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Tour of Flanders 2018: Niki Terpstra takes solo win

Peter Stuart
1 Apr 2018

After a fragmented day, Dutchman Niki Terpstra made a stunning solo break in the last 25km for victory

Niki Terpstra of Team Quick-Step Floors made a historic effort to become the first Dutchman to win the Tour of Flanders in over three decades, with a decisive solo attack through the final 27km that saw him bridge through the breakaway and ride solo to victory.

What began as an abortive two-man break with Vincenzo Nibali (Team Bahrain-Merida), who did not appear happy to work with the Dutchman, saw Niki Terpstra begin a solo effort. He moved through the leading group of the race, taking ground on the cobbled climbs of Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg to then power through the last 15km solo for the win.

While a chase group of major contenders (including Peter Sagan, Philippe Gilbert and Greg Van Avaermat) looked capable of reeling him in within the last 10km, a lack of cohesion and a strong solo form from Terpstra saw him fend off the chasers to cross the line after 27km of solo riding.

From the chasing group, Philip Gilbert took third place, after Mads Pederson (Trek-Segafredo) held second place following an heroic push against the group of favourites, having been in the breakaway for the majority of the last 50km.

How the race unfolded

It was a rainy start in Oudenaarde, and numerous crashes fragmented the early footage.

Early breaks were heavily marked by Team Quick-step Floors, and numerous riders were forced off the back of the strong average pace of the peloton through strong cross-winds.

Minor drama unfolded in the early kilometres as a car somehow entered the course and drove amongst the riders.

The breakaway was not allowed to leave the main group until over 70km of the course had passed. It was a slim group of 11 riders including Ivan Garcia, Cortina, Eenkhoorn, Thomas De Gendt, Ryan Gibbons, Fillippo Ganna, Michael Goolaerts, Dimitri Peyskens, Pim Ligthart, Floris Gerts and Anthony Turgis.

Quick-Step co-ordinated a strong chase of the leading 11 riders, and a major split occured in the peloton on the cobbled Korteker climb at 133km to go, with the break stretching only slightly over 2 minutes. 

A considerable crash at 92km to go thankfully didn't manage to take out any favourites, but further fragmented the peloton. With 70km to go the break was well within one minute, several of the break were caught by the main group. Consequently the pace in the main peloton slowed to allow many chase groups to rejoin the main peloton.

From the breakaway, Ivan Garcia and Tom Devriendt broke clear to get a gap of around 90 seconds to the peloton.

The most decisive selection came at 56km to go, when a move over the Kwaremont by Peter Sagan and Luke Rowe pushed many riders off the back of the group, transforming the peloton into a more selective chase group of around 50 riders.

At 46km to go, Luke Rowe of Team Sky was disqualified for riding on the pavement, although appeared to continue riding until the finish.

Garcia and Devriendt were reeled in over the Kopperberg by the main chase group and a trio of Sebastien Langeveld (Cannondale-Drapac EF), Dylan Van Baarle (Team Sky) and Mads Pederson (Trek-Segafredo) emerged as the leading group after the ascent of the Kopperberg at 43km to go.

The selection

A group of 30 riders (or around "tirty" as Sean Kelly described it), emerged as a chase group through the last 50km, to reel in the leading trio of Langeveld, Van Baarle and Pederson.

The group contained most of the race's main contenders, including Sagan, Nibali, Kwiatowsi, Zdenek Stybar, Van Avaermat and Niki Terpstra.

Excitement came at 28km to go, when Vincenzo Nibali made an attack from the group and was joined by Niki Terpstra. The two appeared to have some mild animosity and the move seemed doomed to fail and Nibali drifted back to the main group. Terpstra attempted to bridge to the leading three riders.

With the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg offering the final challege before the flat tarmac of the final 15km, Terpstra bridged to the three riders and overtook them fairly effortlessly on the cobbled Kwaremont ascent.

Peter Sagan made a huge solo effort to bridge up to the leading riders of Terpstra and Mads Pederson (chasing the leader), but didn't manage to make a dent and faded back to the main group for the final 10kms.

From there, Terpstra seemed the certain winner...