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With a powerful acceleration on the final cobbled climb, Terpstra passed the fading Wallays and dropped Van Aert and Senechal to win Dwars door Het Hageland; Van Aert and Senechal rounded out the top 3

Photo: Unipublic

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DWARS DOOR HET HAGELAND

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NIKI TERPSTRA

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WOUT VAN AERT

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05.08.2016 @ 18:32 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Niki Terpstra (Etixx-QuickStep) proved that he is back on track after his injury in the summer when he powered to victory in Dwars door Het Hageland whose combination of cobbles and gravel roads has given it the nichname of the Belgian Strade Bianche. In a thrilling finale, the Dutchman powered up the final cobbled climb to pass the fading Jelle Wallays (Lotto Belisol) and drop Wout Van Aert (Crelan) and Florian Senechal (Cofidis) who had to settle for second and third respectively.

 

The 2016 season has been a frustrating one for Niki Terpstra. The Dutchman never found his best form for the classics and after a crash, he had to delay his return to competition. He seemed to be back on track for his defence at the Dutch Championships but a knee injury took him out of contention.

 

After a break, Terpstra returned to competition in late July but he was clearly not at his best yet. However, he has returned to form remarkably quickly as he turned out to be the strongest rider in today’s Dwars door Het Hageland which he won with a show of brute power on the cobbled climb in the finale.

 

The race is back on the calendar after a three-year absence and has grown in status while also providing a new course. With 20 unpaved sections – some on gravel roads, some on cobbles – and 11 hellingen, it has been described as a Belgian version of Strade Bianche and this made it a perfect race for Terpstra to test his form.

 

After a brutally fast start, Terpstra was attentive to make all the key selection and finally joined a chase group that caught the leaders with 20km to go. Here he used his teammate Lukasz Wisniowski to keep a strong solo attack from Jelle Wallays under control and then he blasted past the fading Belgian on the cobbled climb in the final kilometre to take his first win since Le Samyn in March.

 

The 11th edition of Dwars door Het Hageland was held on a 194.1km course that brought the riders from Diest to Aarschot. The 11 hellingen all came inside the final 100km and the unpaved sectors started at the 50km mark. From here, they came in quick succession with very little room for recovery. There were five gravel sectors inside the final 20km and then the riders tackled two climbs in the final 5km. The final ascent was cobbled and had its top just 300m from the line.

 

It was a beautiful sunny day in the Belgian when the riders gathered for the start. Unfortunately, Etixx-QuickStep only arrived with 7 riders as Julien Vermote had fallen sick overnight. As is always the case in these smaller Belgian races, it was full gas right from the start and it took a long time for anyone to establish a bigger gap. After 46km of uninterrupted attacks, no one had escaped but unfortunately a crash had forced Kris Boeckmans (Lotto Soudal) to abandon, fortunately without serious injury.

 

Luke Mudgeway (Avanti) and Thomas Stewart (Madison Genesis) were the first to get a small advantage but they were quickly brought back. At the same time the rain started to fall just as they approached the first cobblestone sector whose 5-star rating made it one of the hardest. Here a group of 25 riders managed to get clear, and after 7 riders had been left behind, it was an 18-riders group that had built a lead of 42 seconds at the 60km mark.

 

Rayane Bouhanni, Florian Senechal, Kenneth Vanbilsen (Cofidis), Jelle Wallays (Lotto Soudal), Tom Boonen, Niki Terpstra, Lukasz Wiśniowski (Team Quick Step), Nicolas Vereecken (An Post), Daan Hoeyberghs (Beobank), Wout Van Aert, Dennis Coenen (Crelan), Mihkel Raim (Cycling Academy), Matthew Holmes, Tobyn Horton (Madison Genesis), Timothy Dupont, Gianni Vermeersch (Veranda's Willems), Olivier Pardini and Baptiste Planckaert (Wallonie) made up the very strong group but the peloton had no intention to let them go. After 80km of racing, the gap was down to just 20 seconds. At the same time, Stijn Vandenbergh (Etixx-Quick Step) left the race.

 

The front group was brought back after 90km of racing where a 50-rider group gathered in front with a lead of 1.20 over the next big group. Moments later Joeri Stallaert (Cibel) beat Marco Marcato (Wanty), Senechal and Wallays in the the first intermediate sprint.

 

Hugo Hofstetter (Cofidis) tried a solo move, but he did not get far as the peloton again split to pieces on a gravel sector. Chaos ruled before a trio with Wallays, Marcato and Liam Bertazzo (Wilier) got clear. Boonen, Michel Kreder (Roompot) and Jakub Kaczmrek (CCC) quickly made contact before a 35-riders group gathered in front. Among the riders were Jonas Ahlstrand, Hofstetter (Cofidis), Sean De Bie, Wallays (Lotto Soudal), Adrian Kurek, Kaczmarek (CCC), Boonen, Davide Martinelli, Wiśniowski (Team Quick Step), Tim Kerkhof, Michel Kreder, Nick Van der lijke (Roompot), Alex Kirsch (Stölting), Tim Declercq (Topsport), Jenthe Biermans, Mark McNally, Marcato, Frederik Veuchelen (Wanty), Rafael Andriato, Bertazzo (Wilier), Wietse Bosmans, Hoeyberghs, David Van der Poel (Beobank ) Raim, Daniel Turek (Cycling Academy), Alexandre Blain, Stewart (Madison Genesis), Mark Christian, Christopher Latham (Wiggins) and Dries De Bondt (Veranda's Willems).

 

From this group Hofstetter, Wallays, Wiśniowski, Van der Lijke, Declercq, Stijn Steels (Topsport Vlaanderen), McNally, Marcato, Bertazzo, Turek and Stewart got away and they had an advantage of 30 seconds at the 120km mark. Kirsch, Van Aert, Filippo Pozzato (Wilier) and Dupont tried to join them and 20km later they were just 20 seconds behind. Planckaert was only 15 seconds further adrift while the large group with Boonen had now lost 55 seconds.

 

Plackaert, Terpstra, Senechal, Sean De Bie (Lotto Soudal), Biermans and Tim Kerkhof (Roompot) joined the chasers who caught Turek who had fallen behind. However, they were still one minute behind with 45km to go. The peloton was one minute further adrift.

 

Pozzato had bad luck to puncture out of the chase group which was working well together. As they entered the final 35km, they were only 35 seconds behind the leaders while the peloton was still at 1.50.

 

There wasn’t much cooperation in the peloton and so Jerome Baugnies (Wanty) attacked on a small climb, drawing clear a group that also included Kreder, his teammate Dimitri Claeys and Rayane Bouhanni (Cofidis). The group worked well together and quickly got a big advantage over the peloton which was led by Pozzato. However, there was no real interest in leading the chase and it was now evident that the bunch was out of the battle for the win.

 

The front group hit the next gravel road with advantages of 45 seconds, 1.10 and 2.10 respectively. Here Bouhanni was dropped from the third group which continued to approach from behind.

 

As they hit the next gravel sector, Kirsch punctured out of the chase group and even though he kept riding, he could not prevent the Baugnies group from passing him. Moments later, the first chase group caught the first 10 and so a 20-rider group gathered in front.

 

Van der Lijke was dropped almost immediately and fell back to Baugnies, Kreder and Claeys who were 20 seconds behind with 18km to go. They continued to get closer as there wasn’t much cooperation among the first 19 riders.

 

On the next gravel sector, McNally crashed out of the front group. Dupont also went down but he was back on his bike before he had lost contact with the group.

 

Van Aert used the confusion to ride away and he quickly got an advantage of 10 seconds. Further back, Terpstra and Steels tried to attack but they were unable to get clear.

 

Terpstra continued to ride hard on the front and Van Aert was back in the fold before they hit the next gravel sector. Here McNally who had just rejoined the group, again hit the deck and this time he had no chance to get back.

 

Wallays used the confusion to get a 10-second advantage before he returned to the tarmac. He maintained his lead over the next two gravel sectors while Terpstra did all of the work in the chase group.

 

Etixx-QuickStep also put Wisniowski on the front but the group was not getting any closer. With 6km to go, they had lost 20 seconds and it looked like Wallays was riding to a solo win.

 

Wallays hit the penultimate climb with an advantage of 25 seconds and here Biermans took over from Wisniowski who exploded completely. Moments later, Van Aert attacked and only Marcato and Senechal could follow. Terpstra and Declercq made it across and Bertazzo also made the junction with 3km to go.

 

The group worked well together and so reduced the gap to just 10 seconds as they hit the final climb with 1300m to go. The Lotto Soudal rider gave it his all but he had no chance when Terpstra dropped the hammer.

 

The former Paris-Roubaix winner went full gas in the steepest part and immediately split the group. Marcato, Declercq and Bertazzo were the first to get dropped and then Senechal also had to let him go. Terpstra and Van Aert passed the fading Wallays with 400m to go and finally Terpstra also got rid of Van Aert. From there, the outcome was never in doubt as the Dutchman powered to the finish before sitting up to celebrate his win. Senechal just managed to pass Wallays to take the final spot on the podium.

 

With the win, Terpstra also takes the overall lead in the Napoleon Games Cycling Cup which consists of 10 Belgian one-day races. The next event in the series is the GP Jef Scherens on August 21. 

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