Despite starting with seven men, our team put in a solid ride in Sittard-Geleen and finished a close second.
Bob Jungels, Iljo Keisse, Marcel Kittel, Tony Martin, Zdenek Stybar, Matteo Trentin, Niki Terpstra and Matteo Trentin were keen to show that Etixx – Quick-Step still is one of the best outfits in the world in the races against the clock, even though the team was missing a quintessential rider, Tom Boonen, who was forced to abandon during the previous stage, due to a crash in which he was involved.
A fairly flat but technical 20.9-km long course was in store on Friday afternoon in the Netherlands, and Etixx – Quick-Step left the start house full of confidence for the stage dubbed by many as one of the most important at this year's edition, and rode a solid and smooth team time trial, at the end of which the squad bettered the result of provisional leader IAM Cycling by 20 seconds and went into the hot seat with a time of 23:17.
Eventually, BMC set a time six seconds faster, but Etixx – Quick-Step's runner up spot which the team got with one rider less came as confirmation that everything is on the right track ahead of the World Championships in Doha, scheduled next month. On top of it all, the team placed no less than four riders in the top 10 overall, all within striking distance of race leader Rohan Dennis, with just two days to go.
One of these men is Tony Martin, the 2010 Eneco Tour winner, who is third in the GC: "This was one of the nicest team time trial I've ever done. The course was beautiful and our team was strong and coherent. Every rider gave it his all and was motivated to work hard for a good result. We missed Tom Boonen, as he is a super strong guy and as the 8th man we could have saved more energy, but we are satisfied with the way we rode."
Tony's feelings were echoed by Niki Terpstra, 5th in the standings, who will give the team more cards to play in the final stages of the Eneco Tour: "It's a pity Tom wasn't here, because he is a big turbo for the team. We raced with seven riders and at the end of the day we are happy. We enjoyed the course, the corners and the small climbs, but mostly how strong we were during the day, as this gives us confidence for the future."
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele