After taking the lesser two places on the podium at yesterday’s Het Nieuwsblad, Chris Sutton put Team Sky on the top step today with victory in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.
The 26-year-old, who sat out yesterday’s rain-soaked race, won a hectic bunch gallop ahead of Vuelta stage winner Yaauheni Hutarovich (FDJ), Andre Griepel (Omega-Pharma-Lotto) and Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Cervelo).
Sutton had been expertly delivered to the line by team mate Edvald Boasson Hagen after another strong showing by the rest of the squad during the course of the 193km race.
“The whole team put all their confidence in me and it paid off,” said Sutton, who is the first Australian to have won the race.
“I said to the boys ‘I think I can win today’. I just had confidence in myself. I had that feeling which you don’t get very often. Edvald said on the bus, ‘If we’re all there, I’ll lead out for you.'”
Unlike yesterday’s race in the wet, today’s follow-up over similar roads was a dry but windy affair.
After 44km, young Briton Andy Fenn (An Post-Sean Kelly) inadvertently found himself as the lone leader of the race when the four riders who’d just dropped him from the early break got disqualified for jumping a red light at a railway crossing.
Thankfully for Fenn, reinforcements arrived from the bunch in the form of Sander Armee (Topsport Vlaanderen) and Matthieu Ladagnous (FDJ). They too left him behind on the cobbled climb of the Kruisberg.
As the duo ploughed ahead and Fenn retreated backwards, Sky’s Ian Stannard and Juan Antonio Flecha went clear in a chase group with Tom Boonen (Quickstep) and Mirko Selvaggi (Vacansoleil) on the Oude Kwaremont climb. With two big favourites and a 2010 podium finisher in the group, they weren’t given much leeway.
Although another chase group did make it up to the two leaders (including French Champion Thomas Voeckler and Sky’s Matt Hayman), the race was more or less as one as it returned to the small town of Kuurne for two flat 13km finishing circuits.
Although several attacks followed -most notably from Lars Bak (HTC-Highroad) and then Tom Boonen (Quickstep) and Jimmy Engoulvent (Saur-Sojasun) in the final 5km- from this point on the race looked destined for a gallop.
“We had all the guys in the moves, so all my job was to save energy, sit there,” recalled Sutton. With his team mates duly setting him up for victory, he added: “I won today becasue of the job those boys did.”
Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne 2011, 193km
1. Chris Sutton (Aus) Team Sky 4:39:39
2. Yauheni Hutarovich (Blr) Francaise des Jeux
3. Andre Greipel (Ger) Omega Pharma-Lotto
4. Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Cervelo
5. Jonas Van Genechten (Bel) Wallonie Bruxelles
6. Sebastien Chavanel (Fra) Europcar
7. Anthony Ravard (Fra) AG2R
8. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Team Sky
9. Adrien Petit (Fra) Cofidis
10. Kristof Goddaert (Bel) AG2R
Chris Sutton wins in Kuurne