A scintillating finish to Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and Opening Weekend after a breakaway trio were caught within metres of the finish line and Fabio Jakobsen won the sprint from the bunch.
The Quick-Step sprinter launched as Christophe Laporte (Jumbo-Visma), Taco van der Hoorn (Intermarché-Want-Gobert Matériaux) and Jhonatan Narvaez (Ineos Grenadiers) were finally caught, Lotto-Soudal's Caleb Ewan following but unable to overhaul the Dutchman, having to settle for second place.
Arkéa-Samsic's Hugo Hofstetter and Dan McLay then finished third and fourth, with Giacomo Nizzolo (Israel - Premier Tech) rounding out the top five.
How it happened
From the off the attacks went, a group of eight eventually forming and taking out a couple minute’s advantage by the time of the first climb.
Lluis Mas (Movistar) was accompanied by Taco van der Hoorn (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Luke Durbridge (BikeExchange-Jayco), Wessel Krul (Human Powered Health), Arjen Livyns, Jules Hesters (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise) and the YouTuber Bas Tietema (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal).
With Caleb Ewan amongst their ranks, Lotto-Soudal took it up themselves to marshal the peloton, and although the bunch relaxed a touch the gap stayed within reasonable limits.
With 110km to go, Ben Healy, who impressed in the break at Omloop yesterday, attacked alongside EF team-mate Julius van den Berg and within 10km they’d made it across the gap to the leaders.
This provided some impetus to the bunch, closing the gap to a minute and a half, Bas Tietema succumbing up ahead and dropping from the break.
On the Hameau des Papin the gap drops to just above half a minute, Ineos setting a stern tempo up the climb. Bingoal’s Laurenz Rex then countered the bunch, who allowed him to set off in pursuit of the breakaway.
Onto the Mont-Saint-Laurent, with 80km to go, and Healy dropped from the leading group. Quick-Step getting more involved in the pace-setting now, Kasper Asgreen forcing the issue before handing over to Tom Pidcock, his Ineos team-mate Jhonatan Narvaez then hitting out as a shot across the bows for their rivals.
The effect was to whittle the bunch down slightly, although the sprinting talents of Caleb Ewan and Fabio Jakobsen survived.
Asgreen then accelerated on the Hotond, all the other contenders following his wheel and stringing things out. Under 70km to go and only four remained up front, their time in the break dangling by a thread.
The attacking soon flourished from the peloton, Tiesj Benoot the one to make something stick, set up by Jumbo-Visma team-mate Nathan Van Hooydonck. Pidcock, Asgreen and Küng were in the first of three peloton groups now split across across the road.
Benoot soon sat up and was assimilated back into a group of around a dozen who had broken clear, soon catching up to the leaders to swell their ranks. Jumbo-Visma were still driving things onto the final climb of the day, the Kluisberg, with little over 50km remaining.
The 37 second gap between the group containing the likes of Benoot, Laporte, Pidcock, Küng, Asgreen and Fred Wright stabilised. But then they started to hesitate, Quick-Step unsure of whether they wanted to put their eggs in Asgreen or Jakobsen’s basket. One rider who was sure was Ivan Garcia Cortina, who attacked from this leading group, splitting it in half, Pidcock on the wrong side along with Benoot and Durbridge who fell back into the peloton.
The move stumbled, the presence of Laporte and Trentin inhibiting its process, and so Laporte attacked, Trentin and Van der Hoorn both following. Asgreen managed to bring them back, shaking a few stragglers loose, before Fred Wright also hit out, the gap now under 20 seconds with less than 20km to go.
As the life ebbed out of the group, Laporte kicked once more, followed by Narvaez and Van der Hoorn to form a new leading trio. Soon, with 15km remaining, they had a gap of 10 seconds, Quick-Step organising the chase now but Jumbo-Visma doing their best to get in the way in the final 10km.
Into the final few kilometres and things looked to be swinging the breakaway’s way, but the final surge brought them to heel, Jakobsen storming past with Ewan in tow to take the victory, causing heartbreak and getting the real cycling season started with a bang.
Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne 2022: Kuurne to Kuurne (195.1km)
1. Fabio Jakobsen (Ned) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, in 4-32-13
2. Caleb Ewan (Aus) Lotto-Soudal, at same time
3. Hugo Hofstetter (Fra) Arkéa-Samsic
4. Daniel McLay (GBr) Arkéa-Samsic
5. Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Israel - Premier Tech
6. Dries Van Gestel (Bel) TotalEnergies
7. Amaury Capiot (Bel) Arkéa-Samsic
8. Christophe Laporte (Fra) Jumbo-Visma
9. Matteo Trentin (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
10. Taco van der Hoorn (Ned) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux, all at same time
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