Procycling - - Paris Tours -

The race, as ex­pected, breaks up over the two climbs. On the face of it, it might also not be much of a sur­prise that it’s the Quick-Step team which has taken a hatchet to the pelo­ton, chop­ping it up into sev­eral pieces. On the other hand, their team leader Fer­nando Gaviria is the de­fend­ing cham­pion and one of the best sprint­ers in the world – fans might have ex­pected the team to keep it to­gether for Gaviria, rather than at­tempt to foil a sprint.

But Gaviria’s had no luck. The ru­mours swirling around his team ho­tel the evening be­fore the race were that he’d been hav­ing a lot of work done by the phys­ios on a sore knee. Fur­ther­more, a crash in the fi­nal 15 kilo­me­tres put him on the ground at the most cru­cial point of the race – he had chased and caught the back of the pelo­ton, but then it split again in front of him. There would be a new win­ner this year.

Gaviria’s team-mate Mat­teo Trentin at­tacks on the Beau Soleil, drag­ging five riders with him, in­clud­ing Quick-Step’s Max­i­m­il­iano Richeze. On the de­scent, Niki Terp­stra, also a Quick-Step rider, de­taches him­self from the front of the strung-out pelo­ton and starts to cross the gap to Trentin’s group. The Côte de l’Épan splits both front group and chase group, leav­ing Trentin and Sun­web’s Søren Kragh An­der­sen at the front, and Terp­stra mov­ing up into the space be­hind them.

It takes Terp­stra a long time to close the gap, and by the time he makes it, with six kilo­me­tres to go, the lead­ing trio are still only 50 me­tres clear of their pur­suers. There isn’t much dis­cus­sion – Terp­stra does most of the work at the front, and it is enough to take Trentin into a po­si­tion from which he can eas­ily win the sprint against Kragh An­der­sen. Terp­stra fin­ishes on the podium in third.

The evening be­fore the race at the Quick Step ho­tel, Terp­stra ex­plained that, to him, what was just as im­por­tant as the team get­ting a good re­sult, was that he wanted to fin­ish the race tired, to feel that he had given ev­ery­thing for his fi­nal run-out of the sea­son. Af­ter the pre­sen­ta­tion, he packs his flow­ers and suit­case into a pri­vate car be­hind the team bus, and re­flects on his race.

“I man­aged to make my­self tired at the end,” he laughs. “When it started rain­ing, I knew the race would be more dif­fi­cult. Every­body was fresh, be­cause the race had been rel­a­tively easy, but at the end the kilo­me­tres, the hills and the cor­ners counted and the race ex­ploded. I was a few po­si­tions be­hind the split, but I could cross the gap.”

Terp­stra says that the tac­ti­cal con­ver­sa­tion be­tween the two Quick Step riders had been a short one. “We had no choice. If we lost this, it would look ridicu­lous. I just went all out in the last kilo­me­tre and we trusted Mat­teo’s sprint.”

Quick-Step are just wait­ing for one more rider, win­ner Trentin, be­fore they can pack up and go. And there he is, duck­ing and div­ing through traffic on roads that are al­ready open­ing up again. He speeds past, weav­ing his bike through nar­row gaps like a com­muter, his day’s work done.

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