Quick-Step Floors totally owned the 49th edition of Le Samyn, as Niki Terpstra became the first double-winner of the race since it has been introduced on the UCI Europe Tour calendar.
Seven riders made it into the escape on Tuesday, but the real race began with over 120 kilometers to go, on the first of the four punishing laps in Dour, when Quick-Step Floors amassed the entire team at the front and upped the tempo in the crosswinds, blowing the peloton to pieces and joining the escapees with only three other riders on their wheels..
Philippe Gilbert and Niki Terpstra, together with Damien Gaudin (Direct Energie), Alex Kirsch (WB Aqua Protect) and Tosh Van der Sande (Lotto-Soudal), managed to hold off the late charges of the peloton, and despite a mechanical of Gilbert the group entered on the penultimate lap in pole-position to fight for the top prize at the Belgian race, which took place in freezing conditions, with the mercury showing -3ºC.
An injection of pace from Niki Terpstra distanced Kirsch and Van der Sande, a move followed with 20 kilometers to go by a true tactical coup of Quick-Step Floors, as Gilbert and Terpstra set up a perfect 1-2, harassing their opponent with two incisive attacks; first of these was launched by the Ronde van Vlaanderen reigning champion, before the Dutchman came round the Frenchman and went into time trial mode, quickly opening a gap which he then increased as he prepared to tackle the final two cobbled sectors of the race, Cote de la Roquette and Rue de Belle Vue.
The 34-year-old further increased his advantage and had plenty of time to celebrate, arms aloft, his success at the finish in Dour, where Philippe Gilbert arrived second.
“I am very happy, but must say we suffered today with every kilometer, because the cold made use spend a lot of energy”, said Terpstra. “It wasn’t easy to race in these conditions, but fortunately it worked out well for us at the end of the day. We knew the break was strong and the responsibility was on us, so that’s why we attacked in the crosswinds from afar. We went full gas and turned everything into an elimination race, with more and more guys getting tired and dropped. The team rode a textbook race, Philippe was perfect in the finale and we just made use of our numerical advantage, so that I could get away and take this beautiful win.”
Le Samyn 2018 results:
|1||Niki Terpstra (Quick – Step Floors)|
|2||Philippe Gilbert (Quick – Step Floors)|
|3||Damien Gaudin (Direct Energie)|
|4||Adrien Petit (Direct Energie)|
|5||Gediminas Bagdonas (AG2R La Mondiale)|
|6||Alex Kirsch (WB Aqua Protect Veranclassic)|
|7||Benoit Jarrier (Fortuneo – Samsic)|
|8||Nico Denz (AG2R La Mondiale)|
|9||Frederik Backaert (Wanty – Groupe Gobert)|
|10||Alexandre Pichot (Direct Energie)|