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"Normally, I am not the man for solo rides; I surprised myself.  But in the first lap I really paid attention to the wind, so when I went I knew what to expect and I just gave my all. "

Photo: Sirotti

ALEXANDER KRISTOFF

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ARNAUD DEMARE

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BMC RACING TEAM

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BORA-HANSGROHE

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BOY VAN POPPEL

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DYLAN GROENEWEGEN

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ELIA VIVIANI

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GREG VAN AVERMAET

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GROUPAMA-FDJ

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JASPER STUYVEN

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JENS DEBUSSCHERE

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KATUSHA ALPECIN

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KUURNE-BRUXELLES-KUURNE

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LOTTO SOUDAL

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MICKAEL DELAGE

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MITCHELTON-SCOTT

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NACER BOUHANNI

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ONE PRO CYCLING

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PETER SAGAN

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QUICK-STEP FLOORS

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ROOMPOT - NEDERLANDSE LOTERIJ

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STIG BROECKX

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TEAM LOTTONL-JUMBO

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TEAM SUNWEB

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TOM STAMSNIJDER

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TREK - SEGAFREDO

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28.02.2016 @ 23:00 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Jasper Stuyven (Trek) confirmed his status as one of the biggest talents for the cobbled classics by claiming an impressive solo victory in a very aggressive and exciting edition of Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. Having made it into a 16-rider group in a crosswind section, he attacked the group inside the final 20km and then time trialled his way to the win before Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) beat Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) in the sprint for second.

 

We have gathered several reactions.

 

Jasper Stuyen: I am not a man for solo rides

Jasper Stuyven pointed to the sky and thrust his arms in the air as he crossed the finish line of Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne Sunday after a 17-kilometer solo effort notched him a well-deserved victory.

 

"I was thinking about 2010 when I was riding here when I was World Champion (Junior) and I wanted to win that day because that year my Grand Father died who was living here," explained Stuyven. "But I had bad luck when someone crashed into my bike. I think today I made up for that."

 

"I still can't believe it," continued Stuyven."I felt really good, not all day like yesterday, but in the finale, especially when we were going into the Kwaremont. I was easily following the moves, I was always there and never on the defensive."

 

Jasper Stuyven felt invincible Saturday in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, but a mistake at the crucial moment of the race saw him miss the key 4-man move that survived to fight out the win.

 

Sunday, Stuyven and his Trek-Segafredo teammates made amends.

 

Boy Van Poppel was part of an early 11-man breakaway that stayed away for most of the 200-kilometer race, and he would prove instrumental in the finale when he joined Stuyven in a 16-man leading group that formed in the final stages, driving the pace to keep the move alive.

 

"My job was to go in a big group today," explained Van Poppel.  "I bridged across when 10 guys went and that already was a big effort. Everything fell into place, and I got wings at the end because its my job to keep moving the breakaway. But I felt every time when I would go to the front everyone would slow down. So I keep going and going. And Jasper told me not to go too crazy, but if I stop then the group comes back. So I just went as hard as I could. Before Jasper went I went to the front and went super hard and pushed everyone into the gutter with the wind to set up his attack. And then he attacked, and in the end it was like we hoped for."

 

Stuyven: "Boy [Van Poppel] did a perfect job, he was incredible to keep our group going. He was so strong! But the peloton was coming back, so Dirk [Demol, director] said to try something, so I went and I was alone. I just powered through. 

 

"Normally, I am not the man for solo rides; I surprised myself.  But in the first lap I really paid attention to the wind, so when I went I knew what to expect and I just gave my all. I thought that maybe Tom [Boonen] would join me because he was very active, and I also knew that he would keep the group turning behind, so I knew I was in for a hard one."

 

Stuyven had 16 seconds over a small chasing group crossing the finish line to start the final 15-kilometer circuit, with the peloton breathing down their backs.

 

Stuyven grew his advantage to 25 seconds, steadily holding the gap as he turned the pedals, smoothly and powerfully over the next kilometers. With less than three kilometers to go, the peloton swarmed the chasing group, and Stuyven's margin swelled to 30 seconds.

 

"All my muscles hurt," said Stuyven. "I wanted to keep some gas for the head wind section but it was not like I had a lot of margin. I was constantly keeping an eye on my SRM, looking at my watts and keeping the legs spinning and trying to be as aero as possible."

 

In the final 200 meters, Stuyven had time to sit up, smile and savor his victory in front of his home country fans and family.

 

"I was targeting this weekend, and peaked for these races," Stuyven added. "I knew with Fabian [Cancellara] not here, that this was my chance. This victory is more important for me than my stage win in the Vuelta. Today was wonderful, but so hard."

 

"I had bad luck in the spring last year and couldn't prove my value. Now I have had a good winter. I am ambitious, but I can cope with the pressure and I hope to be in the finale for the next Classics with Fabian. I am ready, the team is ready."

 

The peloton roared across the finish line 17 seconds later. Niccolo Bonifazio sprinted to 6th and Edward Theuns to 8th places, putting three of the team's young guns into the top 10 to showcase a strong Trek-Segafredo team that's ready for the spring Classics.

 

"I was disappointed yesterday because we had the legs to do better," summed up director Dirk Demol. "Today everything went to plan. And for Boy, I have to say, wow! what a job today; what an amazing ride! 

 

"When we had 16 riders at the end, the group was too big, and there was not a lot of cooperation. I kept saying to Jasper that he has to go to make the group smaller, or you are not going to make it. He went alone, and with this wind in these conditions, it was a long ride.

 

”I just kept yelling to him over the radio that you have to ride the time trial of your life. No option, just go, go go.

 

"How he won the race today was amazing. We have a great bike, the Madone, it is so aero with the strong headwind, and I kept telling Jasper to think about the advantage we have with this bike; we have the fastest bike, so we are going to gain some seconds.

 

"I am so happy for him and the team. This is such a special race, I am born here in Kuurne, and I can say that this means a lot.  And it's also confirmation that this team is riding so strong ahead of the rest of the Classics."

 

Alexander Kristoff: I was weak in the important moments

It was a strong and powerful sprint easily won by Alexander Kristoff at the end of the 200km Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne on Sunday, but unfortunately it was for second place this time behind a solo win from young Belgian Jasper Stuyven.

 

“Last year I was also second but I was sprinting for first that time, so this is very different. Stuvyen was very strong out there alone. I thought he would come back but he wanted something else. We did a great chase with other teams, but unfortunately for me we did not catch him,” said Alexander Kristoff after the race.

 

With 16km to go, Stuyven put in what looked like a trial attack, but with no strong immediate response the Trek-Segafredo rider committed to his effort and time trialed to the finish line to win by 17-seconds. Kristoff’s group was quickly closing the gap, but it was too late to earn the victory when Kristoff came around the group to claim second place in front of Nacer Bouhanni of Cofidis. The winning time was 4:53.50.

 

”It was a very hard race, maybe a little harder than usual because the wind was quite strong. When the attacks came in the last part I was not in ideal position so I had to chase from behind, which was OK because many teams were in the same situation as we were. There was just one guy too strong for us today. I found myself always a little bit too weak in the important moments until the end in the sprint, when I felt good. But, of course, it was not for the win,” continuedKristoff. 

 

The cold and windy day saw a break go clear near the race start with various groups forming up behind for the chase, including the group with Kristoff. He put his men on the front: Sergey Lagutin, Vladimir Isaychev, Alexey Tsatevich, Marco Haller and Nils Politt joined at times by other teams with similar interest in seeing a sprint finish, doing a great job in front and hoping for a final bunch sprint. But the solo attack from 23-year old Stuyven mostly went unanswered and gave the motivated young rider enough of an edge to take the win and lay claim to the traditional stuffed donkey presented on the podium.

 

”I’m still a little bit behind in my race form, but I will race in Paris – Nice and then the week after that I hope to be in top form,” concluded Alexander Kristoff.  

 

Nacer Bouhanni sets sighs on Sanremo and Paris-Nice after third place in Kuurne

“It was difficult. I only had two teammates in the finale, Sénéchal and Lemoine. There was a lot of wind and the guys were coming at me from behind. I followed Kristoff and nearly got him on the line,” Bouhanni told reporters at the finish. It wasn’t a sprint for the victory, so that’s different. It’s not the same to sprint for second place.

 

“I’m not 100 per cent just yet, as planned. The real goals are still coming up with Paris-Nice and Milano-San Remo. That’s where I want to leave my mark.”

 

Dylan Groenewegen after fourth place in Kuurne: I can build on this

Dylan Groenewegen placed fourth in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne today in Belgium, third in the bunch kick behind solo winner Jasper Stuyven (Trek - Segafredo). LottoNL-Jumbo team-mate Twan Castelijns did the rest, escaping in the early lead group of 15 riders.

 

Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) won the sprint behind for second place ahead of Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) and Groenewegen. 

 

Wind and of course, the early climbs played their part in the 68th edition of the Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne.

 

“We only had Maarten Tjallingii in front after the Oude Kwaremont,” sports director Frans Maassen explained. “That wasn’t good enough. We were able to correct that, but it could have been a moment when we lost the race.”

 

Quickly afterwards, Groenewegen and Castelijns rode in the small first peloton.

 

“Dylan came out of the Volta ao Algarve in good form, which showed at that point of the race,” Maassen continued. “We worked for him and the race turned in our advantage.”

 

“I was too far behind after the Oude Kwaremont, but I was covered by a great team, fortunately,” Groenewegen explained. “I made it through the finish and I gave everything I had in the sprint, but more than this fourth place wasn’t possible for me. I’m satisfied. I’ll build further off this result.”

 

The Team LottoNL-Jumbo riders in the peloton were in a good position because Castelijns escaped in the front group. He had been in front of the first group at the right time to move free with fifteen riders.  

 

“That was a very strong performance,” Maassen said. “Our men were comfortable in the peloton because of that.”

 

“Last year, I was racing in very different races,” Castelijns added. “There’s much more pressure in this kind of races. That makes it special for me to be in the mix today. I wasn’t fresh any more in the end so it became harder to react in time. I had no other choice but to let the best riders free.”

 

Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne almost saw a traditional bunch kick.

 

“It was a devastating race, but it still ended up in a sprint with a big group of riders,” Maassen continued. “Only Stuyven stayed free of the peloton – impressive. He deserved the win and Dylan delivered a beautiful result as well.”

 

Lukasz Wisniowski secures fifth place for Etixx-QuickStep in bad opening weekend

In the last 500 meters, Lukasz Wisnikowski surged clear of the pack in an attempt to get on the podium, but he was swept away by the sprinters – Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) and Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) – and eventually finished fifth, a result which left him content: "I felt good today, and while Tom [Boonen] and Julien [Vermote] were at the front, I remained in the second group and recovered, waiting to see how things will unfold. After they got caught, Nikolas [Maes] created some space in the peloton and I could go for a nice result."

 

Tom Boonen: It was much better than yesterday

Although Etixx – Quick-Step didn't get a win on the opening Belgian week-end, sport director Tom Steels was satisfied with what he saw in the team and is confident the riders are going into the right direction ahead of this season's Spring campaign: "We've learnt a lot from the first Classics. We were close in the past two days, we could control the race, we were aggressive at times, and in the races that are coming up in the following weeks we will be at the top. Let's not forget that Tom is returning following his crash in the Abu Dhabi Tour, and he still has room for improvement."

 

A three-time winner of Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, Tom Boonen echoed Tom Steels' feelings on the two cobbled races: "Today it was a tough day, which was made tougher by the strong cold wind. I felt good and that's why I attacked a couple of times. When Stuyven went in the final, we thought it was too soon for such an action, but he managed to keep a high pace and take a well-deserved victory. Compared to Sunday, I felt good and I could really feel a diference, which comes as proof that I'm on the right track."

 

“I come out of this weekend much better than I entered it. Today it was decent. I’m going to put it like that. It was certainly not super but better than yesterday. Compared to yesterday it was a big difference. I’ve still got a lot of work to do but there’s still a lot of time. We’ve got about a month to go and the world was built in a week.”

 

“Before the final lap Jasper attacked and I thought, ‘that’s foolish, that’s way too early’, but he nicely managed to hold onto his lead. The difference was that he went flat out while we were hesitating and cursing each other.”

 

“As expected it was very hard because of the wind. Everybody wasted a lot of energy along the way. It might have gone unnoticed but it was a very hard race. The early breakaway was quickly formed which is atypical for Kuurne. In the hills it was fun racing and I raced with my heart.

 

”Late in the race we were ahead with about thirty riders. This group just started to fall apart because everybody was attacking. There was no co-operation. I figured to try my luck and go along with a move. Then we were ahead with a smaller group and it was looking good; I thought we would stay ahead.

 

“It’s typical ‘Kuurne’. They come back, or they don’t come back. It was a nice race with a deserved winner.”

 

Peter Sagan: It’s my destiny that no one wants to work togetehr with me

At the end of a windy day in Belgian at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, Peter Sagan had a seventh place to show for his efforts over the 200km of racing. The 68th edition of the semi classic was won by a strong solo move in the final 16km with Sagan mixing it in the sprint for second.

 

“Today was a nice race, cold with a lot of wind, and we came here with the same team as yesterday against a lot of fresh legs,” explained Sport Director Lars Michaelsen. “In the end Peter finished seventh and we can take the positive notes again from his performance here and over the weekend as a whole.”

 

“I enjoyed this weekend in Belgium and it was another good ride for me today, a good experience and I tried,” said Sagan after returning to the team bus. “My condition is still not optimal and I hope it will continue to improve.”

 

The action got underway with an 11-man escape pulling clear and establishing themselves at the head of the race, building an eight-minute advantage. Once the bunch started to react behind, the gap soon started to fall but over each exposed section of road and climb, the bunch thinned again and again.

 

Sagan stretched his legs for the first time up the Kwaremont, causing splits in the peloton as he hit out on the steep cobbled slopes, but normality was soon restored with a long way still to race.

 

“On the Kwaremont Peter showed his strength when he came from behind on the cobblestones, accelerating and passing everyone,” Michaelsen continued. “The winner of the race was able to follow him there, but of course with 85km to go it was too early so he had to sit up. We knew if we didn’t try to do anything on the climbs it would most likely end up in a sprint.”


It wasn’t until under 50km to go that the next dangerous move came, and once again Sagan was in the thick of the action, pulling clear with seven others over the final ascent of the day. With little cohesion, Sagan pressed on, but in vain as the race once again came back together with the early break now in touching distance, 45km from the finish.

 

“I tried a lot of times to attack today hoping to force a breakaway, but it seems to be my destiny that people find it hard to work together with me,” Sagan remarked.

 

Not long after the regrouping, the early escapee was also absorbed, igniting attacks and sparking a strong move of 15 to extract itself from the bunch, but with no Tinkoff riders present. The gap between the two groups hovered at around 30 to 40 seconds, and with 16km to race one rider jumped clear and would eventually hold on to take victory.

 

Little represented in the main bunch, Tinkoff had to leave the chasing to others on the run in and although the bunch managed to claw its way back to the breakaway before the finish, there was still one remaining out front.

Sagan pushed hard in the sprint for second, but his earlier efforts took their toll.

 

“Overall it’s been a good opening weekend for us in Belgium that we can improve on as well as taking the positive points. And we have time left between now and the big classics at the end of March and start of April to sharpen up certain areas,” concluded Michaelsen.

 

Thwaites leaves opening weekend with two top results, cold takes Bennett out of contention

The strong cross winds played a big role in todays Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne. Several times the peloton split into different groups, one BORA – ARGON 18 rider made a strong impression the whole day – Scott Thwaites. Thwaites was always well positioned in the peloton and managed to stay in the first group of favourites all the time. He just missed a split once, but showed his strength by bridging the gap on the Kwaremont on his own.

 

“Again I had good legs today but I had to make some big effort to bridge across to the front group as it split on the Kwaremont. It was important that Ralf (Matzka) came back as we entered the finishing circuits and he did a great job holding me in a good position until 1km to go. I did not have the leg speed in the tailwind sprint to match the top level sprinters, but I am happy with the top 10 as it once again shows that I have raised my level this year,” Thwaites said.

 

But the team in general had to start the day in bad conditions, with 3 riders having a cold due to the climate changeover from the warm temperatures in Qatar and Oman to the chilli weather conditions in Belgium. One of them was Sam Bennett who was not able to play a role in today’s race final. Also a crash of Michi Schwarzmann was an early weakening for BORA – ARGON 18. Therefore, the team tactics had to change and Thwaites could take his own chance.

 

Today Scott Thwaites had help from Ralf Matzka in the last kilometres and therefore was better positioned for the sprint than yesterday. He crossed the line in 10th position which is a strong mark after a hard and windy day.

 

“Scott really deserved to get a top ten result today. After his strong ride yesterday, he also showed today that he is already in good shape. I think he made another step from last year to this one and can challenge the best ones when everything works perfectly. Unfortunately our team was not in the best condition today. It turned out that the climate changeover from Oman to here effected some of the riders more than expected. But I am sure they will adapt fast now and then we can show our full strengths again,” André Schulze, sports director, said.

 

“After having problems with my health for the last 3 weeks, today was really an important sign for me. My shape is getting better now and I am satisfied with my ride today. I also think it was important to be able to support Scott in the final,” Matzka said.

 

 

Tough day for Arnaud Demare in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne

It was a difficult day for FDJ in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. Struggling a bit physically, Arnaud Démare certainly got a small place of honor (11th) but his team suffered as Mickael Delage was a victim of a crash at the bottom of a descent.

 

"It happened just before the Kruisberg, explains sport directot Frédéric Guesdon,” and Mika crashed at 80 km / h with Daniel Hoelgaard who was in his wheel. It was dramatic and we were scared but he is doing well. He suffers from a bruise on his right hip, but there was nothing broken since he is able to walk."

 

The race was decided by strongmen on the climbs and in the echelons caused by the wind and it was in that moment that the sports director of the FDJ realized it would be difficult to fight for victory.

 

"Arnaud was not as good as yesterday, continued Guesdon, “and also made ​​some mistakes, especially with the position before the Kwaremont. So he was fighting from behind, accompanied by Yoann Offredo. Eventually, they both returned to the peloton who sprinted for second place but I expected better. We were having difficulty in these two classics. This is proof that we are still not at the our best."

 

Berden de Vries impresses in Kuurne, empty legs for Kreder after long chase

The participation of Roompot - Orange Peloton in the opening weekend in Belgium was anything but colorless. Despite the inevitable setbacks, the riders did what the team management wanted in both race: go on the attack and if possible participate in the finale. The latter worked better on Sunday than on Saturday.

 

In Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, Sjoerd van Ginneken and Berden de Vries were with nine other riders in the break. After a frustrating Omloop, they were motivated to be there. Especially De Vries then got respect by also being in the 16-rider group in the finale.

 

"I think I showed the most beautiful things," he said. "The form has actually been good since the beginning of the year. This was also the case in Oman. It was that I, after the breakaway was caught, was with the group of Boonen and Van Avermaet. Maybe I could have done better when I attacked with Boy van Poppel and Julien Vermote. But in such a finale I get a bit of a fighter feeling, "said De Vries who eventually crossed the line in 62d.

 

Raymond Kreder had to chase for 80km to take part in the sprint. 

 

"Unfortunately, I collided with my cousin Wesley in Ronse. Thereafter, it took time before I was back in the large group, but thanks to the support of the team I made it just in time. In the sprint, the legs were just empty," said Kreder who was 14th.

 

Impressive classics debut for Caleb Ewan in Kuurne

In the first full cobbled classic of the season Tour Down Under stage winner Caleb Ewan has finished strongly in the front group to take fifteenth place after an excellent team performance over today’s 200 kilometre race.

 

The race was won with a solo breakaway by Belgian Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo), with a large group of riders contesting the sprint for second and third place.

 

Sports director Laurenzo Lapage was full of praise for the team and in particular 21 year old Ewan.

 

“It was a great performance today by Caleb and the guys, to come into your first Northern Classic and be up there with the team in the front position going over the Kwaremont is fantastic. It’s a great sign for the future.

 

“There was a lot of nervous riders in that front group having a fast young guy like Caleb going so well over the climbs. I’m really satisfied with how he performed today.”

 

“The team were fantastic and we all played our part’s really well, we were very strong with our positions and said before the race we wanted to take responsibility on the Kwaremont and we did that.”

 

With the Spring Classics now upon us ORICA-GreenEDGE can take a lot of confidence into the upcoming races.

 

“This is the first weekend these guys have raced together,” explained Lapage.

 

“So today was a key test for us especially thinking about the big races coming up in the next few weeks. We can be very happy with what we achieved today.”

 

Greg Van Avermaet: I tried to do everything to get another win

After his win at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad yesterday, Greg Van Avermaet had his eye on another victory in today’s 200km Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne.

 

Van Avermaet spent the day at the front and was part of small group who looked set to challenge for the win before a successful late attack by Jasper Stuyven (Trek Segafredo) in the final 30 kilometers saw him claim a solo win. Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) and Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) battled it out in a sprint finish for the podium places.

 

Van Avermaet was happy with his form today.

 

“It was a hard day with a lot of wind but I think we did a pretty good race. I tried to do everything to go for another win and we were in a good group. We were six guys trying to chase Stuyven but in the end we couldn’t catch him. It is like it is and I’m pretty happy.

 

"We came to a point with a good group. Then Jasper Stuyven attacked. We looked a bit too much at each other and he was gone. I think none of us believed in his chances of success. All those long stretches with headwind? He would never hold on to the end but he did. Everyone was also a little tired.

 

"Jasper delivered an impressive performance. Now I'm going to get some rest and then do Strade Bianche and Tirreno-Adriatico."

 

Jens Debusschere left disappointed after strong ride by Lotto Soudal in Kuurne

Jens Debusschere was the first Lotto Soudal rider as 20th Both he and manager Marc Sergeant analyze of the race.

 

Jens Debusschere said: “The first part of the race went fluently. A group got away and several teams placed a rider at the front of the peloton. Everyone knew that they had to be attentive after the Oude Kwaremont, especially with the strong wind. We did it very well at first, at the Varentstraat there was another split. But when a new strong group was formed, Pim Ligthart was part of it, Jürgen Roelandts and myself had to be part of it as well.

 

“In the sprint for the second place I was badly positioned after the final turn. Therefore I couldn’t sprint as expected and I’m disappointed of course. My goal was to obtain a nice result and that didn’t happen.”

 

Marc Sergeant added: “In a certain moment, a group managed to get away with a few strong riders, Pim Ligthart was part of it. Jürgen [Roelandts] couldn’t bridge the gap but he was very close. Therefore we had to ride at the front of the peloton in the background. It lasted a while before the other teams helped and then you know it will be difficult.”

 

Stig Broeckx breaks collarbone after being hit by a motorbike in Kuurne

Stig Broeckx was hit by a motor rider during the race and he crashed really hard. He was transferred to the hospital of Deinze. This is the diagnosis: a displaced fracture of his right collarbone, a rib fracture and a bruised hand. Tonight, Broeckx will undergo surgery of the collarbone fracture. Due to these injuries, he won’t be able to race during the following weeks.

 

Luke Rowe again in the mix, no legs for Elia Viviani

Luke Rowe capped off an impressive opening weekend of the Classics with a spirited ride at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.

 

The Welshman spent much of the day at the head of the race and featured in a number of dangerous attacks as the lead contenders looked to make a decisive move stick.

 

Rowe was joined up front by team-mates Salvatore Puccio and Gianni Moscon for a spell after a hard passage over the Oude Kwaremont split the wind-swept race apart.

 

That berg put pay to Elia Viviani's chances, with the 2015 podium finisher slipping out of contention over the cobbles, with the Italian's focus now switching the upcoming Track World Championships.

 

With no team able to definitively take control, in the end the race regrouped in the final kilometres, but not before Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) had made good his escape. The Belgian launched clear solo with 16km to go and quickly opened out an unassailable advantage.

 

In the sprint behind Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) held off Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) for the podium positions, while Andy Fenn led the Team Sky challenge in Kuurne, crossing the line in 23rd on the coattails of the sprinters.

 

After the race Sport Director Servais Knaven explained how the team's focus shifted once Viviani was out of contention.

 

"It gave opportunities for the other guys and they rode an aggressive final," said the Dutchman. "For them it was good to be up there and Luke again did a really great ride. They tried to stay away from the peloton but they just didn't make it. That was a pity but I think he can go home with his head held high. He can be happy about how he's ridden this weekend.

 

"The wind was a really big factor. Because of that the break of 15 with Luke went at about 45km to go in the crosswinds. There were a lot of those all day which made the race really hard, and a different race from what we normally see. It was a really nice race to watch I think and in the end it became a bunch sprint for second place. 

 

"it was just a pity for us that Elia didn't have the legs today and didn't feel good. Otherwise he could have gone for the sprint and for the win. Now we will rest for a few days before heading to the Three Days of West Flanders."

 

Difficult classics debut for Giant-Alpcin and Zico Waeytens

At the end of a challenging day for Giant-Alpecin, Roy Curvers was the first to cross the line for Team Giant-Alpecin in 33rd place.

 

 

With 24km to go, Tom Stamnijder was part of a 16 man breakaway and had a gap of 40″ seconds over the peloton, as Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) pulled clear from the group and managed to stay clear until the finish line.

 

For Team Giant-Alpecin, the first rider to finish was Roy Curvers in 33rd place, followed by Zico Waytens in 43rd place. The latter had a mechanical problem in the last parts of the stage, therefore, he was unable to take part in the sprint.

 

Coach Aike Visbeek said after the race: “It was a nervous race today because of the strong winds and the early escape got quite a big advantage. 

 

“We stuck to our plan, which was to save energy and be in good position at the Oude Kwaremont. That succeeded with Zico and Søren [Kragh]. After the Tiegemberg, Tom and Zico were in the first group and Tom got away in a 16-rider group.

 

“In the sprint, the preparation went perfectly for 2nd place until Zico faced a mechanical problem and his chance on top 10 was gone.

 

“Overall, we can be satisfied with the effort and the discipline of the team today. Tom and Søren did a very strong race and Nikias [Arndt], Albert [Timmer] and Koen [de Kort] were able to contribute to the team in a very good way.”

 

ONE Pro Cycling sprinter with strong ride in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne

Once again ONE Pro Cycling made the break of the day with Yanto Barker being with 10 other riders at the head of the race. The peloton, not sensing any threat allowed the break to gain a maximum time advantage of eight minutes 20 seconds before starting to reel them back in.

 

Passing the 50km mark the peloton started to increase the tempo as they made their way towards the feed zone and back to back climbs. Hitting the 120km mark, several big selections happened over the course of the next 70km with gusts of cross wind up to 50kp/h starting to stretch many riders. A bike change for Chris Opie saw a difficult chase back to the second group which never regained contact. Sam Williams and Hayden McCormick who had done a great job protecting the team waited but couldn’t help the team regain contact.

 

Up at the front of the race Barker was still doing a great job riding in the breakaway. A counter move went off the front of the peloton with Tom Boonen, Peter Sagan and 6 other chasers bridging the gap and joining the leaders creating quite a large breakaway group. Once combined at the front, a selection in the group launched an attack, Barker slid into that move to form a group of 16 riders who worked well together to hold the peloton at around 40 seconds for several kilometres.

 

The strong crosswind section on the finishing circuit saw the break echeloning across the road at several points. With 15km to go and one lap of the finishing circuit remaining Barker was dropped from the lead group and headed back into the peloton to get some protection. Jasper Stuyven from (Trek-Segafrado) went away on his own to take a solo victory with Barker finishing in the peloton behind the lone leader. The rest of the team were pulled out by the race organisers on reaching the finishing circuit to save the potential of any dropped riders getting caught by the race leaders.

 

Speaking after the event Matt Winston commented, “A really good day for Yanto and the team. He was in the breakaway for 183km in really strong crosswinds and it was great to see him slide into the group containing the World Champion on the finishing circuit. We took the lessons we learnt from Omloop Nieuwsblad yesterday and implemented them today as a group. We improved and we will continue to learn and improve again on Wednesday as we race Le Samyn.”

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