Despite being the less prestigious race of the spring classics’ opening weekend, Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne will still provide some of the most competitive racing we’ve seen all season.
As in Het Nieuwsblad, the riders will tackle treacherously cobbled Belgian roads in potentially disruptive weather, meaning that anyone who was recently enjoying a sunny training camp or the warm roads of the likes of Australia or Qatar will be in for a nasty shock. The weather here was so bad last year that the race had to be cancelled due to heavy snowfall.
Perhaps the reason that Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne – which was first held in 1945, the same as Het Nieuswblad – enjoys a lower status and is only ranked 1.1 to the other race’s .HC, is because of it less selective profile. There are plenty of pave segments, but only eight climbs are included, the last of which is situated over 50 kilometres from the finish.
As a result the race is often decided in a bunch sprint, as was the case in the two most recent editions won by Mark Cavendish (2012) and Christopher Sutton (2011). Yet this scenario is far from a foregone conclusion, with climbs like the Oude Kwaremont posing difficulties and adverse weather sometimes disrupting proceedings. In 2010, for instance, Britain’s Ian Stannard was part of a breakaway of three who made it to the finish in terrible conditions which forced all but 26 riders to abandon.
Stannard rides again for Sky in this year’s edition, however – notwithstanding more atrocious weather – will likely be a domestique for superior sprinter Edvald Boasson Hagen. Mark Cavendish, meanwhile, will not be here to defend his 2012 win.
Ones to Watch
Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep)
Boonen has already won the 2007 and 2009 editions of Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, but since then he has withheld from participating in the kind of bunch sprints that usually decides the winner of this particular classic. However, if his two wins at last month’s Tour of Qatar is anything to go by, the 33 year old is rediscovering his taste for the chaos of bunch finishes.
Andre Greipel (Lotto Belisol)
Following stage wins in the Tour Down Under, the Tour of Qatar and the Tour of Oman, Greipel is the in-form sprinter in the peloton. Having finished third here in 2011 the German has history in this race, and if he can make it to the finish in the lead group again, he’ll, be confident of winning the sprint.
Arnaud Demare (FDJ)
The prodigiously talented 22 year old had a quietly impressive classics campaign last season , and the year before that finished fourth at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. With the winning combination of sprinting speed and composure over the cobbles, Demare possess all the attributes necessary to win.
Yauheni Hutrarovich (Ag2r)
With successive second place finishes in the last two editions of Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne this race has proven one of the most ideally suited to the Belarusian, but he’s yet to climb the top step of the podium. On paper Hutrarovich is not the fastest finisher here, but he’s outfoxed better opponents in the past.
Alexander Kristoff (Katusha)
In the last eighteen months Kristoff has established himself as one of the most consistent sprinters in the peloton, and in 2014 he’ll be hoping to convert his many top 10 finishes into victory. He’ll have a chance of doing so if the race finishes in a sprint, but should the weather turn nasty and disrupt the race, the notoriously tough teammate Luca Paolini may assume leadership duties.
Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne: TV Schedule
Sunday March 2, 13:30-16:00, British Eurosport, Live cycling: Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne
Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne: Previous winners
2013: Race cancelled
2012: Mark Cavendish
2011: Chris Sutton
2010: Bobbie Traksel
2009: Tom Boonen
2008: Steven de Jongh
2007: Tom Boonen
2006: Nick Nuyens
2005: George Hincapie
2004: Steven de Jongh
2003: Roy Sentjens
Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne: Last edition’s top ten (2012)
1. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Sky
2. Yauheni Hutarovich (Blr) FDJ-BigMat
3. Kenny Van Hummel (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM
4. Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ-BigMat
5. Alexander Serebryakov (Rus) Team Type 1
6. Tom Veelers (Ned) Project 1t4i
7. Sebastien Chavanel (Fra) Europcar
8. Stefan Van Dijck (Ned) Accent Jobs-Willems Verandas
9. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha
10. Andre Greipel (Ger) Lotto-Belisol all same time
Guide to this year's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (March 1): info, contenders, previous winners and more
Course deemed "too dangerous" for race to go ahead