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by Shane Stokes
February 28, 2018
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Two years after he won Le Samyn with a 14 kilometre solo attack, Niki Terpstra pulled off a similar move to take victory in the cobbled classic. The QuickStep Floors rider benefited from the presence of his teammate Philippe Gilbert in a breakaway move, combining their efforts with Damien Gaudin (Direct Energie) to open a solid gap before Terpstra surged ahead.
The Dutchman got a gap inside the final 15 kilometres, making his move after an unsuccessful attempt by Gilbert. He then time trialled from there until the end. Gilbert sat on Gaudin, who worked hard to keep Terpstra within reach but who then had no answer when the Belgian jumped him close to the finish.
Gilbert rode in 24 seconds behind his teammate, with Gaudin a further 22 seconds back. Adrien Petit (Direct Energie) outsprinted Gediminas Bagdonas (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Alex Kirsch (WB Aqua Protect Veranclassic) for fourth, one minute and 18 seconds behind Terpstra.
The 200 kilometre race continued the buildup to the top Classics in April, and followed on from last weekend’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne. Early on Gaudin went away with Quentin Jauregui (AG2R-La Mondiale), Tom Devriendt (Wany Groupe-Gobert), Maxime Daniel (Fortuneo), Casper Pedersen (Aqua Blue), Johan Le Bon (Vital Concept) and the WB Aqua Sport duo of Franklin Six and Alex Kirsch.
They were joined by ten chasers prior to the halfway point. The cobbled sectors on the laps of the finishing circuit caused chaos and enabled Terpstra and Gilbert to go clear in a small group. Gaudin was the only one strong enough to stick with them, but had no answer when the one-two attacks started. Still, his ride was highly impressive and shows he’s in strong form as the spring continues.