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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

57th Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne - 1.2

Belgium, February 29, 2004

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Commentary by Jeff Jones

Complete Live Report

Start time: 12:00 CET
Estimated finish time: 16:35 CET

13:44 CET   
Welcome to Cyclingnews' (unscheduled) coverage of the 57th Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, which will serve as the first race on the Belgian calendar after yesterday's cancellation of Het Volk. After no more snow fell overnight, the conditions for today's race can only be described as excellent, albeit rather cold. At 10:00am this morning it was misty and -3 degrees, not particularly pleasant riding weather, especially as in some places the snow had frozen, making riding somewhat hazardous. However when the sun came out, the temperatures rose rapidly to a balmy, almost tropical 4 degrees celsius. It's expected to creep up a few more degrees as the day wears on. The wind is fairly light, from the north east, which will mean a tailwind on the run back to Kuurne.

Today, nearly all the riders who were meant to do Het Volk will start Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, and we can expect the intensity to be fairly high. There are eight climbs on the menu, starting with the Edelareberg near Oudenaarde after 29 km and finishing with the cobbled Nokereberg at km 144. After that there is a flat 23 km run back to Kuurne followed by two finishing circuits of 9 km.

Early leader Michael Sandstod (CSC)
Photo ©: Luc Claessen

13:59 CET   
The riders have been on the road for two hours now, and are approaching the feed zone at Zarlardinge. The hills haven't really started yet - only the Edelareberg has been done, with Michael Sandstod (CSC) first over the top. Sandstod is fully rugged up against the cold, including booties, full length leg warmers, thermal vest, long gloves and so on. Luckily it's sunny!

Sandstod has been caught and we now have a new leader in Alexandre Naulleau (Brioches la Boulangere), a French neo-pro. He managed a two minute lead after 60 km.

14:24 CET   
Earlier in the day, Andrea Tafi (Bianchi-Alessio) had to pull out after 2 km due to stomach problems. Tafi has had a bad start to the season, missing a couple of weeks early on due to a tooth abcess.

14:38 CET   
Two and a half hours have been covered now, and the riders are now in the hill zone. All the hills are quite passable after the snow has been cleared away and/or melted.

The favourites for today include Tom Boonen and Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step), Peter van Petegem and Robbie McEwen (Lotto-Domo), Dario Pieri (Saeco), Tom Steels (Landbouwkrediet), Jaan Kirsipuu (Ag2r), Baden Cooke (FDJeux.com) and Frank Vandenbroucke (Fassa Bortolo).

14:44 CET    99km/89km to go
Benoit Joachim (USPS) has just caught and passed Alexandre Naulleau (Brioches) on the Kanarieberg (km 98). He has 1'20 on Naulleau, 5'20 on the peloton, which has started to pick up the tempo. Robbie McEwen (Lotto-Domo) is just ahead of the peloton as he heads into his "hometown" of Everbeek.

14:48 CET    101km/87km to go
The peloton is on the Kanarieberg now, with Zanini (Quick.Step) on the front along with Hincapie (USPS) who is slowing things down for his teammate up the road. Everyone is still pretty well rugged up. The gap is down to 4'25 to the leader Joachim, with Naulleau coming back to the bunch slowly. McEwen is still out there it seems, looking for some publicity.

At the back of the bunch, it's pretty slow on the narrow road.

14:51 CET    106km/82km to go
Joachim has passed over the cobbled Kruisberg (hill 4 of 8) with a 4'44 lead over the peloton. Naulleau is 1'30 behind and McEwen is about 4'00 behind. He must be feeling confident as the peloton has a lot of sprinters in it still.

Rik Reinerink (Chocolade Jacques) attacks the bunch just before the Kruisberg

14:58 CET    110km/78km to go
Reinerink is caught by the peloton at the foot of the Kruisberg. McEwen will be caught too, leaving just Joachim and Naulleau out in front.

McEwen gets swamped by the Fassa Bortolo train, which is led by Roberto Petito on the Kruisberg. Tom Boonen (Quick.Step) and Gerben Lowik (Jacques) are also up there.

15:02 CET    113km/75km to go
Jurgen van de Walle (Jacques) is the next to counter attack, but he keeps looking around, perhaps for his team car. The peloton will catch him anyway.

Joachim is riding very well, and is still 4'40 in front of the bunch. Nauelleau's whereabouts is not known at the moment, but he's probably closer to the bunch than to Joachim. The Luxembourger admitted at the USPS-Berry Floor team presentation in Kortrijk last Thursday that he is a "diesel" and gets warmed up after 100km.

15:05 CET    116km/72km to go
Hincapie is trying to slow down the bunch, but is not very successful. They're racing harder now through Zulzeke, en route to the Oude Kwaremont. Alex Naulleau (Brioches) has almost been caught, meaning Benoit Joachim is the only leader.

Naulleau is swallowed up before the Oude Kwaremont and Joachim's lead has sunk to 3'45. There is a big battle for position in the bunch, as this next climb is crucial. Fassa Bortolo is driving the pace now.

15:07 CET    117km/71km to go
Joachim is on the 2.2 km cobbled Oude Kwaremont, as the bunch picks up the pace to nearly 60 km/h behind him.

Michel van Haecke (MrBookmaker-Palmans) punctures and will have an awful time getting back on at this point.

Quick.Step, Rabobank and Fassa Bortolo jerseys are prominent at the front. The lead is 3'13 as they hit the foot of the climb.

15:09 CET    118km/70km to go
Joachim pounds his way through the crowds on the Kwaremont as Maarten Den Bakker goes around the peloton in the grass and attacks. A couple of riders follow him. Vandenbroucke, Boonen, Zanini, Omloop, Hammond, Bettini are all near the front of the bunch. At the back, riders have to stop as it's so narrow.

Zanini leads Cancellara (Fassa), Boonen and Bettini up to Den Bakker, who is about halfway up the climb. It's one long string now...

15:14 CET    120km/68km to go
Zanini is passed by his teammate Boonen, who opens up a small gap to the rest. Bettini, Museeuw, Hincapie, Van Heeswijk, Vainsteins, Lowik, Flecha, Klier are all there. Hincapie closes the gap to Boonen and we now have two riders chasing the lone Benoit Joachim, who is 2'45 in front of the race.

15:16 CET    122km/66km to go
Boonen and Hincapie wait for the front bunch, which is about 15 strong and very disorganised. More groups are trying to chase back on as they head towards Ronse. We have a group of about 30 leaders now, and it looks like Francesco Planckaert is in there (or if not, he is certainly still in the race).

15:18 CET    124km/64km to go
The organisation is not very good in this leading group of 30 or so. That annoying paceline that suddenly runs out when you've just done your turn... The next (much bigger) group is about 20 seconds behind.

As for Joachim, he has 2'15 lead with 64 km to go.

15:21 CET    125km/63km to go
Boonen, Zanini, Museeuw, Bettini (Quick.Step), Mattan (Bodysol), Cancellara, Vandenbroucke (Fassa), Farazijn (Cofidis), Klier (Telekom), Hincapie, Van Heeswijk (USPS-Berry Floor) are all part of this leading group, which has 35 seconds over a second group with Lotto-Domo driving for Van Petegem and McEwen. It looks like the whole Lotto team has missed the move.

Joachim is now heading towards the Cote de Trieu, a smooth but tough climb that gets steeper at the top. No cobbles though.

15:24 CET    128km/60km to go
Bernhard Eisel (FDJeux.com), Hammond (MrBookmaker) and Thor Hushovd (CA) are also in the lead group, which is now just 1'50 behind the Luxebmourger. Group 2 is at 2'24 - status quo at the moment.

Joachim is now on the Trieu (or Knokteberg in Flemish, but I think we're on the French speaking side right at the moment).

Museeuw shows himself at the front of the group, then Bettini takes over with Van Heeswijk right on his wheel. The gap to group two is up to 40", as De Clercq leads the Lotto team up the Trieu.

15:29 CET    128km/60km to go
Joachim reaches the top of the Trieu with 1'20 over the Bettini led peloton. Van Heesiwjk and Hincapie are there to take over. Steffen Wesemann leads group 3 over, 40" behind the front group.

F. Planckaert has been dropped after a good effort today. He's getting better.

The lead peloton is back on the Ronsebaan as Nico Mattan (Bodysol) and Tom Boonen (or is it Hulsmans?) from Quick.Step drive the pace up. Mattan urges them to keep driving it, but not too hard. Hulsmans is doing a lot of work. Geert Omloop (MrBookmaker) is in fourth wheel. Still a good 30 riders in front.

Joachim's lead has sunk to 47".

15:33 CET    131km/57km to go
Bettini is back on the front now, powering the first group through Berchem. VDB, Omloop, Scheirlinckx, Van Heeswijk, Vainsteins are all there, turning over at high speed.

Joachim is almost caught now, his diesel days are done. He sits up, shakes his head and waits for the bunch. He looks pretty knackered, but may be able to help Hincapie and Van Heeswijk.

Quick.Step is well represented in this front group of 35-40, with Bettini, Zanini, Hulsmans, Boonen, and Museeuw.

15:39 CET    137km/51km to go
Some more names in the front group: Kroon, Hayman, Den Bakker De Jongh (Rabobank), Carrara, Vainsteins (Lampre), VDB, Cancellara, Petito (Fassa), Hincapie, Van Heeswijk, Devolder, Joachim (USPS), Omloop, Hamond (Mr Bookmaker), Steegmans (Lotto-Domo), Michaelsen (CSC), Museeuw, Eisel (FDJeux.com), Farazijn, Scheirlinckx (Cofidis), Hushovd (CA), Van de Walle, Peers (Jacques), Mattan (Bodysol), Ivanov, Klier (T-Mobile) and Boonen, Zanini, Museeuw, Hulsmans, Bettini (Quick.Step)

Van de Walle hammers on the Tiegemberg, with Museeuw and Boonen on his wheel. The front group is stretched thin on the climb. No sign of group 2 at the moment...here they are, moving considerably slower on the Tiegemberg.

15:46 CET    142km/46km to go
The lead group of 36 is working a lot better now, with a 1'20 lead on Aerts, Hoj and Brochard, who have attacked group 2. The sprinters in this front group are several: Van Heeswijk, Boonen, Hushovd, Eisel, De Jongh, Vainsteins... Fassa Bortolo doesn't have a top sprinter, so will have to try something else.

15:51 CET    145km/43km to go
Bettini drops back to talk to Wilfried Peeters (Quick.Step). Jo Planckart (Mr Bookmaker) is also back there, taking it easy. The gap to group 2 is now 1'48, and it doesn't look like they're coming back.

15:54 CET    147km/41km to go
The leaders hit the Nokereberg, the final climb of the day. Peers (Jacques), a local boy, attacks hard, but he can't get a gap. Johan Museeuw is first over the top, looking formidably strong. Staf Scheirlinckx, Van de Walle and Omloop try to ride away once they get over the top.

Group 2 is at 1'30.

15:58 CET    148km/40km to go
40 km to go now, and the leading peloton of 36 riders is flying back towards Kuurne. There are five Quick.Steps, five Fassas, four USPS-Berry Floors, four Rabobanks, three MrBookmaker-Palmans, three Lampres. Lotto-Domo only has one there (Steegmans), and has really missed this race.

Guido Trenti (Fassa) and Jurgen van de Walle (Jacques) attack, but the Quick.Step machine brings them back. Trenti is another sprinter we missed.

16:01 CET    154km/34km to go
Museeuw is doing some domestique duties for Quick.Step today, grabbing several energy bars from Wilfried Peeters and giving them to his teammates. They will be putting all their eggs in the Tom Boonen basket today it looks like. Geert van Bondt (Landbouwkrediet) is one rider we missed in the lead group - he's definitely there though.

Group 2, which we think has Hoj, Aerts and Brochard in it, is at 1'35.

16:08 CET    159km/29km to go
The leading group, which still numbers 36 riders, is heading through Deerlijk with 30 km to go (12 km from Kuurne). Cancellara attacks, with De Jongh and Museeuw on his wheel. The Lion signals to everyone to just roll around, but they won't. Ivanon and Omloop attack next. It's all strung out.

16:10 CET    161km/27km to go
A small split happens in the front group, with Lowik, Den Bakker, Zanini, Museeuw, Petito, Omloop, Steegmans, Van de Walle all there. But Stijn Devolder does a big turn and closes the gap. Museeuw is very attentive at the front of the race, trying to control things for a Tom Boonen sprint.

Group 2 is gradually losing group and is at 1'46.

16:15 CET    163km/25km to go
Belgian champion Geert Omloop is having a good day, and has made numerous attacks. None have been successful yet, however. Fassa Bortolo is also trying to force a split, as there are no top sprinters in Feretti's team, Trenti aside.

Omloop drives hard out of a corner, with Devolder right behind him. Quick.Step is too strong though. The race is in Bavikhove, where Devolder lives.

Omloop is very strong still, all the time trying to get that gap.

16:18 CET    166km/22km to go
Omloop (who else?) attacks again through Hulst. Finally he gets a gap. It's not very big, but it's a gap. 22km to go.

Karsten Kroon (Rabobank) bridges up, but the peloton is only 50m back.

16:21 CET    169km/19km to go
Omloop and Kroon are caught with Museeuw doing the damage it looks like. One long string again, with Farazijn leading. They're almost at the finish line, and they will do two 9km laps.

Gert Steegmans (Lotto-domo) attacks with 500m before the finish line. He gets a gap. It's 5 seconds to the bunch across the line.

16:24 CET    172km/16km to go
Steegmans is caught by a blue and white train of Quick.Step riders. The peloton is enjoying the late afternoon sunshine. In fact, it's been beautiful weather all day, just very cold.

Hushovd drops back to talk to his team manager in the Credit Agricole car. He is definitely a candidate for the win today.

Peter van Petegem has abandoned. His chase group is 2'30 behind now.

16:25 CET    173km/15km to go
Juan Antonio Flecha (Fassa Bortolo), one of the few Spanish riders to like the classics, is talking to his team manager.

There is an attack by Karsten Kroon (Rabobank) and Chris Peers (Jacques) with 15 km to go. Omloop and Flecha close the gap, followed by the rest of the peloton.

16:29 CET    175km/13km to go
Devolder, Museeuw, Hulsmans and Hincapie control the tempo again in the bunch. It's all blue. Boonen or Van Heeswijk, or De Jongh, Vainsteins, Hushovd, Trenti?

Omloop attacks for the n+1th time, with Hayman and Cancellara going with him. Museeuw and Hincapie keep swapping off and get on. Petito, Flecha and Lowik are also there. Zanini drags the next group back up.

16:32 CET    178km/10km to go
The efforts of Zanini help to close the gap to Omloop's lead group, and it comes back together with 12 km to go. One long line again, with a bit of a gap near the back. Now is a danger moment.

Gerben Lowik (Jacques) gets a little gap, and O'Grady, Omloop, Den Bakker and Flecha close the gap. Bettini and Planckaert also get on. Seven leaders.

16:34 CET    179km/9km to go
Lowik (Jacques), Flecha (Fassa), O'Grady (Cofidis), Omloop, Planckaert (MrBookmaker), Bettini (Quick.Step), Den Bakker, De Jongh (Rabobank) have 7 seconds lead on the US Postal led bunch with one lap (9km to go). This is an interesting group in front.

16:36 CET    181km/7km to go
The eight leaders are working well together, putting 14 seconds into the second group led by US Postal. Van Heeswijk has missed the boat it looks like. The Quick.Step boys seem to be controlling the tempo behind Hincapie, who is doing all the chasing himself.

In the front group, Bettini, O'Grady, Lowik, De Jongh, Planckaert are all good sprinters.

16:39 CET    6km/182km to go
Six km to go, and it looks like these eight riders will stay away. Hincapie is still leading the peloton alone. The gap is 20 seconds and growing.

The leaders again: Lowik (Jacques), Flecha (Fassa), O'Grady (Cofidis), Omloop, Planckaert (MrBookmaker), Bettini (Quick.Step), Den Bakker, De Jongh (Rabobank)

16:40 CET    184km/4km to go
It's going to be one of these eight leaders for sure. They are all working well to increase the gap to the next peloton, which is still losing ground. Two Rabobanks and two MrBookmaker riders in front - they should be able to organise something.

Four Quick.Step riders are on the front of the second group, chasing?

16:42 CET    185km/3km to go
The gap has come down to 18 seconds as Museeuw does a massive turn in the chase group. 17 seconds now.

Den Bakker attacks with 3 km to go. They get him.

16:43 CET    186km/2km to go
Den Bakker picks up the tempo again in front, he has to make sure this group stays away for De Jongh. Omloop is in second wheel, then Bettini, Flecha, Lowik. 2 km to go and it's 18 seconds.

16:44 CET    187km/1km to go
Hincapie is back on the front of the chase group, but it's too late. The race is in front.

1 km to go and the eight riders are together.

16:45 CET    188km/0km to go
O'Grady drops back to the end. Den Bakker leads, from Omloop and De Jongh. Then Bettini. Flecha moves up with 500m to go, then Lowik goes and gets behind De Jongh.

Bettini gets De Jongh's wheel but can't get past. De Jongh wins! Bettini second from Lowik, O'Grady and Omloop. Bettini congratulates De Jongh on an excellent win.

Boonen gets the sprint for 9th.



1 Steven De Jongh (Ned) Rabobank
2 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick.Step-Davitamon
3 Gerben Lowik (Ned) Chocolade Jacques
4 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Cofidis
5 Geert Omloop (Bel) MrBookmaker-Palmans
6 Jo Planckaert (Bel) MrBookmaker-Palmans
7 Juan Antonio Flecha (Spa) Fassa Bortolo
8 Maarten den Bakker (Ned) Rabobank
9 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick.Step-Davitamon

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