It was another Belgian race with Etixx-QuickStep doing the majority of the work for the majority of the race – but the finale couldn’t have been more different from yesterday. Mark Cavendish ensured his team wouldn’t get another spanking when they got into the team bus by passing Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) in the last few metres for his second Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne victory.
Rider of the race
Although he wasn’t mentioned much during the race, Mark Cavendish actually performed some pretty impressive feats to make sure he was in with a chance in the final few metres. The first of these came after missing the initial break on the Cote de Trieu when teammate Tom Boonen and LottoNL-Jumbo’s Sep Vanmarcke decided to bust the peloton open like a piñata. He bridged by the time they made the Kwaremont and stuck with a small group of serious classics riders – including yesterday’s winner Ian Stannard (Sky) and Kristoff – until through what looked a lack of will on the lead group’s part and a concerted effort by the MTN-Qhubeka riders in the chasing group, they came back together for a bunch sprint.
It looked as though all the hard work put in by his Etixx teammates had backfired again as Katusha and Sky came to the front on the final circuit to ratchet the pace up, spewing tired Etixx riders out as they went along. But Cavendish kept his cool, found some wheels, including Kristoff’s, until he put in a display of sprinting power and grace that put the others to shame (including Cofidis’s Nacer Bouhanni who nearly crashed in the run-up).
Four things we liked
1. The Passion of Tom Boonen. Nearing the end of his career and hoping for a few more victories for an already legendary palmares, Tommeke has been a sight to see this weekend. Okay, he completely buggered up the finish at Omloop but he took both races by the scruff of the neck at their most challenging – the Taaienberg (also known as the Boonenberg) on Saturday and the Kwaremont today. He’s still strong, he still has the desire to win, he still rides cobbles like they’re honey butter. And yet it may possibly be his failings this season that will make us realise fully what a privilege it has been to have watched his career play out all these years.
2. The Passion of Philippe Gilbert. PhilGil might not be quite as close to the end of his career as Boonen but he is still a legend in search of a (perhaps) last brilliant season. He showed his guts at the 5km mark in today’s race by going off the front and if Katusha hadn’t taken up the chase when they did (around the 2km mark), he just might have pulled off an audacious win. Teeth gritted, PhilGil rode into a strong headwind and if there were speech bubbles over his head, he’d be screaming “Shut up, shut up, shut up, shut up – I am not done here yet!”
3. A gauntlet-throwing Kristoff. Like Cav, Kristoff was in all the right places but, unlike Cav, he came up a bit short. In the post-race interview, Kristoff mentioned Cav and Milan-San Remo in the same breath. That sound you heard was the distinctive slap of a gauntlet being thrown down.
4. The dulcet tones of Matt Stephens and Magnus Backstedt. Our commentary duo today on Eurosport, M&M knew their stuff, didn’t talk bollocks, didn’t drool over Sky (or any other team), got excited when the rest of us did and generally made us happy we have Eurosport. Please, powers that be, please make sure they’re commentating on as many races as you can possibly schedule.
1. Mark Cavendish (Etixx-Quick Step) 4:28:56
2. Alexander Kristoff (Team Katusha) same time
3. Elia Viviani (Sky) s/t
4. Tom Van Asbroeck (LottoNL-Jumbo) s/t
5. Daniele Colli (Nippo-Vini Fantini) s/t
6. Jean-Pierre Drucker (BMC) s/t
7. Jens Debusschere (Lotto Soudal) s/t
8. Kristian Sbaragli (MTN-Qhubeka) s/t
9. Raymond Kreder (Roompot) s/t
10. Matteo Pelucchi (IAM) s/t
Link: Official race website