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The Belgian classics star joins four teammates in the decisive 10-rider move that goes clear on the Oude Kwaremont, keeps the Lotto-led peloton at bay, and narrowly edges out Hofland in a close sprint

Photo: ASO

KUURNE-BRUXELLES-KUURNE

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MORENO HOFLAND

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QUICK-STEP - ALPHA VINYL

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SEP VANMARCKE

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TEAM JUMBO-VISMA

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02.03.2014 @ 17:24 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

24 hours after his disappointing showing in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Tom Boonen and his Omega Pharma-Quick Step team took their revenge in the most impressive fashion when they crushed the opposition in today's Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. The team split the peloton on the Oude Kwaremont more than 60km of the finish and put 5 riders in the decisive 10-rider move before Boonen narrowly edged out Moreno Hofland (Belkin) in the final sprint.

 

Tom Boonen and Omega Pharma-Quick Step faced plenty of criticism after their disappointing performance in the opening Belgian race, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. In today's Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, however, the team set out with a mission of taking their revenge.

 

Strongman Stijn Vandenbergh hit the front on the day's crucial climb, the Oude Kwaremont more than 60km from the finish, and the Belgian split the peloton to pieces. In an impressive display of strength, Omega Pharma-Quick Step put 5 riders in the 10-rider group that emerged at the top, with Boonen and Vandenbergh being joined by teammate Matteo Trentin, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck, and Nikolas Maes.

 

The other team to shine was Belkin who had three riders in the group. Sep Vanmarcke, Maarten Wynants, and Moreno Hofland all made the split, and the two teams combined forces as the race developed into a fierce pursuit between the front group and a second group that contained many of the greatest sprinters.

 

Lotto Belisol tried desperately to get André Greipel back in contention and got plenty of assistance from Sky and Katusha who were eager to set up Edvald Boasson Hagen and Alexander Kristoff for the sprint. Despite 10 riders working hard together, however, they were unable to catch the front group.

 

With several teammates to support him, Boonen was in a great position and easily controlled Wynants and Vansummeren when they made attacks in the finale. Finally, Van Keirsbulck gave his captain a perfect lead-out and even though Hofland got close in the end, the outcome was never in doubt. Vanmarcke crossed the line in 3rd to make it two Belkin riders on the podium.

 

With the win, Boonen is now the most successful rider in the race's history with three victories in the prestigious event.

 

The Belgian season continues on Wednesday with Le Samyn which is a much smaller race and where many of the biggest classics stars won't be on the start line.

 

A difficult semi-classic

After yesterday's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, the Belgian opening weekend continued with Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne which is traditionally an affair for the sprinters. On the 197km course, however, the riders had to tackle 9 of the famous hellingen, with the Oude Kwaremont being the hardest and the Nokereberg being the final one. However, the final 53km were flat and the race ended with 2 laps of a 16km finishing circuit in Kuurne.

 

Like yesterday, the race was off to a very fast start and it took a long time for the day's break to be established. After 17km of racing, it was still together despite numerous attempts being launched in the early part of the race.

 

The break is formed

At this point, Silvan Dillier (BMC), Vladimir Isaychev (Katusha), Aleksejs Saramotins (IAM), Jaroslaw Marycz (CCC), and Erwann Corbel (Bretagne) took off but they only dangled a few seconds ahead of the peloton for a little while. Dillier and Isaychev took off on their own and while their former companions were caught, they managed to stay 10 seconds ahead of the peloton for a little while.

 

Gert Joeaar (Cofidis) and Michael Vingerling (Team 3M) managed to bridge the gap but the peloton was still not intent to let them go. While they dangled 10 seconds ahead of the group, the Wanty duo of Jan Ghyselinck and Tim De Troyer set off in pursuit but that move was quickly neutralized.

 

The peloton slows down

At the top of the day's first climb, the Edelareberg, the four riders were 25 seconds ahead and now the peloton accepted their fate. The gap started to grow as the peloton slowed down and it passed the 1-minute mark after 37km of racing.

 

The peloton allowed the gap to grow to 3.47 as they approached the next climb, La Houppe. The early work was done by Omega Pharma-Quick Step who was out for revenge after yesterday's failure. The team kept the gap stable between the 3- and 4-minute marks for several kilometres.

 

Phinney crashes out of the race

Just after the feed zone, a big crash brought down a number of riders, including Taylor Phinney (BMC) who was forced to abandon the race. Fast rider Timothy Dupont (Roubaix) and Nikias Arndt (Giant-Shimano) also hit the deck while Tyler Farrar (Garmin) had to wait for a long time to get a new wheel.

 

As the riders approached the hilly zone which kicked off with the Cote de Trieu, the pace automatically ramped up and the gap came down to 2.10 with 88km to go. Lotto Belisol had now taken responsibility for the chase, with Lars Bak doing an awful lot of work on the front.

 

The battle kicks off

The battle for position was now on, with Belkin, BMC, and Sky all being spotted near the front. Robert Wagner, Marcus Burghardt, and Christian Knees were all doing a great job to keep their captains safe.

 

The peloton had split due to the fierce pace but a hard effort by IAM brought a 30-rider group that had fallen off, back to the front just in time for the crucial climbs to start. However, there was no big battle on the Cote de Trieu but as soon as they crested the summit, the battle was on.

 

BMC attack in the crosswinds

Marcus Burghardt hit the front as BMC tried to split things in the crosswinds. The American team was replaced by Belkin who used Bram Tankink, Wynants, Hofland and Vanmarcke to try to create a selection.

 

Burghardt, Van Avermaet, Vandenbergh, Trentin, Johan Vansummeren (Garmin), Niki Terpstra, and Boone were some of the riders to make the selection and when more riders latched onto the back, Greipel was also there. The gap had now come down to 50 seconds but the peloton slowed down to allow more riders to rejoin the front.

 

Kwaremont does the damage

The riders now hit the Oude Kwaremont where Isaychev set a hard pace in the front group. Vingerling fell off the pace while Joeaar and Dillier were both struggling.

 

In the peloton, Burghardt set the pace on the lower slopes but the real drama happened when the peloton hit the cobbled section at the midpoint. Vandenbergh rode a torturous speed up the rough surface, drawing clear a group that contained himself, teammates Trentin, Boonen, Van Keirsbulck, and Maes, Belkin riders Hofland, Vanmarcke, and Wynants and Yves Lampaert (Topsport Vlaanderen). Vansummeren managed to close the gap just after the top to make it a 10-rider group that caught Vingerling soon after.

 

The break is caught

The 10 riders quickly combined forces to open a massive gap over their chasers who had to regroup before they could organize a chase. Isaychev, Joeaar, and Dillier were quickly caught by the Boonen group and as soon as they hit the cobblestone sector of Donderij, the early escapees fell off the pace.

 

A 30-rider group gathered behind the front group and Lotto Belisol quickly put Bak on the front. He got a bit of help from Viacheslav Kuznetsov (Katusha) and a Giant-Shumano rider and a little later Ian Stannard also started to work for Skt.

 

The chase gets organized

The gap was now 40 seconds and it continued to grow until it reached a minute. The second group had now had time to organize their troops, and Sky and Lotto Belisol each put several riders on the front.

 

Christian Knees, Stannard, and Bernhard Eisel did the work for the British team while Bak, Kris Boeckmans, Marcel Sieberg, Jurgen Roelandts, and later also Jens Debusschere were the workhorses for Lotto Belisol. Despite their collective effort, however, the gap remained stable at around a minute.

 

Katusha lend a hand

At one point, the gap came up to 1.10 but soon after, it appeared that the chasers were about to get the upper hand. The gap fell down to a minute and when shortly after, Katusha also started to chase for Kristoff, the tables appeared to have been turned, with the advantage dropping to 50 seconds.

 

Despite Luca Paolini, Kuznetsov, and Isaychev all working hard for Katusha, they failed to get any closer and when they crossed the line to start the first lap of the circuit, it was back up to more than a minute. It remained stable at that point for most of the lap.

 

The chase gets disorganized

While the 10 escapees continued to work perfectly together, the pace was now taking its toll on the chasers, with several riders disappearing from the front. A Wallonie rider started to contribute but the Sky, Lotto, and Katusha riders were now only contributing occasionally.

 

When the riders passed the line to start the final lap, the gap was 1.04 and at this point, FDJ had also put Yoann Offredo on the front while Giant-Shimano had asked Roy Curvers to add to the pace-setting. However, they kept losing ground and it was now clear that the winner would be one from the front group.

 

Wynants makes the first attack

The seamless cooperation continued until 3.7km from the finish when Wynants launched the first attack. Trentin had to dig really deep to bring it back together but he managed to do so in time for him to slow down and let Vandenbergh take off.

 

Vanmarcke had to make a hard acceleration to bring things back together and from there Vandenbergh set a hard pace all the way to the flamme rouge. Trentin had briefly fallen off the pace but managed to get back on.

 

Vansummeren makes his move

Vansummeren made his expected attack but Maes easily closed it down. Then it was Van Keirsbulck who kicked into action when he started to lead Boonen out.

 

The classics star opened his sprint a few hundred metres from the line but Hofland was well-placed on his wheel. The Dutchman tried to come around but ran out of metres and had to settle for a close second in a race that ended as a huge showing by Omega Pharma-Quick Step.

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