Quick-Step Floors have enjoyed a record-breaking year, with 73 UCI wins scored by 14 riders in 22 countries. Over the next weeks we will look back on the 10 biggest moments for the team, and today we start with Niki's memorable victory in Flanders.
One of the biggest races of the season, De Ronde ran this year its 102nd edition, one that Quick-Step Floors controlled from kilometer zero with the likes of Tim Declercq and Iljo Keisse, whose restless tempo at the head of the peloton meant that the breakaway didn't pose a threat in any moment of the race which numbered 18 hills, including a triple ascent of Oude Kwaremont.
Not only that the Wolfpack made sure of keeping the escapees on a leash and narrowing their advantage to a minute by the time they entered the final hour of racing, but one by one, Yves Lampaert, Zdenek Stybar and defending champion Philippe Gilbert countered every move of their opponents, who were left without reaction when Niki Terpstra powered away on a false flat section with 26 kilometers to go and opened a gap that grew to 40 seconds at the bottom of the penultimate climb.
"When I attacked and set off in pursuit of the remaining leaders it wasn't easy due to the wind, but I kept riding hard. Then, when I saw the three escapees, I knew I could catch them, so I dug deep and kept pushing. In a race like this, you need to make the right attack, and that's what I did", Niki said of triumph that came a little over a week from his solo win in E3 Harelbeke.
With remarkable ease, the 33-year-old caught the three riders up front, but didn't waste a second in that group, zipping clear of the trio and putting some serious daylight between him and Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo), who tried to match Niki incredible acceleration only to find himself more than 20 seconds in arrears by the time he tackled the Paterberg. On the short but grueling hill, Terpstra never looked back and continued to push, adding to his advantage, which hit 40 seconds on the run-in to Oudenaarde.
That gave Niki plenty of time to savour his second career Monument victory, as he became only the third Dutch rider in history to win both the Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix in his career and the first since 1986 to score the victory in Flanders. Quick-Step Floors' perfect day was rounded out by Philippe Gilbert, who bolted clear from the chasing group with two kilometers to go and took third.
"Winning De Ronde and Paris-Roubaix was unbelievable, a dream of mine since I was a kid and watched these two races on television. That's when I fell in love with them and now, having won both gave me huge joy. To be victorious in these races you need very good legs, but also luck. On that day, everything went perfect for me, but it wouldn't have been possible without such a strong and committed squad. The guys were extraordinary, they displayed once again their immense quality and amazing team spirit, and that is something I'll never forget", Niki added of the victory that fulfilled a career-long dream.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele/ Getty Images