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59th Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne - 1.1
Belgium, February 26, 2006
Nick Nuyens completes the set
By Jeff Jones in Kuurne, with additional reporting from Brecht Decaluwé
Quick.Step's Nick Nuyens has followed on from his brilliant victory in Het Volk last year to take out the 59th edition of Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne, thanks to some selfless teamwork from a super Tom Boonen today. The World Champion was in every breakaway that mattered today, but was happy to play policeman for Nuyens when the pocket powerhouse attacked the final nine man breakaway with 4 km to go. Nuyens wasn't sure of his strength, but with Van Impe and Boonen watching the rest, he was able to win by a comfortable margin from Leif Hoste (Discovery Channel). He now has the complete set of victories in the opening Belgian weekend.
"I was not feeling super today," Nuyens related afterwards. "I already had to pass when two others attacked. But, I thought that I could be of any use because we were behind with two teammates. We asked that Tom Boonen wouldn't ride so that we could come back. Choosing between a situation with three teammates against nine, or one against five is not difficult. Being there, we could gamble and tire the others out. I attacked a few times, first with Eeckhout and later alone. Boonen was always there to watch over the rest, who needed to react.
"Riding alone, I kept on going and I saw that Boonen was actively riding in defence. He sat in behind the leader of the chasing group. My job was to make my escape last as long as possible. Boonen did a super job behind me. He was extremely important. Probably the best man in the race. He was always there in the attacks.
"Yesterday, I was disappointed, because I was saying to everyone that I was confident and feeling good. Sadly enough, I was nowhere in that race. But, as a team we did not perform badly. With this win, and my win in the Omloop Het Volk last year, the semi-classics are within my reach. I hope this means a step up to the real classics like the Ronde van Vlaanderen. Normally, I won't be the team leader. That is always Tom Boonen, but my position as 'lightning conductor' suits me well."
In second place, splitting the Quick.Step pair of Nuyens and Boonen, was Discovery's Leif Hoste, who also rode an excellent race. But Hoste was forced to use up too much energy in pursuing the breaks, rather than making them. And his teammate Jurgen van den Broeck wasn't quite strong enough to close the gap to Nuyens when he attacked. "I gambled, but I lost," Hoste told Cyclingnews after his race.
The president of the Quickstep team, Patrick Lefevere, was a happy man: "This weekend was a real success as we won three out of four races," he told Cyclingnews. "Besides this win by Nuyens, we won in Chiasso with Wielinga and also with Bettini in the GP Lugano. It was funny to see Nuyens win because he isn't riding very well. Kudos for him to grab this win when he wasn't in good condition."
Boonen and Steegmans were also playing a strange game when they were dropping out of the lead group. "That gambling game with Steegmans has grown out of their youth races," said Lefevere. "When they were young guys, Steegmans and Boonen had to battle it out between each other a lot of times. Most of the time, Tom was on the losing side. But, this is the way Tom was racing in his youth, always attacking. The people will be happy to see a world champion that goes on the attack. For me, I am very proud to see that we have the best team."
Tom Boonen's popularity is growing every day. As he was mobbed by the crowds at the finish, he told Cyclingnews, "Just when Nick Nuyens attacked, I wanted to ask the guys to work for me and lead out the sprint." The world champion also reacted on his strange behaviour towards Gert Steegmans: "I wanted to show that I don't like it when they are constantly on my tail. I was leaving a gap, and it was up to Gert to close that one down. Maybe, that was not so smart from me, but I needed to do something."
Gert Steegmans had another strong race, but it was again unsuccessful. "I was riding a good race, only at Nokereberg, I made a mistake in missing the break with Boonen," he told us. "In the finale, we lacked one man to compete with Quickstep. Three men was too much to fight against."
The young Belgian isn't only looking at Tom Boonen. "He acted a bit strangely by dropping us both out of the leading group. He shouldn't think that we are the only riders that are on his tail. Still, he is the world champion so everybody is looking at him. There are other riders that are looking at him far more than our team. I heard that he reacted to our race behaviour yesterday by saying that he'd rather see Gilbert winning than one of the Davitamon team. I think he said that in a first impulsive reaction. So, I won't bother about it."
How it unfolded
It was a freezing morning in Kuurne's Hippodrome, with temperatures hovering just above zero and the icy north easy wind blowing a few snow flakes onto the 191 riders as they signed on. Some were talking about tired legs; others, like Boonen, were talking of making up for yesterday's race.
Attacks were common in the first half of the race, but no early break was established. Eelke van der Wal (Fondas-P3Transfer Team) was first to go after 5 km, then Thomas Vaitkus (AG2R) at km 9. But no dice, with the headwind keeping things together and the average speed down to 38 km/h in the first hour.
After 60 km, Christophe Riblon (AG2R) and Marvin van der Pluijm (Ubbink) had a brief attempt, followed by Björn Leukemans (Davitamon), Kasper Klostergaard (CSC), Gorik Gardeyn (Unibet), and Steven Caethoven (Chocolade Jacques). They were chased down, but then British rider Steven Cummings (Landbouwkrediet) was able to get a gap after 75 km. Cummings increased his advantage to 2'20 at the 100 km point, when the race began to come alight on the Kanarieberg, the third of eight climbs.
Sergei Ivanov (T-Mobile) led the peloton at a strong tempo up the climb, with Tom Boonen sitting comfortably on his wheel. Over the top, they were joined by Baranauskas (Agritubel), Leukemans (Davitamon), Baguet (Quick.Step), Maccanti (LPR) and Albasini (Liquigas). The group was cut down to size when Baguet rode most of them off his wheel on the Kruisberg, with only his teammate Boonen and Leukemans able to follow. Albasini (Liquigas), Baranauskas (Agritubel), Bernucci (T-Mobile) were able to bridge up, and the sextet quickly caught Cummings at 80 km to go.
Other riders had reacted by this stage, and at the foot of the Oude Kwaremont, Boonen found himself in a group of around 25 riders. Immediately, Mattan (Davitamon) attacked and was joined by Baguet and Bernucci. The trio crested the tough, cobbled climb with half a minute on the next group, where Hoste suddenly accelerated, with Boonen and Leukemans on his wheel. It was only a small attack, and there was a general regrouping on the descent towards the Cote de Trieu. Roger Hammond (Discovery) was the next rider to try to bridge to the three leaders, and when he was joined by Joost Posthuma (Rabobank) over the top, he succeeded and there were five in front.
Hoste was frustrated behind, but realised he had to wait with Hammond up front. Quick.Step, Davitamon, T-Mobile, Rabobank and Discovery now all had riders up the road, so it was up to the smaller teams to close the growing gap to the break on the road back to Kuurne. When it got down to 30 seconds at 55 km to go, Erwin Thijs (Unibet) was able to power across, as the mid-sized group waited for the larger part of the peloton to join on.
As the six in front hovered at 50 seconds, Tom Boonen showed that he certainly hadn't finished, and followed a counter-attack by Frederic Guesdon (Française des Jeux) on the Nokereberg. They caught Martias (Bouygues), Pronk (Unibet), and Auge (Cofidis), who had previously started to chase, and when Quick.Step's Verheyen joined on, they stepped on the gas. The two groups of six came together at 39 km to go, and with three Quick.Steps and just one Davitamon in front, Davitamon's orders were to chase very hard.
At 34 km to go, the peloton came together once more, but the Davitamon riders had burned a few matches in the latest pursuit of Tom Boonen. It only took another 3 km for the final selection to form, when the little known Folkert de Haan (Ubbink) accelerated with Jurgen van den Broeck (Discovery) on his wheel and Nick Nuyens (Quick.Step) coming up soon after. They were joined by Kevin Van Impe (Quick.Step) and Johan Coenen (Unibet.com), then Boonen yet again, this time with Steegmans (Davitamon), Eeckhout (Jacques) and Pronk (Unibet). A quartet with Mattan (Davitamon), Hoste (Discovery), Klier (T-Mobile), Flickinger (Ag2r) chased them as the leaders came past the start/finish with 22 km to go, but only Mattan and Hoste were able to make it across in the end. That left 11 leaders with 20 km to go.
The numbers were in Quick.Step's favour with three, even though both Discovery, Davitamon and Unibet had two each up front. Mattan and de Haan were the first to be dropped at 13 km to go, leaving Davitamon's Steegmans a little isolated. He was closely marking Boonen, and when the pair attacked in the crosswind towards the end of the first finishing lap, only Eeckhout, Van den Broeck and Coenen could follow. Boonen's two teammates were chasing along with Hoste and Pronk, and he opted not to work in front in order to capitalise on the Quick.Step strength in numbers approach.
Although Van Impe and Nuyens probably could have worked for a group sprint for Boonen, they played their cards differently. Van Impe was the first to attack at 6 km left, forcing Steegmans to chase him down. Van den Broeck, Coenen and then Eeckhout countered, but Nuyens was able to match them and attacked, forcing Van den Broeck and the rest to chase. Nuyens was caught at 4 km to go but went again almost immediately, and this time Van den Broeck had no answer. Clearly, neither did any of the other riders, who didn't attempt to relieve the young Discovery rider until he finally blew up. Boonen and Van Impe were able to watch for any counter-attack, and Nuyens had more than enough time to celebrate another big win. Hoste made a last ditch effort for second place, while Boonen easily won the sprint for third.
With wins in GP Chiasso (Wielinga) and Lugano (Bettini) this weekend, Quick.Step has come away with the honours, even if Het Volk eluded them.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Luc Claessen/www.ctm-images.com
Images by Michael Gernaa/Procycling.dk/CyclingPictures.dk
1 Nick Nuyens (Bel) Quick.Step 4.37.32 (41.509 km/h) 2 Leif Hoste (Bel) Discovery 0.06 3 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick.Step 0.08 4 Niko Eeckhout (Bel) Chocolade Jacques 5 Matthe Pronk (Ned) Unibet.com 6 Gert Steegmans (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto 7 Johan Coenen (Bel) Unibet.com 8 Jurgen Van den Broeck (Bel) Discovery 9 Kevin Van Impe (Bel) Quick.Step 0.10 10 Marco Zanotti (Ita) Unibet.com 0.19 11 Mark Renshaw (Aus) Credit Agricole 12 Michele Maccanti (Ita) Team LPR 13 Franck Renier (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 14 Gilles Canouet (Fra) Agritubel 15 Nick Ingels (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto 16 Staf Scheirlinckx (Bel) Cofidis 17 Uros Murn (Slo) Phonak 18 Gorik Gardeyn (Bel) Unibet.com 19 Frederic Guesdon (Fra) Francaise des Jeux 20 Jimmy Engoulvent (Fra) Credit Agricole 21 Marc de Maar (Ned) Rabobank 22 Benjamin Noval (Spa) Discovery Channel 23 Fabien Patachon (Fra) Française des Jeux 24 Erwin Thijs (Bel) Unibet.com 25 Matthew Hayman (Aus) Rabobank 26 Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Nor) Team CSC 27 Rony Martias (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 28 Dimitri De Fauw (Bel) Chocolade Jacques 29 Arnaud Coyot (Fra) Cofidis 30 Lenaic Olivier (Fra) Agritubel 31 Bert Roesems (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto 32 Renaud Dion (Fra) AG2R-Prévoyance 33 Maarten den Bakker (Ned) Milram 34 Robby Meul (Bel) Jartazi-7 Mobile 35 Marco Serpellini (Ita) Unibet.com 36 Marcus Burghardt (Ger) T-Mobile 37 Baden Cooke (Aus) Unibet.com 38 Nico Mattan (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto 39 Jean-Paul Simon (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago 40 Dmitriy Muravyev (Kaz) Jartazi-7 Mobile 41 Yannick Talabardon (Fra) Crédit Agricole 42 Daniele Colli (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi 43 Grégory Rast (Swi) Phonak 44 Pedro Horrillo (Spa) Rabobank 45 Kenny van Hummel (Ned) Skil-Shimano 46 Steven Caethoven (Bel) Chocolade Jacques 47 Mickael Delage (Fra) Française des Jeux 48 Serge Baguet (Bel) Quick.Step 49 Kevin Hulsmans (Bel) Quick.Step 50 Peter Ronsse (Bel) Jartazi-7 Mobile 51 Geert Verheyen (Bel) Quick.Step 52 Wouter Weylandt (Bel) Quick.Step 53 Roger Hammond (GBr) Discovery Channel 54 Ludovic Auger (Fra) Française des Jeux 55 Cédric Coutouly (Fra) Agritubel 56 Henk Vogels (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 57 Rik Reinerink (Ned) Skil-Shimano 58 Andy Flickinger (Fra) AG2R-Prevoyance 59 Bert Scheirlinckx (Bel) Jartazi-7 Mobile 60 Björn Leukemans (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto 61 Marc Wauters (Bel) Rabobank 62 Koen Barbé (Bel) Chocolade Jacques 63 Frederik Penne (Bel) Yawadoo-Colba-ABM 64 Jan Kuyckx (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto 65 Stephan Schreck (Ger) T-Mobile 66 Thierry Marichal (Bel) Cofidis 67 Nicola Loda (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi 68 Lars Klostergaard (Den) Team CSC 69 Jörg Ludewig (Ger) T-Mobile 70 Frederik Willems (Bel) Chocolade Jacques 71 Maarten Tjallingii (Ned) Skil-Shimano 72 Christophe Mengin (Fra) Française des Jeux 73 Mark Scanlon (Irl) AG2R-Prevoyance 74 Wouter Van Mechelen (Bel) Chocolade Jacques 75 Lorenzo Bernucci (Ita) T-Mobile 76 Aivaras Baranauskas (Ltu) Agritubel 77 Mauro Da Dalto (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi 78 Frédéric Amorison (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago 79 Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Quick.Step 80 Françis Mourey (Fra) Française des Jeux 81 Stéphane Augé (Fra) Cofidis 82 Steven Kleynen (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago 83 Steven Cummings (GBr) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago 84 Ronny Poelvoorde (Bel) Flanders-Villapark Langemeer 85 Marco Milesi (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi 86 Joost Posthuma (Ned) Rabobank 0.47 87 Stijn Devolder (Bel) Discovery Channel 88 Nico Sijmens (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago 89 Aart Vierhouten (Ned) Skil-Shimano 1.06 90 Wouter Mol (Ned) Fondas-P3Transfer Team 91 Peter van Agtmaal (Ned) Fondas-P3Transfer Team 92 Geoffroy Lequatre (Fra) Cofidis 93 Jérémy Roy (Fra) Française des Jeux 1.14 94 Michael Albasini (Swi) Liquigas-Bianchi 95 Folkert de Haan (Ned) Ubbink-Syntec 96 Bert Grabsch (Ger) Milram 1.23 97 Eduard Bogaert (Bel) Yawadoo-Colba-ABM 1.31 98 Serguei Ivanov (Rus) T-Mobile 2.02 99 Mathieu Claude (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 2.35 100 Yohann Gene (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 101 Mathieu Sprick (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 4.12 Starters: 191 Classified: 101