The main attack of the day in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad came on Taaienberg, with 60 kilometers remaining of the race, and as soon as the four took off, Etixx – Quick-Step made its way to the head of the pack to control things and reduce the gap of the riders at the front. The team received a big blow when Tony Martin crashed on a cobbled section and couldn’t return to the peloton, although he did finish the race (with some bruises on the hip and on his left arm). Then, just as the team managed to cut the one-minute gap to just 40 seconds, bad luck struck again, as Dutch champion Niki Terpstra had a mechanical on the Haaghoek.
In the final ten kilometers, thanks to the huge effort of Stijn Vandenbergh, the advantage of the escapees was reduced to less than 20 seconds, but the bunch eventually ran out of road. In the sprint, Tom Boonen was the fastest Etixx – Quick-Step rider, coming 11th in Ghent. After catching his breath at the finish, the seven-time Monument winner shared his thoughts on the race.
“First of all, I want to congratulate Greg Van Avermaet and the other guys at the front. We came really close, but not close enough to bring them back. Probably we were a little bit too far in the peloton before the Taaienberg, but we also had bad luck: Nikolas was caught behind a crash, Tony hit the ground, while Niki dropped his chain, these last two incidents coming in a crucial moment, just as we were organizing the chase. We lost the momentum, but that doesn’t mean we don’t remain upbeat. Tomorrow we will have another day and we’ll see what we can do. It’s going to be a different race, and we’ll come at the start with confidence”, said Boonen of Sunday’s Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, a race which will see Niki Terpstra replace Iljo Keisse in the team’s line-up.
“In the run-in to the Kruisberg, I was held up a few times by a few crashes and a flat tire,” Boonen told Sporza. “Everyone was there to fight for position. I was too far the back at the Kruisberg and from then on it was a misery.
“When I came back to the front of the peloton with Niki Terpstra those guys up front were already far away. I don’t need to find excuses, I never had the legs to be there with those guys.”
Manager Patrick Lefevere was also fair. “Everyone saw who rode away on the Taaienberg,” he told Sporza. “And we were not there. I think that the strongest riders were in front for a reason.
“Tony Martin crashed just after Holleweg and Niki Terpstra was unlucky with his chain on the Leberg and had to chase. We got closer to the leaders, but because Tom said he did not feel great, wewaited for Terpstra. That cost the team 15 seconds and that was about the difference at the finish.”
“We lost the race of the Taaienberg” is the analysis of sports director Wilfried Peeters in an interview with Sporza. “We lost each other a little there. We had to put that right and then Niki Terpstra had bad luck on the Leberg.
“It took too much time to bring him bach again. We then have started the pursuit, but we were 10 seconds too late. If Niki had not been unlucky, then maybe we would have come back. But we were never really in the race.
And Boonen? “Tom never really felt 100 percent, but that’s normal, it’s the first time back in Belgium. He has not had that feeling in the past. This is a step in the right direction and that is the important thing.”
On Sunday, Etixx – Quick-Step will ride Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne (203 kilometers), a race which the team is going to tackle with the following riders: Tom Boonen, Nikolas Maes, Niki Terpstra, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck, Stijn Vandenbergh, Julien Vermote, Martin Velits and Lukasz Wisniowski.
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