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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, September 26, 2016

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Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance. - H. L. Mencken

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Eneco Tour final team reports

Here's the news from winner Niki Terpstra's Etixx-Quick Step team:

A strong performance on the treacherous cobbles of Flanders and a flawless tactic of Etixx – Quick-Step catapulted Dutchman Niki Terpstra to the top of the overall standings.

Rain, cobblestones and a tough course with 17 hills made for a psychedelic picture on Sunday, when the 12th edition of the Eneco Tour wrapped up after one of the most thrilling stages in its history. The day started under a blue sunny sky, but things changed dramatically in the afternoon, when the rain made the roads really slippery and split the group, before taking out of the race general classification leader Rohan Dennis (BMC), who crashed inside the last 50 kilometers.

On the second of the three laps the peloton had to cover in the final part of the punishing stage 7 (Bornem – Geraardsbergen, 197.8 kilometers), Luxembourg champion Bob Jungels attacked and forced an important selection. The newly-formed group, that included also Niki Terpstra, quickly opened on the chasers a gap of 20 seconds, which continued to grow thanks to the tremendous pace setting of an indefatigable Bob Jungels, who pushed the pedal to the metal and played a decisive role in the outcome of the week-long race.

Victorious in Le Samyn and Dwars door het Hageland this season, both wins which came in atrocious weather conditions, Niki Terpstra was the main engine of that small group after Bob's job was done and spent a huge amount of energy at the front, taking the Golden Kilometer bonus seconds and taming the cobbles of the Muur-Kapelmuur and Bosberg, two climbs which throughout the years witnessed how legends were born and dreams got shattered.

His glittering display under a sky full of tumultuous, dark and ragged clouds, coming straight from a painting of fellow Dutchman Jacob Abels, helped 32-year-old Niki take overall honors at the end of the grueling stage which he concluded in second place, behind Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data). "I'm extremely happy and proud to finish off this great job of the team, who was incredible today! The Muur van Geraardsbergen has a special place in cycling and it means a lot for me to seal the overall victory here.

"We were aware of the fact that we had several cards to play in the general classification at the start of the day and we were keen to make use of these numbers", said Niki, who rode into contention following the excellent display of the squad in Friday's team time trial.

The second Etixx – Quick-Step rider to win the Eneco Tour, an event in which he came third at the 2012 edition, the Dutchman explained how he nabbed the team's 52nd victory of the season: "When it started to rain, we were already on the attack and we gave it our all to keep tht advantage. We rode a really smart race today and Bob did a fantastic job at the front, so I must thank him for his huge pace setting. In the closing kilometers of the stage, my focus was to stay with the other riders and make sure I win this beautiful race, which I did in the end. It's a great day in my career."

Besides Niki Terpstra, also Zdenek Stybar (7th) and Bob Jungels (10th) finished the Eneco Tour on a high note, helping Etixx – Quick-Step win the teams classification for the fourth time.

This came from Tinkoff:

Sagan claims podium and points classification as weather closes in on Eneco Tour finale, while strong overall performance regains UCI points top spot 

Less than thirty seconds separated the top five of the GC going into the final day of the Eneco Tour, and with Peter Sagan sitting just off the top three, the UCI World and European Champion would be aiming for a podium place. However, on what was already a hard day, the wet weather caused treacherous conditions. The Slovakian rider powered through to take sixth on the stage and move up to claim his podium spot and the points classification.

The profile of the final day would strike fear into any rider’s heart on a one day race, but after six days of hard riding, the relentlessly-undulating parcours of the last stage of the Eneco Tour was going to be a killer. The 197.8km route saw barely a flat section over its length and with wet weather adding to the mix, a hard day awaited.

It took some time for a break to form – the riders testing each other to see who would go on the attack. With more than 60km covered, a group of nine finally went up the road, and built up an advantage of a little under three minutes. After the break’s success on yesterday’s stage, the bunch wouldn’t want to allow the gap to grow any more than this, but with a hard parcours ahead of them, it would be hard to control the pace while tackling the climbs of the day.

Tinkoff were pushing hard in the race’s final 60km, but as the race reached the 20km mark, the pace in the peloton behind was much more relaxed, the expectation that the GC riders’ teams would push hard towards the finish. The red jersey of points leader, Peter Sagan, was at the front of the second group as he worked to pull back valuable seconds on the GC, but wet weather and leaves on the already tough, cobblestone climbs were making the chase hard, causing many of the chasers to crash, including the GC leader.

As the finish loomed on the horizon, the breakaway group was dropping riders, but the gap remained steady at around forty-five seconds. Peter was keeping a close eye on his GC rivals after the race leader dropped out with just a few kilometres to go. Crossing the line in sixth position on the stage, forty-three seconds after the stage winner, Peter took a podium spot, finishing third in the GC and claiming the points classification for the race.

The UCI World Champion had worked hard throughout the stage, but found it hard to get other riders to work with him. "A very hard race came to an end with a very hard stage that was made even tougher because of the rain. I'm lucky I didn't crash. I finished on the podium of the Eneco Tour but it could have been better. Nevertheless, it was difficult to race against everybody else. I wanted to close the gap and come back to the front group but nobody wanted to collaborate. There is nothing I can do, that's cycling but I'm happy I always do my best.”

Looking back on the stage, Sport Director, Tristan Hoffman, had nothing but praise for the team leader after his hard efforts today. “Everything came back together on the final circuit, then Etixx started to attack. Peter got really close to the front group but it was all up to him. He did a fantastic job as he had to keep pushing all day. All the boys did a fantastic job – they gave everything today. Peter moves up to 3rd on GC, which was a nice reward. I believe this was the maximum we could get out of today.”

After a slow start to the race, the break’s performance was pivotal in how the stage and the race overall unfolded, continued Hoffman. "It took a long time for break to get away early on, then when went it went we put four guys on the front to work, nobody else wanted to work so the guys had to ride hard. At one moment he was virtual leader, but it was always going to be hard. He gave a lot today and did a fantastic race. We hoped for the win but 3rd is a strong result."

Peter’s strong performance at the race also helped him to reclaim the top spot of the UCI WorldTour points classification. “I'm also very happy that, although I didn't win the Eneco Tour, my third place gives me a lot of points to regain my leadership at the UCI WorldTour individual ranking. It's been a long season and I will now get some needed rest."

LottoNL-Jumbo sent me this report:

Team LottoNL-Jumbo finished fifth and sixth overall in the Eneco Tour overall with Jos van Emden and Wilco Kelderman, respectively. They rounded out a successful week that included a stage win by Dylan Groenewegen. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) won the final stage to Geraardsbergen and Niki Terpstra (Etixx) took the overall win.

"A fifth place in this playing field is good, no doubt, but it sucks to only come a few seconds from the podium,” van Emden said. “I can only be satisfied with this result. This was one of the big goals for me this season."

In the rainy seventh stage, Boasson Hagen managed to beat overall winner Terpstra and Oliver Naesen (IAM). Wilco Kelderman finished seventh 47 seconds later and Jos van Emden came eighth two seconds later. In the GC, van Emden rose from sixth place. He finished with a gap of 1-03 minutes behind overall winner Terpstra. Wilco Kelderman rose from 10th, back 1-11.

"It was a tough day with lots of different situations,” van Emden added. “We were in a position that it seemed our GC was over, but along with Wilco, we fought back in to the race.

"It was different for me to only think about myself. Normally, I ride for our leaders and now, it was the other way around. That it succeeded at this level gives me confidence for years to come. "

”It was a tough day, I'm glad I didn’t go down,” Kelderman said. “A large group containing the best riders attacked, and Jos and I could not follow. Then we knew we had to go full-gas on De Muur to close the gap. It succeeded. We aimed to fight for the overall, and we succeeded. It is a little disappointing that we were so close to the podium and it makes you wonder what you could have done differently. "It is nice to ride for Jos. The whole year he rides himself empty for us. It’s good to see it the other way around.”

Kelderman also fought for the overall, but he knew that without the Ardennes stage like normal, it would be difficult to win. "I rode a good Eneco Tour, but it was disappointing that I could not follow the best today because if so, we could’ve seen a better result."

"This result does justice to the riders,” Sports Director Merijn Zeeman said. “The team time trial ensured that Boasson Hagen could not pass us in the general classification.

"The nice thing about this result is that we fought all week as a team, the stage results show it: two men in the GC and Groenewegen beat the world’s best sprinters. Jos van Emden also notched a second place in the time trial and for the first time in years, we finished on the podium in the team time trial. As a sports director, I’m satisfied.”

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