This Sunday, one of the most thrilling cobblestone classics is on the menu: the Tour of Flanders. It is one of the five Monuments and the most important cycling race in the world, according to the Flemish. De Ronde is sacred to them and they even call it the High Mass. Besides the cobblestones, it has many famous short but steep climbs like the Muur, the Koppenberg and the Paterberg. The last edition was won by Niki Terpstra, at the time riding for team Quick Step Cycling. We spoke to the Dutchman about his epic victory and how he succeeded in doing so.

Terpstra was really in top shape at that moment of the season. In the run-up to the renowned spring Classic he won Le Samyn and E3 Harelbeke. Thereafter, he won the 102nd edition of the Tour of Flanders in an impressive way after a superb solo. As this is one of his trademarks, we asked him when he decides to attack and how he knows if that is the right moment. “It’s the moment of the course, you have to feel this. Sometimes your feeling is right, sometimes not. But even when your attack is good, you also depend on the reaction of your competitors if you succeed or not.” Terpstra attacked with 19 kilometres to go and soloed to the finish. Did it ever cross his mind that he might have attacked too early and if so, how did he deal with that? “Well, there is no way back and there is no other option than to just keep on going,” he explained.

After winning this Classic, he proved to everyone that he hadn’t lost his touch after “a hell of a year”, as he described it. What did he change in comparison to the year before? “Not much, I was in shape as well the year before but now luck was on my side. Of course I was on top of my game, but everything finally fell into place,” Terpstra told us.

Paris-Roubaix

One week later he showed his great class again and finished on the podium during Paris-Roubaix. In advance he was tipped as favourite to win this race. How did he cope with that extra pressure? “I experienced that as something positive. When they tip you as favourite for a race like that, then you’ve probably deserved that. You just have to be proud of that.”

As a child Terpstra dreamed of winning the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. Now that he has fulfilled those dreams, you might wonder what his next goal is. “I just keep on going like I always do. I’m not that arrogant that I only want to ride certain races,” said the 34-year-old. “I just want to start every race as motivated as always. If I can score somewhere, I’ll go for it. It doesn’t matter to me if it’s a small race like Le Samyn or a big one like the Tour of Flanders.”

NEO Smart

To prepare himself for the spring Classics, Terpstra obviously trains a lot. He prefers to ride outdoors, but when the weather is really bad, he trains on his Tacx NEO Smart. What’s his opinion about this direct drive trainer? “It is a very good trainer. You don’t have the dead spot you encounter with flywheel trainers. I never trained on those because I didn’t like them. The NEO Smart is a super trainer. It is very silent and you don’t need any app or whatever for it to start training. Just place your bike on it and start riding. If you need more resistance, you just start pedalling harder. You don’t need no shit, nothing. Just put him down, open up your laptop, watch a series and start cycling.”

Terpstra is more an old school type of rider and you won’t find him on Zwift or see him riding one of the Tacx Films. “That’s true, I rather watch something on Netflix. Besides, I watch a lot of cycling races on YouTube. I use that for course exploration and to analyse the races from the year before. Now it sounds like I’m some kind of home trainer freak, but that’s certainly not the case. Last year we had some extreme weather so I trained at home. Or when I had a cold before the Classics, then it was a necessity to train indoors.”

Leaving the wolfpack

For this season, Terpstra left Deceuninck – Quick-Step and joined Direct Énergie. He has already climbed twice on the podium this year as he achieved third during Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne and Le Samyn. But after eight years of riding for The Wolfpack his role in the peloton has changed. Instead of being chased, he now has to chase the strong blue formation instead. “It’s difficult to break the pack, but I knew that already of course. They can be beat, for sure. How? I’m not going to tell,” he told the press last week after the E3 BinckBank Classic.

In nature there is something about wolves leaving the pack. Lone wolves may be stronger, more aggressive and far more dangerous than the average wolf that is a member of a pack. Will this help him to claim the highest step of the podium again and prolong his title at the Tour of Flanders? Don’t miss it this Sunday!