Congratulations to Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma Quickstep) for winning a very exciting edition of the Paris-Roubaix. Terpstra was a cat among the pigeons, a non-favorite within a very select group of favorites, which included Cancellara, Sagan, Vanmarcke, Wiggins, Thomas, Dangenkolb and Stybar. Who would have expected Terpstra to win from out of that group? But he took advantage by launching an attack only six or seven kilometers from the finish. Instead of working to chase him down, the favorites just starting looking at each other and slowing down. Dagenkolb finished second and Cancellara third, about 20 seconds after Terpstra.
Was Terpstra the strongest rider in the race? Maybe, maybe not. But it's not always the strongest rider who wins. Sometimes it's the smartest rider who wins. Terpstra must have known he couldn't win a sprint out of that group; and he also may have realized that, if he attacked, the group might not be so eager to chase him, a relatively minnow among the sharks. Terpstra also undoubtedly benefited from good teamwork, in particular the earlier attacks of Tom Boonen, which softened up the field and created some early gaps. Unquestionably, Boonen was one of the two or three strongest riders in the field on the day, but he may have gone too early and the little group who took with him were unwilling to work together consistently to stay away.