Sunday’s Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne is a fine race in its own right but tends to be seen as a revenge race where riders can make amends for mistakes and misfortune from Saturday’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. If revenge is a dish best served cold things got too literal last year as the race was snowed off. Now it’s back and offers the sprinters a chance to stand on the podium.
Add this to the list of lies in cycling because if it starts in Kuurne it doesn’t go to Brussels, it nudges Ninove which is 25km outside of the Belgian capital. But the race is all the better for it because it can zigzag across the more hilly terrain within 197km. There are a series of tough climbs but they come relatively early. The last climb is the Nokereberg, wide and stable it’s 350m at 5.7%, big ring time and still 50km to go. It all makes for a hard course but it is not fiercely selective, the race can regroup on the run in to Kuurne and a bunch sprint is the most probable event but not certain.
There are two laps of a finishing circuit with the race rattling back and forth between Kuurne and Kortrijk. It’s flat with a few pinch points to scare the bunch.
These have to be seen in the light of the Omloop as the best laid plans for Sunday get changed by Saturday’s race, those who succeed can take the day off while those who fail want a second chance.
André Greipel is the prime pick for the race if it ends in a bunch sprint. Lotto-Belisol have said he’s snotteren or suffering from a cold in
phlegmish Flemish but this could be a ruse to downplay his chances and stop all the other teams from counting on Lotto to do the work. Many will be looking to Greipel because if this is one of the classics for sprinters, there’s no Mark Cavendish nor Teutonic tandem of Marcel Kittel and John Degenkolb. On paper that means everyone else is riding for second place as Greipel is that much quicker. But races aren’t run on paper and we’ve already seen Greipel beaten in a straight sprint this year.
There’s Tom Boonen for a start, backed up by Andrew Fenn. Boonen had a discreet time in the Omloop but there was no easy riding in the cold and rain. Katusha’s Alexander Kristoff is always there. Sky’s Edvald Boasson Hagen can win bunch sprints but it’s rare and so is a win by Chris Sutton but the Australian has won this race before and Sky can ride with zero pressure now. Argos-Shimano bring Luka Mezgec and and Reinardt Janse van Rensburg. Belkin’s sprinter is Moreno Hofland, fast and a recent winner too. Tyler Farrar’s Garmin-Sharp job was saved in extremis last season and if he’s an infrequent winner he could be on the podium, Wanty-Gobert’s Danilo Napolitano is there, just 33 despite being around for ever. At the other end of the age spectrum there’s the powerful Arnaud Démare (FDJ) and the lively Bryan Coquard (Europcar), Démare must be shattered after a big ride on Saturday but might be able to sit tight and save himself for the sprint. Finally there’s Minsk missile Yauheni Hutarovich, twice on the podium in the last two years.
Having listed a load of sprinters you might be tempted to watch for the final kilometre but don’t, sprinting these days is a team effort and watching the tension in the bunch as squads compete for space to place their rider is half of the action, the sprint to the line is only the last effort in a long series.
Prime Pick: André Greipel
Dark Horse: Tom Boonen
Watch: Alexander Kristoff, Bryan Coquard
Weather: sunny but cold with the temperature staying in single digits on the Celsius scale. Crucially the southerly wind could gust at 40km/h. This is enough to cause waaiers – if the forecast holds true – as you only have to look at the map above to see the east-west nature of the race. Will we see OPQS launch a coup? Perhaps if the wind blows so strong but again the forecast sounds too good to be true.
TV: Sporza’s coverage starts at 2.00pm with the race expected to finish around 4.45pm Euro time. Unlike the Omloop, this race is on Eurosport and other channels and if you can’t find it on TV, check cyclingfans.com for a pirate feed.
If you’re busy or a casual fan tune in for the final circuits by 4.00pm or for the full story watch from 2.30pm.
There are some original prizes in the sport and none more so that the donkey awarded to to the winner. They make good pets but fortunately the winner only gets a stuffed toy. But why? Well it’s a self-deprecating label adopted by inhabitants of Kuurne. Belgium’s a fun place that embraces eccentricity – think Magritte or the Maneken Pis – and meet the man who thinks he’s a penguin.
So a town that calls its inhabitants is nothing unusual and a large cartoon statue called Ambroos gurns with pride in front of the town hall. There are two legends, take your pick:
- inhabitants of Kortrijk would be awoken by traders coming to market from Kuurne by the sound of donkeys and carriages rattling over cobbles, “it’s those asses from Kuurne” and the label stuck
- a local priest got tongue-tied one day and could not remember a blessing for his followers. He was berated by a colleague who said “you were born an ass and will die an ass” but the priest mistakenly took his colleague’s insult for a cue and started blessing the Kuurne residents with the saying “you were born an ass and will die an ass”