (BMC), Thomas De Gendt, Frederik Frison, Gert Dockx (Lotto Soudal), Jaroslaw Marycz (CCC), Mark McNally and Roy Jans (Wanty) were among the many riders that had left the race.


Bagdonas takes off

The gradual elimination continued and with 67km to go, a 15-rider group had emerged. A few more rejoined from behind to form a 35-rider group. In addition to the 13 riders that would decide the race, Marcato, Lukasz Wisniowski, Bagdonas, Castelijns, Martinelli, De Tier, Stijn Steels, Van Keirsbulck, Laurens De Plus, Adiran Kurek, De Bie, Olivier Pardini, Martinelli were some of the riders that were still in contention at that point.


The pace briefly went down and that allowed Bagdonas to make a move with 55km to go. No one responded and he quickly got an advantage of 15 seconds. Declercq, De Bie, Van Keirsbulck and Vorobyev briefly formed a chase group but they were brought back on a climb with 62km to go.


Terpstra tests his legs

As they hit the new pave sector, Terpstra accelerated hard and only De Bie, van der Sande, Wynants, Declercq and Politt could match him. Groenewegen and Van Keirbulck joined the move and later Senechal also made contact. They caught Bagdonas and as the pace went down, a 25-rider group gathered. In addition to the 13 riders that decided the race, De Bie, Bagdonas, Martinelli, Van Keirsbulck, De Plus, Castelijns, Matzka, a Cofidis rider, Stijn Steels, Helven, De Tier and Marcato were still there.


Van Keirsbulck, Vliegen and Plitt attacked and when they had built a 15-second advantage, De Bie bridged across. LottoNL-Jumbo had missed the move though and started to chase hard.


Terpstra goes again

As they hit the final pave sector, Terpstra accelerated hard and he went straight past the group. De Bie, Thwaites, Politt, Van Keirsbulck, Wynants joined him while Steels cracked completely. Gradually, the 24-rider group came back together as there was no cooperation.


Hurel, Senechal, McLay and Daniel attacked and they were joined by Terpstra. Further back, the group split in the crosswinds and the quintet was caught by 8 chasers to make it the 13-rider group that would ultimately decide the race. 



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