Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne Preview

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.

The Route
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.

The Finish
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.

The Contenders
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.

Donkey Time
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”

15 thoughts on “Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne Preview”

  1. Would 198km in your legs be a huge disadvantage over those who wrapped up for a 50km training spin / route analysis? It would for me!

    • We often think that but many will ride and see if the first 150km are manageable before feeling stronger and stronger for the finish. Yesterday’s big problem was the rain and cold weather that will have made it harder and even more energy intensive.

  2. “If revenge is a dish best served cold things got too literal last year…”.
    “…he’s snotteren or suffering from a cold in phlegmish Flemish…”

    Over a couple of past seasons, this blog has been rushing its way to become a central place providing me with a daily dose of cycling fix. As a true erudite, you elegantly demonstrate that your areas of expertise largely surpass the in-depth knowledge of cycling (a true insider’s one at that – hence the blog’s name, I suspect). Wit, humor and spot-on issues chosen to be addressed make me relish in anticipation of each new post. As a non-native English speaker working mainly as a freelance interpreter, I take the language and erudition aspect of this blog to be a true collateral gain. Though I so-far kept quiet for the whole duration of my being a regular, I suddenly felt the urge to say just how much I appreciate it 🙂

  3. I second that, Comarello. Like Chris Froome beating his opponents on both flat time trials and long Alpine uphills, INRG beats the mainstream cycling outlets both in depth of knowledge and writing skills. And in his case, I couldn’t care less if he’s doping to achieve that 😉

  4. Not sure what his job gonna be for OPQS but i got a feeling that Matteo Trentin be in with a shout today for K-B-K if it don’t work out for Tom B.

  5. As for the penguin man…he is from Wallonia, the French-speaking southern part, not Flanders.
    You can see why many of us in Flanders want independance!!! They live in their own world, but have no problems in sucking energy out of our wallets so that they can remain in that world of theirs!!!

    • How exactly do they suck your -backwheels-, sorry, anything from your wallets?

      Don’t tell me that “you pay more taxes” (because *you* earn more, maybe?) and “they receive more subsidies” (because *they* are less rich, one would say, and that’s how a fair distributive society works).

      Single situations must be examined carefully, especially when regional governments have any kind of fiscal power, but this kind of discourse normally arises in rich regions where *the region* is paying globally more, but that happens essentially because there are many more rich people living there, and they’re richer, too, so *these* people are paying more, so to say (i.e., they’re paying just what corresponds to their revenues), hence rising the total sum being paid by *the region*; nevertheless, people with standard incomes won’t be paying much more.
      Not to the state, and therefore not to the “opportunist” regions, at least.
      I’m aware that you may have an higher cost of living, due to the widespread well-being of population, and a part of that may be taxed from sales duties… but, once again, that corresponds to higher spending standards.

      Pro-independence discourse based on economic *injustice* hasn’t proved trustworthy from a scientific point of view, until now.
      At least in Italy and in Spain, the cases I know better: and I’d bet that the apparent inequality in the fiscal balance is even stronger here than in Belgium. But that’s just guessing: thus, I would like to know more… anyway, I must admit that the “no more penguin men” is the most original pro-independence argument I’ve ever heard so far.

      That said… GO TOMMEKE GO!

  6. “Will we see OPQS launch a coup?”
    Hell yes! It was like the Tour de France stage last year with Omega Pharma and Team Belkin

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