• Niki Terpstra's (C) move to Direct Energie was one of the biggest transfers of the offseason. (Getty)Source: Getty
Tour of Flanders champion Niki Terpstra shocked the cycling world last year when he announced his transfer from renowned classics specialist squad Quick-Step to Pro Continental outfit Direct Energie.
Cycling Central
21 Feb 2019 - 12:22 PM  UPDATED 21 Feb 2019 - 12:51 PM

The move no less came after the 34-year-old, who had been a staple at Quick-Step for eight seasons, marked a sensational spring campaign, taking line honours at E3 Harelbeke, Flanders and then third at Paris-Roubaix.

“Everybody was surprised about my decision. When I announced it, it came out of the blue because only my manager and my wife knew about it,” Terpstra said. “[Direct Energie] showed a real interest, why they want to have me and then the progress got on and I made the decision.”

Terpstra made his team debut with Direct Energie at GP La Marseillaise earlier this month, then raced the Tour of Valencia before arriving here at the Tour of Oman, which is his final “shakedown” before the classics, starting with Omloop Het Nieuwsblad next Saturday.

“A big part of the classics team is here. We try to ride together, speak together through the tactics, get me in front at the right moments and it’s going well,” he said in Muscat.

“It’s nice to see the guys are really focused because there is quality, some really strong guys, but they haven’t had the right focus in the classics. They couldn’t make the results because they were there just to attack. Now, they say they’re motivated because they have the goal to support me. I already feel it from November [training camp], they’re really working hard to be good in the classics and it’s nice to feel that support.”

Terpstra is now the leader of a team as opposed to one of, but his outlook and expectations are the same for the classics.

“I win some big races, but I don’t win a lot of races because I’m not that explosive. If I win everything has to be perfect,” he said. “There is always pressure to perform -- that was in Quick-Step and also now.”

However, that’s not to say there aren’t distinct differences to overcome in the short interim and throughout his 2019 cobble campaign. All communication at Direct Energie is French so Terpstra is learning the language, along with the nuances of racing at a Professional Continental level over WorldTour.

“In Quick-Step almost every race, we raced to win and of course that’s different. The main level [at Direct Energie] is not as high as Quick-Step and you also feel it in training camp. But of course, I knew this in advance. It’s also part of the adventure, why I wanted to go to this team because they want to use my experience to improve.”

Asked if he was confident new and perhaps comparatively less experienced teammates could deliver him into the finals of Flanders, Roubaix and so forth this year, or if he’d have to go it alone in a field of known champions and a new generation, which he believes will be competitive, Terpstra was hopeful.

“The most important thing is they get me in front in some important sections. I think somebody can come pretty far into the final, and I hope. Some guys can surprise,” he said.

The Dutchman was transparent that money was a factor in his transfer, notably during a period last season when former boss Patrick Lefevere was hunting for a sponsor to continue the team. Deceuninck came to the rescue but it was after Terpstra had settled on his move that was publicly announced in August.

“Quickstep couldn’t do me an offer because they didn’t have the sponsorship, so it was pretty simple,” he said.