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On a very rainy day, Terpstra won the first stage of the Tour de Wallonie after beating Campenaerts in a 2-rider sprint; Hutarovich was first from a small chase group to take third

Photo: Sirotti

DECEUNINCK - QUICK-STEP

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NIKI TERPSTRA

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TOUR DE WALLONIE 

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YAUHENI HUTAROVICH

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25.07.2015 @ 18:16 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Niki Terpstra (Etixx-QuickStep) showed that he excels in tough conditions when he won an epic first stage of the Tour de Wallonie. After strong winds and rain had made it a hard day, he joined forces with Victor Campenaerts (Topsport Vlaanderen) to attack from a 14-rider breakaway and held off the chasers before attacking his companions to win the stage and take the leader’s jersey.

 

With its hilly profile, the Tour de Wallonie is tailor-made for Ardennes specialists and most had pointed to an in-form Philippe Gilbert as the overwhelming favourite for the five-day race. The name of Niki Terpstra had only been mentioned occasionally, with the Dutchman generally regarded to be too heavy to the hilly parcours.

 

However, Terpstra is a strong man for the Northern classics and he excels when the conditions get epic. Hence, he found himself in a perfect position when rain and wind made the opening sprint stage a much harder affair than expected.

 

Terpstra made it into a strong 14-rider group that escaped after a tough start where the wind had made the peloton split. The group worked well together to keep an advantage of 2-3 minutes for most of the day while BMC, FDJ and Wanty controlled the peloton.

 

Sensing that the peloton was accelerating, Terpstra attacked with 28km to go on the final climb of the day and only Victor Campenaerts could keep up with them. Behind, a strong chase group of early escapees was formed and the final part of the stage turned into an exciting pursuit.

 

With 15km to go, the chasers were 35 seconds behind the two leaders while the peloton was still at two minutes. Hence, it was apparent that the main group was unlikely to make it back and that the escapees would decide the stage.

 

Terpstra and Campenaerts dug deep to maintain their advantage and as they were more than 40 seconds ahead with 4km to go, it was clear that they would battle it out for the stage win. Terpstra decided not to wait for the sprint and made an attack with 200m to go, soloing away to take the victory. Yauheni Hutarovich (Bretagne) won the sprint from the chase group while Viacheslav Kuznetsov (Katusha) was first from the peloton.

 

With the win, Terpstra also takes the first leader’s jersey in the five-day race. He will try to defend it in stage 2 which is a very hilly affair with no less than 6 climbs in the first half. There are another four climbs in the second half which is generally a lot flatter but as one of them comes juts 5km from the finish, there is a small launch pad for a late attack.

 

A hilly start

The 2015 Tour de Wallonie kicked off with a 190.7km stage from Wanze to Hannut. After a hilly first part with four category 2 climbs, the riders hit the main circuit which was 59.8km long and included two category 2 climbs. The riders would do two laps of the circuit. The final climb was located 34km from the finish and the final part of the stage was flat, meaning that a bunch sprint was expected.

 

It was a rainy and windy day in Wallonia when the riders gathered for the start. One rider was not present as Kristof Vandewalle (Trek) never got the chance to pin on his number.

 

A big group gets clear

The riders hit the Cote Ben Ahin right from the start and this was an invitation to go on the attack. Matti Breschel (Tinkoff-Saxo) reached the summit in first position followed by Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) and Thomas Sprengers (Topsport Vlaanderen).

 

The strong wind made the peloton split and it was a big 14-rider group that got clear after the hectic opening phase. After 14km of racing, Martin Velits, Niki Terpstra (Etixx-Quick.Step), Sébastien Minard, Sébastien Turgot (AG2R-La Mondiale), Loic Vliegen (BMC Racing Team), Dries Devenyns, Simon Pellaud (IAM Cycling Team), Boris Vallée (Lotto-Soudal), Sergey Lagutin (Katusha), Pavel Brutt (Tinkoff-Saxo), Yauheni Hutarovich (Bretagne-Séché), Victor Campenaerts (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise), Antoine Warnier and Antoine Demoitié (Wallonie-Bruxelles) had an advantage of 40 seconds.

 

More points for Warnier

The peloton slowed down and so the gap quickly went out to 2.05. However, the peloton was unwilling to let such a big group get much of an advantage and so it was only 1.46 when Campenaerts led Warnier and Velits over the top of the second climb.

 

Vallee beat Brutt and Campenaerts in the first intermediate sprint while Warnier beat Campeanerts and Devenyns in the third KOM sprint. At this point, the peloton had accelerated and brought the gap down to around 1.30. Warnier again beat Campenaerts and Vliegen in the fourth KOM sprint.

 

A stable gap

Maxime Mederel, Melvin Rulliere, Justin Jules and Dirk Finders abandoned the race as they approached the first passage of the finish line. Surprisingly, the peloton had slowed down and so the gap was 2.55 when they started the first lap of the finishing circuit.

 

Kris Boeckmans (Lotto Soudal), Viacheslav Kuznetsov (Katusha) and Breschel launched a counterattack but they failed to get clear. Instead, the situation calmed down as the gap stayed at around 2.40 for a while.

 

Warnier chases points

Warnier beat Campenaerts ande Devenyns in the fifth KOM sprint and he repeated that feat in the next sprint where he led Lagutin and Campenaerst across the line. At this point, the gap was 3.04.

 

Terpstra, Lagutin and Brutt decided to attack in the epic racing conditions but it came back together as only Minard was left behind. The action had increased the advantage to 3.20 with 75km to go.

 

BMC and FDJ in control

Minard was brought back by the peloton before Hutarovich beat Terpstra and Demoitie in the second sprint at the penultimate passage of the finish line. At this point, a big group of dropped riders were 11 minutes behind while the peloton was at 3.35.

 

FDJ and BMC had taken control of the peloton and they started to get closer to the leaders. With 38km to go, they had reduced the gap to 2 minutes.

 

Terpstra attacks

Wanty joined forces with BMC in the peloton while Velits and Pellaud were dropped from the break as they hit the next climb. Warnier was again first at the top, followed by Vliegen and Huatrovich.

 

Moments later, Terpstra made his attack and he was only joined by Campenaerts. They crested the summit of the final climb in that order while Warnier was first from the chase group.

 

A hard chase

With 20km to go, Terpstra and Campenaerts had a 19-second advantage over Turgot, Vliegen, Vallee, Lagutin, Hutarovich, Warnier and Demoitie while Devenyns and Brutt were at 36 seconds. The peloton had been distanced by 1.50.

 

Terpstra won the final intermediate sprint ahead of Camepanerts and Turgot with 18km to go when the peloton was still 2 minutes behind. The chasers were also losing ground as they were at 36 seconds.

 

With 5km to go, the gap to the chasers was unchanged and it was clear that the two leaders would stay away. Terpstra made his decisive move with 200m to go while Hutarovich won the sprint for third.

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