Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne Preview

Seen as revenge race to correct any mistakes in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne is perhaps the most sprint-friendly cobbled classic after the Scheldeprijs these days. Who can stop Dylan Gronewegen from a repeat win?

The Route: another race with a deceitful description because the race doesn’t go near Brussels, in fact it stays west of Ninove meaning it never gets closer than 30km from the Belgian capital. It’s no bad thing as it allows the race to twist and turn around the hills of Flanders. The 200km course has a series of 11 tough climbs and cobbled sectors including the Oude Kwaremont but they come relatively early. The last climb is the Nokereberg, it’s wide, stable and 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 likely outcome with sprinters dropped earlier trying to get back to the front group.

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 before a long finishing straight that’s lined by deep crowds but exposed to the wind.

The Contenders: Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma) is the top pick. He won last year and has already got two wins to his name this season. But no two sprints are the same, there are an exercise in hierarchy but one determined partially by opportunities and risk as well as power, skills and fitness. A proverbial door can close here, a window opens there. Groenewegen has a strong team and key rivals Arnaud Démare (second last year) and Fabio Jakobsen (the new Groenewegen) are both out, sick.

Scanning the startlist and it takes a while to find other sprinters. Matteo Trentin is there for Mitchelton-Scott but in a straight contest with Groenwegen you’d back the Dutchman. The same with the promising Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe), Sonny Collbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) and Jens Debusschere (Katusha). Cofidis bring Nacer Bouhanni who can beat the best on a good day and André Greipel leads Arkea-Samsic. UAE-Emirates’ neo-pro Jasper Philipsen could contend too but crashed yesterday and maybe a bit sore.

Altogether there are enough teams to work to set up a sprint but only just, a lot of rival squads don’t have a sprinter here and they’ll try to split up the race and get into a group that can stay away from the peloton. Deceuninck-Quickstep, Ag2r La Mondiale, Lotto-Soudal, Groupama-FDJ and Trek-Segafredo all have an interest to stir up the race with the latter being brutally honest about their invisible performance yesterday. Their problem is that hard part to split the race is far from the finish and if the race does crack up in the crosswinds then Groenewegen and other sprinters are adept at being in the front group.

Jasper Stuyven won (Trek-Segafredo) two years ago with a powerful solo move and could try again is ill. Others able to make a late bid include Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data), Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ), Silvan Dillier (Ag2r La Mondiale), Bob Jungels (Deceuninck-Quickstep) and Niki Tepstra (Direct Energie).

Dylan Groenewegen
Pascal Ackermann, Matteo Trentin
Nacer Bouhanni, Sonny Colbrelli
Jungels, Küng, Cort, Greipel, Van Genechten


Weather: damp and cloudy, there should be some rain showers during the race. A 30km/h wind from the south-west will blow and this is just enough to prising the peloton apart if enough teams conspire.

TV: local channel Sporza starts its Sunday afternooon sports coverage from 1.30pm and the live coverage of the race should begin on Eurosport and other international feeds at 2.30pm. You can sit down to the watch the whole thing but if the race looks like a sprint finish then tune in for the final. They cross the finish for the first time around 4.00pm, again 20 minutes later and the finish is forecast for 4.40pm CET.

Ambroos: 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. So a town that calls its inhabitants “donkeys” is nothing unusual and a large cartoon-like statue called Ambroos stands with pride in front Kuurne’s 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”

28 thoughts on “Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne Preview”

  1. I went to bed last night, and awoke this morning, with the same thoughts in my mind of comparing those fine examples of American craftsmanship; the Rickenbacker guitar and the Trek bicycle.
    If the Emonda has the airy jingle jangle of a six string, can the Madone (my current love) be the 4004 bass?
    I can only blame the excitement of ‘openingsweekend’ and a diet of mind-bending drugs, which I suppose Nutella and coffee is, for this thought process.
    I need to get out on the road, before I trash my flat and throw the tv out of the window, but I shall be riding with the hope that Trek stop f’ing about and Stuvyen can repeat his victory and with the tune that should accompany it –

  2. Weather predicted light rain with gusts of wind up to 50 km/h.
    Might play a role in the race. Headwind on the way to the finish.

  3. Minor correction Inrng: Stuyven won in 2016 not last year. Can’t see past Groenewegen in a clean bunch sprint, but there’s always a chance he’ll get boxed in I suppose.

  4. What a tremendous race and effort from Jungels.
    DQS can do it any way you like.
    I can see them cleaning up on Tuesday too.

    • Certainly a “Bike Racing 101” lesson from the Wolf-Pack. When Jungels jumped I said, “Hmm, this kid’s pretty good against the clock, can he time-trial around this final lap without being caught? It’ll depend on what his team can do behind go slow things down.” They worked to perfection. Can one of their guys repeat this Saturday on a much, much different type of course?

      • Definitely a case of using tactics and playing your best cards to maximise the chance of victory. Just a puzzle why, when DQS do it, it’s a case of “that canny old fox Lefevre and his wolf pack” and, when Team Sky do it up a mountain, it’s “they’re killing cycling”.

        • Pilgrim – For me it’s how and where this occurs. Up a mountain in a GT it comes too often down to simply watts/kgs rather than any real tactics or racecraft. When you have a budget (unlike DQS who had to let Gaviria and Terpstra go for lack of funds) like SKY’s you can use that “Can’t beat ’em? Buy ’em!” philosophy and stack your team with guys who would be leaders elsewhere but are never (or almost never) going to be let loose to win. You burn ’em up in service to your leader, who is rarely (if ever) at the start line of any sort of race where he can return those favors.
          DQS’ program seems much, much different and offers a lot of wolves in their pack a chance and once one of them is all-in, they work well to support him, knowing it could be their turn next time. Saturday’s winner was there on the start line Sunday to help Sunday’s victor. My memory might be faulty but this is not a common scenario with SKY, is it?

      • I doubt it, Strade Bianche is much more of a every man for himself kind of race. Especially if the weather is anything like last year. The winner is always a top rider without any team mates to help in the finale. QS’s best bet would probably be Alaphilippe or maybe Stybar again.

  5. Surely most Belgian moment of the day was the guy gate crashing the race in the van. I thought at the time ” ahh man, that guy is gonna get the piss ripped out of him tomorrow” …turns out could be a bit more than that as my best mate who lives in Belgium says that the story is better than that….it turns out the turning he came out from was from a brothel car park! 🙂

  6. Following up on a comment yesterday about QS classics juggernaut. Jungels worked hard yesterday in the service of the team and ZS. Today 5 QS in a 25 man lead group. While Lampaert looked/was strong, Jungel drove the break over the cobbles to cement the gap to the peloton. With him off the front, the rest of the QS boys played the watching brief to perfection. Yesterday ZS, today Jungels. Tomorrow Gilbert or Lampaert. Big but not biggest budget. Team knows what it is and is able to attract and keep happy lots of like minded strong (e.g. Lampaert, Stybar, Gilbert) and versatile (e.g. Jungels, Alaphilippe) riders. Amazing they are able to keep such an array of talent cohesive and committed to a “one team” concept. Don’t often hear about “polemics” within the team as to who is the leader.
    Chapeau to Astana, they have really upped its hardman game.

  7. How much would you give to be as good as Bob Jungels? Grand Tour top 10’s, top time trialist, Ardennes classic winner, cobbled classics winner, looks perfect on a bike… seems like a nice guy, quite handsome, probably has a good looking girlfriend! Top man.

    • His showing here did make me wonder where his goals now lie. Less sure he is all in for the rouleur to GT specialist transition this season? Saying that, there is plenty of time for altitude and weight loss or maybe he sees one days and short stage races as the way to go…?

  8. I know this is a piece on K-B-K but so I’ll start with this point. I could see Sammy B being in contention here. Be better than a sprint win down the dusty trail on his palmarès. Great result for Vuillermoz in the Ardèche puts him in good stead for Flèche

  9. 2 – 0 to Quickstep then.

    Looking forward to Le Samyn tomorrow. Terpstra’s the top ranked rider in this and hes not been too far off the front so far. But the way the steppers are going so far (14 wins already) I’m looking at Florian Senechal

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