62nd Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne - 1.1
Belgium, March 1, 2009
Complete live report
Live commentary by Susan Westemeyer
Welcome to Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, the second race in the opening weekend of the Spring Classics! We have nice weather again today as we accompany the riders on their 193 kilometres from Kuurne to Brussels and back again. Actually, looking at the map, it doesn't really look like they make it all the way to Brussels.
13:56 CET 70km/123km to go
Things got off to a quiet start, with no successful escapes. That is, things were quiet until there was a big crash with 138 km to go. Lloyd Mondory (Ag2r), Tyler Farrar (Garmin), Guillaume Blot (Cofidis) and Filip Meirhaeghe (Landbouwkrediet) all hit the ground. All were able to continue except for Blot, who dropped out of the race. Just a few kilometres later, Bart Dockx of Lotto hit the deck, too.
Things finally started happening with 129 km to go. Benjamin Gougue of Landbouwkrediet took off on a break. It didn't work out, but he didn't give up and tried again six kilometres later, building up a 10-second lead. But that one didn't work out either, and they are all back together again.
The course today goes outside of Flanders and into Brabant, with a short visit to Wallonia. It got off at midday on a solemn note, stopping at Frederiek Nolf's house to allow the riders to pay their respects to the Topsport Vlaanderen rider who died during the Tour of Qatar.
14:02 CET 80km/113km to go
Jef Peeters of the AN Post Sean Kelly Team is the next to try his luck.
Since we are in Flanders, we have "hellingen"! Only eight of them today, though, with the first one coming at km29. Then there is not another one until km91 (La Houppe), followed shortly thereafter by the Kanarieberg (km99) and the Kruisberg (km103). Not real tough ones, but we could see the first riders dropped here.
14:08 CET 85km/108km to go
Peeters has been joined by Jan Bakelandts of Topsport Vlaanderen and they have a tiny 10 second lead. Kenny Van Braeckel of Revor-Jartazi tried to make the jump too, but couldn't make it.
Getting back to the course description, the fun starts at km110, when they hit the Oude Kwaremont, and we really expect to see riders fall off the back here. The gradient is only 11 percent, but did we mention that it is a cobble climb? Good thing for the riders that it is dry today!
After that we have the Cote du Trieu (km 123) and the Tiegemberg (km135). The last one is the Nokereberg at km146, which is neither very steep nor very long, and doesn't even offer any cobbles.
Topsport Vlaanderen appeared at the sign-in together and received the loudest applause of all teams. When they were introduced they all stood silent below the podium while the announcer recapped the reason for the somber mood. Teammember Frederiek Nolf died during the Tour of Qatar and the 21-year-old hailed from Kuurne. In fact the peloton rode by his parents's house during the neutral roll-out.
Nikolas Maes agreed that it was a difficult day. "But with the team we will try to do a good race and get some positive vibes out if it." Jan Bakelandts wasn't sure if it was going to work. "This will be a tough <
day for us," he said.
14:16 CET 89km/104km to go
It was a short break for Peeters and Bakelandts -- the peloton has grabbed them and everyone is together.
14:17 CET 90km/103km to go
Two more riders have decided to call it a day and leave the race: Vicente Reynes of Columbia and Igor Abakoumov of ISD.
There were a total of 25 teams at the start today. The ProTour teams are: Silence-Lotto, Quick Step, Columbia-Highroad, Milram, Rabobank, Saxo Bank, Francaise des Jeux, Bouygues Telecom, Cofidis, Katusha, Astana, Garmin and Ag2r.
From the Professional Continental ranks we have: Vacansoleil, CervCerveloeacute;lo, ISD, Topsport Vlaanderen, Agritubel, Skil-Shimano, and Landbouwkrediet.
Continental teams here today are: AN Post Team Sean Kelly, Revor-Jartazi, Verandas Willems, CC Bourgas and Palmans-Collstrop.
Five riders didn't start today, Janek Tombak (Cycling Club Burgas), Dmytro Krivtsov (ISD), Christopher Sutton (Garmin), Valery Dimitriyev (Astanad) and, rather surprisingly, Marcus Burghardt of Columbia.
14:33 CET 98km/95km to go
A group of 11 riders has built up a 20 second lead. It consists of Damien Gaudien (Bouygues), Tm Leezer (Rabobank), Mathieu Ladagnous (Francaise des Jeux), Serguei Ivanov (Katusha), Anthony Ravard (Agritubel), Bobbie Traksel (Vacansoleil), Tom Veelers (Skil-Shimano), Huub Duyn (Garmin), Stijn Hoornaert (Palmans), Martin Mortensen (Vacansoleil) and Jeremy Hunt (CervCerveloeacute;lo).
Andreas Klier of Cervélo denied having partied too much yesterday after his teammate Thor Hushovd won the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. "We drank two pints and then went to bed." So, no champagne? "Oh, well, a bit of champagne, too, but not too much." Hushovd was not starting today's race and there was some bad news for the Norwegian yesterday. "Hushovd had to pay the champagne bill," Klier said with a smile.
A mechanical problem for CervCerveloeacute;lo's Roger Hammond. And shorty thereafter a few riders go down, including Katusha's Kenny De Haes, but everyone is back up and going again.
14:40 CET 106km/87km to go
Meanhile the leaders have built up a gap of 1:10.
Heinrich Haussler came so close to winning yesterday, but was pretty spent on the finishing straight after his escape with Sebastian Langeveld. "If I am honest, I didn't even see who won," Haussler told Cyclingnews' Bjorn Haake. "I was going all-out to try to win. Even though I didn't sprint in the end I still finished eighth."
Haussler found the fact that he was caught in the last 150m or 200m pretty tough to swallow. "At least one of our guys won." But Haussler said he knew was in good shape. "For me only victory counted. I knew I could contest for the win."
Haussler emphasised that having done the races a few times helps to get to know them. "This is really important, as I want to do well in Flanders and the other Belgian races."
14:44 CET 111km/82km to go
Who else but Tom Boonen himself is leading the chase. The break's lead is around 55 seconds to one minute.
Steven De Jongh isn't here today to defend the title he won last year. The 35-year-old Quick Step rider is suffering from tendonitis in his left leg. He also won this race in 2004. But no doubt one of his teammates will be happy to take the win this year – Tom Boonen, perhaps?
Andreas Klier is German but he used to live in Belgium. "I was here for ten years and I had a great time." Now, he moved to a warmer climate. "My family and I relocated to Mallorca last year. It is also a nice place..."
14:49 CET 117km/76km to go
The peloton is winding its way along some narrow country lanes here.
And here we are on the Oude Kwaremont, a nice cobbled climb....
14:52 CET 118km/75km to go
The riders are strung out single file as they wend their way along the bumpy climb. Lots of fans here to root them on, which helps. Some riders are having problems with it all.....
Quick Step leads the way as the climb has cut the lead down to under 40 seconds.
Roger Hammond of Cervélo is a Classics guy. "Yes, I am really motivated," he told Cyclingnews' Bjorn Haake. "I was a bit sick this week, but I was still able to ride in the group yesterday." Hammond finished in the main peloton, 45 seconds behind the winning group. "I still felt relatively strong. Normally after the week I had I wouldn't have finished yesterday."
Things can now only improve. "I woke up this morning feeling better, that is also a good sign." Despite being a 'cross lover, Hammond was pleased with the nice weather in Belgium. "I used to love the rain, but then again ten years ago I was 10 kg fatter... Some people can cope with the rain better and I can cope with it alright – I am just not looking forward to it."
14:55 CET 119km/74km to go
As expected, the climb has done its job on the peloton. There is a leading group of 15-20 or so, and then the rest come dribbling along behind.
14:56 CET 120km/73km to go
Flecha, Eisel, Kroon, Breschel, Chavanel -- these are a few of the riders in the group. They are still 17 seconds behind the leading 11.
Wouter Weylandt and Baden Cooke are pedaling furiously to catch the first chasing group. Meanwhile, it is being broken apart by various attacks, none of which are successful. They are strung out single file, really putting on the speed, trying to get the decisive break.
15:00 CET 123km/70km to go
The leaders are now 16 seconds ahead of the chasing group, with the peloton another 30 seconds back. We don't yet have the names of those in the chase group, sorry.
15:01 CET 124km/69km to go
Milram leads the peloton in trying to get up to the first chase group, but the gap has now increased.
Tom Boonen is in the chase group -- why does that not surprise us?
15:05 CET 127km/66km to go
Milram continues to lead the chase, with captain Gerald Ciolek taking a turn.
15:06 CET 127km/66km to go
The chasers will catch the lead group any second now. They are working their way up the next climb, the Cote du Trieu.
Will Frischkorn (Garmin) was pleased with how the season started for the whole team. "I was in Qatar and we won the first stage [team time trial - ed.]. You can't ask for much more than that," he told
Cyclingnews. "But this is really the kick-off to the Classics and it is getting your head into the game of Belgian racing. It is so unique and so different – it is a lot of fun!"
Frischkorn and the others have raced quite a bit in the area, including when they were juniors and U23 riders. "I wouldn't be able to put a name on a given road, but when you see it you recognise it."
Frischkorn was also pleased with the weather. "We see shadows right now, that makes me pretty happy."
15:09 CET 128km/65km to go
Ciolek and Gianni Meersman of FdJ take off from the peloton in pursuit of the leaders.
Koen Barbé of the Landbouwkrediet - Colnago team was looking forward to another Belgian race. "Hopefully we can be there in the finale. My form is pretty good and I can certainly try to be in a break. But for an escape to survive till the end will be hard today."
15:17 CET 135km/58km to go
The chasers have now caught the leaders and we have a large leading group about 40 seconds ahead of the peloton.
15:21 CET 138km/55km to go
The group of 23 around Tom Boonen has now built up a 46 second lead over the peloton.
Did we say that the Nokereberg isn't cobbled? Shame on us! Of course it is!
15:26 CET 142km/51km to go
The lead group is exploding with a group of five taking off in front, followed by two, followed by the rest.
Let's make that a group of six (we can't count right today!) It includes Eisel.
The group of six has 26 seconds over the rest of the chasers, and the peloton is at 1:22.
15:29 CET 145km/48km to go
Rick Flens (Rabobank), Sebastian Chavanel) and Robbie McEwen of Katusha are also in the lead group.
15:33 CET 147km/46km to go
The lead group is about to be caught by its chasers. The peloton is still 1:39 back.
That is, they are about to be caught by the two chasers, from FdJ and Rabo, as they all charge down the road between fields. Gert Steegmans is having trouble keeping up with whichever group he was in.
One of those in the lead group is Heinrich Haussler, who was so terribly disappointed yesterday.
Just to bring it all up to date, our lead group consists of Sylvain Chavanel and Maarten Wynants (Quick Step), Bernhard Eisel (Team Columbia-High Road), Karsten Kroon (Team Saxo Bank) and Heinrich Haussler (Cervélo Test Team), with Mathieu Ladagnous (Française des Jeux) and Nick Nuyens (Rabobank) close behind them, if not with them. 19 seconds back is a 16 man group with Tom Boonen, and the peloton is at 1:48.
A Bouygues rider leads the chase group as they enter the town of Waregem.
David Boucher (Landbouwkrediet - Colnago) was racing very well yesterday. He was in the break of five and still managed to finish 13th in the end. The Belgian doesn't spent all his time training. "I am learning Dutch right now with my fiance," he said in French. The Wallonian picked his sweetheart specifically from the Flemish-speaking part of the country. "Vlaanderen, that's where the bike culture is. And I think the wife is half the morale..."
The Columbia team car tries to pull up to one of the leading group, on a rather narrow road. Let's be careful there, guys!
15:43 CET 155km/38km to go
The eight in front are working well together. Haussler would dearly love to take it today to make up for being caught in the last 200 meters yesterday, but will he have enough strength left to take a possible sprint?
The peloton has now fallen to nearly three minutes down. Is it too early to count them out?
Martijn Maaskant hails from the Netherlands but rides for Garmin Slipstream. "I do some races in the US, like Philly week last year. And we have a training camp in Boulder in November."
Maaskant started his season in Qatar, then did the Volta ao Algarve. "There I crashed in the third stage. That wasn't so great, but I am feeling OK now on the bike.
"Yesterday was good, but I missed the break." He was happy that the Classics have started. "My main goals are Flanders and Roubaix," he told Cyclingnews.
One interesting aspect of this race is that the winner receives a big stuffed donkey. Why, you ask?
Well, the people in Kuurne are nicknamed donkeys, allegedly stemming from their donkey-drawn vegetable carts.
15:46 CET 165km/34km to go
The leaders have entered the town of Deerlijk, with the pursuers only 30 seconds behind them.
Guillaume Blot was in the break yesterday. The young Cofidis rider was quite happy with his ride, but admitted that he was a tad tired. "I will take it easy today," he told Cyclingnews.
Blot's teammate Alexandre Blain crashed yesterday. Blot said the injuries weren't too serious. "But he will not start today to give him some rest. His knee hurts." Unfortunately, an early crash took Blot out of today's race as well.
There is one team rather noticeably missing from the leading group: Silence-Lotto. Rival Quick Step has three riders there, as does Rabobank, but nary a single Lotto rider....
15:55 CET 165km/28km to go
We have 15 or so riders in the lead group, with an about equally-sized group 36 seconds behind them. We don't know what has happened to the peloton, they have disappeared from the radar....
Well, let's make that 22 riders in the lead group, with the peloton still only three minutes down.
16:00 CET 168km/25km to go
The lead group now has a 47 second lead over the chasers. This is a pretty high-powered group, so it wouldn't surprise us at all to have the winner here. It also wouldn't surprise us at all to see some attacks out of it soon.
Another Cofidis rider, Hervé Duclos-Lassalle, was in the break with Blot. He won't be holding back if he can. "Today the legs will decide – my head definitely has the desire to be in the break!"
The Frenchman told Cyclingnews' Bjorn Haake that he expected a sprint, since there is a lot less cobblestones. "It is too bad for Alexandre [Blain], but we have other fast guys, like Blot and Leonardo Duque."
He enjoyed being in the break. "We didn't have the stress [of fighting for position]. It was easier, but in the finale we didn't have enough left."
He was happy for Blot's race. "He is a guy who likes to be in the breaks and he can do well in courses like yesterday. He has proven himself."
We would dearly love to tell you exactly who is in what group and where and why and all of that but -- it is raining! This was really not forecast, and we forgot to put the windshield wipers on the blimp. so we are slightly handicapped at the moment...
The Omloop yesterday was really not good for Astana, as they lost two riders to injuries and will be going to the start today with only five riders. Instead of looking to win, they are probably only looking to survive. And we must in all honesty say we don't think we have even seen an Astana jersey today.
16:04 CET 171km/22km to go
The leading group is now heading into Kuurne for the two laps of the closing circuit. The chasers are now 1:11 back, so we think we will declare that our winner will come out of this group.
16:07 CET 173km/20km to go
Ladagnous of FdJ calls for his team car and takes a bottle of water.
We wondered why Ladagnous was taking a bottle within the last 20 km, when that is usually a no-no. Turns out he just wanted to rinse his hands off for some reason. Perhaps his last energy bar was sticky?
Oh, look, there's the peloton, finally hitting the circuit course some 4:45 down......
Flecha is wearing the captain's number for Rabobank today, but it looks more like he is working for teammate Nick Nuyens. But do they stand a chance against Boonen and Quick Step?
That wasn't even the whole peloton. Here come the rest of them, or at least a bunch more of them, about seven minutes down.
Any more stragglers out there?
Here is our lead group, pick your winner out of it: Sylvain Chavanel, Maarten Wynants and Tom Boonen (Quick Step), Bernhard Eisel (Team Columbia-High Road), Nick Nuyens, Juan Antonio Flecha and Tom Leezer (Rabobank), Karsten Kroon (Team Saxo Bank), Mathieu Ladagnous and Gianni Meersman (Française des Jeux), Jeremy Hunt and Heinrich Haussler (Cervélo Test Team) and Geoffroy Lequatre (Agritubel).
16:17 CET 181km/12km to go
Still no attempts to break out of this group. They can't really all be betting on their own chances in a sprint, can they?
16:19 CET 182km/11km to go
It is now the bell lap for the leading group of 13! But they are still all riding nicely together.
Attack! Jeremy Hunt of Cervélo and who? Now they whole group is going furiously and breaking into small groups.
It was Wynant who went with Hunt, but now Flecha makes the jump, followed by Hunt again.
Attack, counter attack, looks like Boonen now.
And a moment of peace and quiet as the all come back together.
16:22 CET 185km/8km to go
But only for a moment, as the attacks go on and on.
Why would Boonen make the jump? Who is he afraid of in the sprint?
Four riders with a slight lead, now it is six, including both Cervélo men. They have a good 30 meter lead over the rest.
Kroon makes a move now.
He is building up a lead but still has 5 km to go. Wynants and Haussler fall off the back.
Most of the group has jumped up on the sidewalk. Hey, this is a road race, guys, not a sidewalk race!
Now a Rabo rider takes off, who else but Flecha?
16:28 CET 190km/3km to go
Flecha has a nice little lead. But probably not enough of one.
Although he seems to be pulling away........
Seven seconds for him. The others aren't in any hurry to catch him, but they don't have a lot of time left to give chase.
16:30 CET 191km/2km to go
Five seconds and falling for Flecha. Hardly anyone on the sidewalk watching here.
Chavanel leads the chase to catch Flecha, and they will have him again any second now.
Flecha isn't willing to give up, but they have him now. Who will be next to go?
Looks like it will come down to a sprint. Hunt breaks first, but who else but Tom Boonen takes the win?
Looks like Columbia's Bernhard Eisel was second, with Hunt third.
Well, guys in the lead group, you can hardly be surprised - what do you expect when you let it come down to a sprint and Tom Boonen is in your group?
And that was our opening weekend for the Spring Classics! Lots of action and drama. We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. We'll be back doing live reports for Paris-Nice later this month, so catch us then!