Whereas that race is decided on the various cobbled climbs that litter the route, Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne on Sunday (March 1) has a long flat run-in to the finish. As such, sprinters tend to perform well here – Mark Cavendish won in 2012, while Tom Boonen holds the record for most number of victories with three.
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But, as last year’s edition showed, Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne is rarely a straightforward procession for sprinters. Omega Pharma-QuickStep and Belkin forced a split with over 70km still to ride, and the small group of 10 managed to hold off the chasing peloton and contest the sprint for the win, won by Boonen.
Weather can also drastically alter the fate of the race. In 2010, Bobbie Traksel took a surprise win ahead of Ian Stannard after they, along with a handful of other riders, managed to instigate a successful break as the peloton suffered in freezing, rainy conditions. And solo attacks can sometimes work too, as Nick Nuyens and Steven de Jongh demonstrated in 2006 and 2008 respectively.
Whatever scenario develops this year, Team Sky look well equipped to deal with it. Elia Viviani, fresh from winning a stage at the Dubai Tour, looks likely to be their man should the race come to a sprint, with 2011 winner Christopher Sutton providing quality back-up. Should adverse conditions again affect the race then the notoriously hard Stannard could come into his own, while pleasanter weather could prompt Bradley Wiggins to try a Cancellara-esque lone attack.
With such a varied team Sky will fancy their chances of landing a victory, but face stiff competition in a tough field. Below are some riders they’ll be up against.
Ones to watch
Alexander Kristoff, Katusha
On-form Norwegian Alexander Kristoff is also riding in Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday, but it’s this race that he ought to excel in. He’s been flying in bunch finishes lately and will be difficult for anyone to beat in a sprint, and will not be fazed by cobbled sectors or rough conditions.
Tom Boonen, Etixx-QuickStep
As with every Belgian classic, Etixx-QuickStep brings a star-studded team with them to Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. Three-time champion Tom Boonen will no doubt be his usual lively self and attempt to instigate attacks to put the superior sprinters under pressure, but could face something of a tactical dilemma as the quickest sprinter riding – Mark Cavendish – happens to ride for the same team.
Arnaud Demare, FDJ
Now 23, Demare looks ready to win a spring classic, having come close before with fourth here back in 2012 and second at Ghent-Wevelgem last year. With not-too-difficult cobbles and the likelihood of a sprint finish, this looks like the race best suited for him.
Jelle Wallays, Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise
Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne is the kind of race that can occasionally produce a surprise winner, meaning smaller teams like Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise will fancy their chances. Their leader Wallays has history of such shocks, following his Paris-Tours victory last year where he outsprinted his day-long breakaway companion Thomas Voeckler. The peloton will need to keep a closer eye on him this time round.
Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne 2015: Route
When: Sunday, March 1 2015
Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne 2015: The teams
CCC Sprandi Polkowice
CCT p/b Champion System
Southeast Pro Cycling
Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne 2015: TV Guide
British Eurosport 2 will be broadcasting the race live from 13:15, with highlights later on British Eurosport.
Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne: Previous Winners
2014: Tom Boonen
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
Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne: Last year’s top 10 (2014)
1. Tom Boonen (Bel) Omega Pharma-QuickStep
2. Moreno Hofland (Ned) Belkin
3. Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Belkin
4. Yves Lampaert (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen
5. Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) Omega Pharma-QuickStep
6. Maarten Wynants (Bel) Belkin
7. Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Bel) Omega Pharma-QuickStep
8. Nikolas Maes (Bel) Omega Pharma-QuickStep
9. Matteo Trentin (Ita) Omega Pharma-QuickStep
10. Johan Van Summeren (Bel) Garmin-Sharp at same time