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Attacking from a 16-rider front group inside the final 20km, Stuyven held off the peloton to take an impressive solo win at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne; Kristoff beat Bouhanni in the sprint for second

Photo: Trek Factory Racing

ALEXANDER KRISTOFF

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JASPER STUYVEN

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KUURNE-BRUXELLES-KUURNE

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NACER BOUHANNI

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TREK - SEGAFREDO

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28.02.2016 @ 17:44 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Jasper Stuyven (Trek) confirmed his status as one of the biggest talents for the cobbled classics by claiming an impressive solo victory in a very aggressive and exciting edition of Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. Having made it into a 16-rider group in a crosswind section, he attacked the group inside the final 20km and then time trialled his way to the win before Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) beat Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) in the sprint for second.

 

Yesterday Jasper Stuyven was left hugely frustrated at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. The Belgian claimed to have had the legs to follow the race-winning move on the Taaienberg but a moment of hesitation cost him the opportunity to go for the win.

 

If anyone didn’t believe his claims, his critics must have been firmly silenced after today’s second race of the Belgian opening weekend, Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. In what turned out to be a harder edition than usual, the Belgian delivered one of the most impressive performances so far in 2016 by riding to an excellent solo victory.

 

The key moment came with 42km to go when a hard race had already left a depleted 30-rider peloton chasing lone escapee Mirko Trosino (Southeast) who was just 10 seconds ahead of the peloton. At this point, the group had already split on several occasions but Stuyven had made all the splits.

 

Katusha tried to control things for Sergey Lagutin but as he didn’t get any help, the attacking started. Perre-Luc Perichon (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) kicked off the action and was joined Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), Luke Rowe (Sky), Julien Vermote (Etixx-QuickStep), Stuyven and Berden De Vries (Roompot).

 

Magnus Cort (Orica-GreenEDGE) tried to organize a chase but instead he created a small chase group that also included Tom Boonen (Etixx-QuickStep), Pim Ligthart (Lotto Soudal), Yanto Barker (ONE), Boy van Poppel (Trek), Twan Castelijns (LottoNL-Jumbo), Oliver Naesen (IAM), Antoine Duchesne (Direct Energie), Tom Stamsnijder (Giant-Alpecin), Oscar Gatto (Tinkoff), Sergey Lagutin (Katusha) and Sebastien Turgot (Ag2r). They joined the move to make it 18 chasers but the latter three were quickly distanced and dropped back to Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto Soudal) to form a chase quartet.

 

The group caught Trosino to make it 16 leaders and they entered the final 40km with and advantage of 27 seconds over the peloton, with the four chasers being at 13 seconds. However, they quickly sat up and waitedfor the peloton where Stig Broeckx (Lotto Soudal) and Florian Senechal (Cofidis) were chasing hard.

 

Van Poppel and De Vries attacked from the front group and Vermote bridged the gap. However, van Poppel decided to drop back to the group as he was working for Stuyven and so the group was back together with 32km to go.

 

In the peloton, Katusha were now also chasing with Lagutin but the chase lost momentum when Broeckx hit a motorcycle and was brought to hospital. They failed to get any closer and at the start of the first lap of the 15.3km finishing circuit, they were 40 seconds behind the leaders.

 

A 30-rider group that included Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Arnaud Demare (FDJ) rejoined the peloton just after the passage of the line and this added lots of new workers to do the chase. Frederik Frison, Gert Dockx, Jelle Wallays (Lotto Soudal), Lagutin, Alexey Tsatevich and Nils Politt (Katusha) started to chase hard but the gap remained stable at 40 seconds.

 

Vermote and van Poppel were doing a lot of work in the front group which allowed them to maintain their advantage but with 17km to go Orica-GreenEDGE decided to go all in for Caleb Ewan. They put Luke Durbrdige and Sam Bewley on the front of the peloton and as a consequence the gap dropped to 25 seconds.

 

This was the signal for Stuyven to make a brave move as he took off in a crosswind section and immediately got a big advantage. Van Poppel ended his job and like Barke he was dropped from the group while Trosino and Duchesne regained contact after briefly being distanced.

 

At the start of the final lap, Stuyven was already 15 seconds ahead of the chasers while Dockx and Wallays were now the only riders working in the peloton. 35 seconds behind the Belgian. Quickly it was down to just Wallays but Frison and Durbridge came back to lend him a hand.

 

Stuyven had advantages of 25 and 40 seconds with 11km to go and kept it stable before the attacking started in the chase group. Rowe took off and was joined by Naesen and Ligthart and later also Van Avermaet and finally Boonen. The rest of the group was caught.

 

Impressively, Stuyven had increased his advantage to more than 30 seconds with 9km to go despite the good cooperation in the chase group. The peloton was now 45 seconds behind and led only by Orica-GreenEDGE.

 

With 6km to go, the chasers managed to reduce the gap to 20 seconds but then the tables again turned. With 4km to go, the gaps were 25 and 40 seconds respectively and it was the same with 3km to go.

 

Rowe exploded and was dropped from the chase group while the peloton regained momentum, bringing the gap down to 30 seconds with 2km to go. As the chasers were almost caught, Ligthart attacked and was briefly joined by Van Avermaet, Boonen and Naesen before Turgot and Direct Energie shut it all down for Ag2r.

 

At the passage of the flamme rouge, Stoyven still had an advantage of 30 seconds and it was clear that he would make it. He had time to celebrate as he crossed the line while the peloton was left to battle for second place. Lukasz Wisniowski (Etixx-QuickStep) made a late attack and looked like he would make it. However, Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) launched a long sprint and as Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) and Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) came around the world champion, the Pole was caught just metres from the line, with the Norwegian taking second and the Frenchman third.

 

With Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne done and dusted, the Belgian season moves to Wallonia for the Wallonian season opener at Wednesday’s Le Samyn.

 

A traditional course

The 2016 edition of Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne was held on a traditional course that brought the riders over 200.7km from Kuurne to a turning point close to Brussels and back to Kuurne. The first part was mostly flat but on the way back, the riders would tackle nine climbs for a total of 10 ascents. The key moment was the Oude Kwaremont with 85km to go while the final climb was the Nokereberg 5km from the finish. The race ended with two laps of a flat 15.3km circuit in Kuurne.

 

It was a sunny and windy day when the riders gathered for the start. An ill Rick Zabel (BMC), Christian Knees (Sky) and Mathew Hayman (Orica-GreenEdge) who broke his elbow yesterday were absent as the peloton rolled out from Kuurne around 12 o'clock. World champion Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) was almost too late, but he was ready when the flag was dropped and the real start was given.

 

11 riders get clear

As usual in the Flemish classics, it was very aggressive start, and it took some time before the early break was established. Two riders laid the foundation and as more riders managed to bridge the gap, 11 riders gathered in the front. Kevin Van Melsen (Wanty), Sebastien Turgot (Ag2r), Mirko Trosino (South East), Boy van Poppel (Trek), Berden de Vries, Sjoerd van Ginneken (Roompot), Yanto Barker (ONE), David Boucher, Gerry Druyts (Crelan ) and Jaap de Man (3M) and Romain Cardis (Direct Energie) formed the group while Roy Curvers (Giant-Alpecin) tried to close the gap, but failed to make the junction.

 

The chased continued on the day's first climb, Edelareberg before the field slowed down, and the advantage started to grow quickly. After 39km of racing, it was already 8:15, and it was a signal for Sky to start the chase. The British team placed Alex Peters on the front of the peloton, and he reduced the gap to 7.45 after 50km of racing. At the same time Benoit Jarrier (Fortuneo) became the first rider to retire.

 

Bennett and Nizzolo abandon

While Curvers still suffered alone, Daniele Bennati (Tinkoff) and Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek) surprisingly left the race Peters slowly increased the pace move. As they approached the La Houppe with 115 km to the finish, the gap was reduced to 6.20.

 

A crash that involved Mickael Delage and Daniel Hoelgaard (FDJ) split the field as 50 riders were left behind. Meanwhile, Peters, Sam Bennett (Bora-Argon 18) and Tom Devriendt (Wanty) left the race as they hit the Kruisberg.

 

A big fight for position

The climbs created a big fight for position and with 92km to go, the gap had dropped to 5.25. Stijn Vandenbergh (Etixx-QuickStep) and Rowe led the group up the Cote de Trieu before the real battle started as they approached the Kwaremont.

 

Yohanne Gene (Direct Energie) went down in a solo crash as Orica-GreenEDGE hit the front just before the key climb. The escapees hit the ascent with an advantage of 4.20 and immediately De Man lost contact while van Melsen surged clear.

 

Sagan and Stuyven attack

In the peloton, lots of riders were dropped in the windy fight for position and it was Roelandts who led his teammate Jens Debusschere, Mitchell Docker, Jens Keukeleire, Rowe and Stuyven onto the ascent. He set a fast pace that made the group split to pieces, with Elia Viviani being one of the riders that found himself far behind.

 

Vandenbergh, Van Avermaet, Sagan, Florian Senechal, Vermote, Boonen, Rowe, Dries Devenyns, Calen Ewan, Alexander Edmondson, Daniel Oss, Gianni Moscon, Zico Waeytens were among the riders that were in the first group while Kristoff was suffering further back. Sagan and Stuyven surged clear before the top but it was all back together when 15-20 rider crested the summit, 3.20 behind the escapees that had regrouped.

 

Orica-GreenEDGE take control

With Ewan there, Orica-GreenEDGE set the pace with Edmondson and Keukeleire while Kristoff, Michal Schär and Broeckx made contact. QuickStep also started to work with Vandenbergh and Vermote and slowly reduced the gap to the leaders to 2.25 on the Kluisberg with 76km to go.

 

Jelle Wallays (Lotto Soudal) and another two riders made contact on the climb and as there was no great cooperation in the group, the next group got closer. Lotto Soudal were the only team that were committed while LottoNL-Jumbo were riding hard in the second ground.

 

Lotto Soudal split the field

Due to the lack of cooperation, Moscon and Broeckx tried to attack but they failed and instead the next group made the junction with 68km to go where the gap was down to 2 minutes. However, just as it seemed that we were heading for a bunch sprint, Lotto Soudal split the field on a pave section as Brockx and Roelandts went full gas.

 

Vandenbergh, Stuyven, Lagutin, Devenyns, Naesen and a Topsport rider joined the move while a 15-rider chase group with the likes of Boonen, Ewan, Cort, Heinrich Haussler, Leigh Howard, Van Avermaet, Niki Terpstra, Rowe and Sagan formed further back. Kristoff, Schär and Bouhanni joined that group on the TIegemberg with 61km to go and moments later they joined the Roelandts group to make it a 30-rider move. Waeytens, Xandro Meurisse, Ligthart and Perichon were the final riders to make the junction with 58km to go where the gap was down to 50 seconds.

 

Vermote takes off

IAM set the pace before Durbridge, Cort, Vandenebergh and Broeckx took over. Further back, another 30-rider group with Groenewegen and Demare had gathered and it was LottoNL-Jumbo that was doing the work there.

 

Again there was no great cooperation in the group and so the second peloton slowly got closer. This prompted Lotto Soudal to make another attack on the climb of the Nokereberg. However, it was Vermote who countered the move and together with Stuyven and Roelandts he surged clear.

 

Sagan gives it a go

Sagan, Devenyns, Van Avermaet and Puccio joined the move while Orica-GreenEDGE tried to shut it down. Katusha and Cofidis also came to the fore before Sagan and Vermote attacked from the group. They made it across to the breakaway from which Trosino had taken off.

 

The Sagan group was brought back which left just Trosino in front with a small 10-second advantage. A Topsport rider tried a small attack before Katusha took control with Lagutin. Moments later Perichon tried and that turned out to be the race-winning move.

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