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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

59th Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne - 1.1

Belgium, February 26, 2006

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Nick Nuyens completes the set

By Jeff Jones in Kuurne, with additional reporting from Brecht Decaluwé

Nick Nuyens (Quick.Step)
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

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."

Nick Nuyens (Quick.Step)
Photo ©: Michael Gernaa
(Click for larger image)

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 (Quick.Step)
Photo ©: Michael Gernaa
(Click for larger image)

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

Lining up
Photo ©: Jeff Jones
(Click for larger image)

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.

Nico Mattan
Photo ©: Michael Gernaa
(Click for larger image)

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

Results - 192 km

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