Tom Boonen (Omega-Pharma) won a record breaking third edition of the Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, edging Belkin’s Moreno Hofland to the line.
The result marks an upturn in fortunes for the Flandrian, who looked out of sorts during yesterday’s Het Nieuwsbald.
Rather than culminate in a large bunch finish as expected, a group of 10 riders contested for the honours with the peloton over a minute behind. This group had surprisingly got away at around 72 kilometres to go, when Omega Pharma and Belkin accelerated at front of the bunch and forced the selection.
With five riders from the former team (Boonen, Matteo Trentin, Nikolas Maes, Stijn Vandenbergh, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck) and three from the latter (Hofland, Sep Vanmarcke, Maarten Wynants) – with Johan Vansummeren (Garmin), Yves Lampaert (Topsport) also tagging along – the group sensed a chance of pulling away and potentially forming the race-winning move.
After Lotto-Belisol and Sky finally organised the chase, the gap levelled out at around one minute and the race became a pursuit between the lead group of 10 and the peloton behind. With so many Omega-Pharma and Belkin domestiques in break it had plenty of firepower, so that, even when Katusha and eventually FDJ and Giant-Shimano joined in the chase, no inroads were made into its lead, and the gap never dipped below 50 seconds.
As it became clear that they were not going to be caught, both Omega Pharma and Belkin seemed to put their faith in their sprinters, Boonen and Hofland respectively. Belkin offered just the one tentative attack in the final stages through Wynants, while Vansummeren’s tired legs could not open up a gap when he went with 800 metres to go.
In the sprint for the finish, Omega controlled affair and led out Boonen for win, although Hofland was bearing down on him in the final few metres. At just 22 years old the Dutchman may have been something of an unknown quantity to Omega Pharma, but in hindsight Belkin may have been better off attacking further from the finish line with Vanmarcke (who finished third).
Regardless, it was impressive day for both teams, and rivals Lotto-Belisol will be smarting at having failed to win with pre-race favourite Andre Greipel, and BMC endured a second consecutive crash-disrupted race when Taylor Phinney was forced to retire early on. We may still only be in the early stages of spring, but Omega Pharma and Belkin look like the teams to beat.
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
Race info, contenders, TV guide, past winners and more in our Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne 2014 preview