Etixx – Quick-Step had another successful season in 2016, with 56 road wins alongside 69 other podium places. Over the next weeks we will look back on the 10 biggest moments for the team, and Niki's superb ride in Flanders has a special place in this series.
Final stage of the Eneco Tour (Bornem – Geraardsbergen, 197.8 kilometers) included many of Flanders' legendary cobbled hills and kicked off under cloudy skies and heavy rain, making things even more tense for a nervous peloton which was already aware that it was an all or nothing day in Belgium, as the general classification was still open to any outcome. Soon after the start, nine riders escaped from the bunch and worked together to build an advantage of around four minutes, but the gap began coming down following a succession of attacks which split the race to pieces.
Several riders made it into the first group, while further back GC leader Rohan Dennis was forced to retire due to a crash. Bob Jungels and Niki Terpstra (5th overall, just 27 seconds adrift) were the two Etixx – Quick-Step riders at the front, and the Giro d'Italia white jersey buried himself for his teammate, digging deep to extend the lead and keep the chasers at bay. With the race seriously fractured, for many riders it became a matter of survival, as the pace intensified and the weather worsened, causing havoc in the bunch.
In the final hour of racing, only Terpstra, Edvald Boasson Hagen and Oliver Naesen were still in the main group, and the Dutchman left it all on the road to make sure he'll win the 12th edition of the Eneco Tour, taking bonus seconds and pushing hard so that the first chasing group wouldn't stand any chance of rejoining them. On the punishing cobbles of the Muur de Geraardsbergen, Niki sealed the victory by coming home second and snatching the team's 18th Grand Tour win of the season.
"That's one of my finest victories, and it's made even more special by the fact it came on the treacherous cobbles of Flanders, in tough weather conditions which made the undulating roads very slippery. The team had a flawless tactic that day and was fully commited throughout the stage. I was trailing at the start in the classification, but raced with my legs and heart to make it and come out on the top of the overall standings. To emerge victorious on the Muur, which has its unique place in the history of cycling, means a lot for me and makes that moment indelible", said a smiling Niki Terpstra looking back at the race which saw him take his third victory of 2016 and Etixx – Quick-Step the team classification.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele