After Omloop Het Nieuwsblad today (Saturday), Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne tomorrow (Sunday) completes the opening weekend of racing in Belgium. A race which has a less challenging parcours than its precursor, it is one in which we should see a battle between some of the best sprinters in the pro peloton.
What kind of race is it?
Perhaps not quite as prestigious as Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, K-B-K has run 65 times since its inaugural edition in 1945. As the name would suggest, it is run on a looped course starting and ending in Kuurne. But, surprisingly, it never actually reaches Brussels before turning back towards the finish.
Usually one for the sprinters – as shown by Mark Cavendish‘s victory last year – they are still required to be able to haul themselves over some tough hellingen, or hills, with the majority of them taken in over the second half of the course. This has enabled some Classics specialists to mix it with the fastest riders over the years, with George Hincapie and Nick Nuyens among the winners in recent editions.
The slightly different parcours means the start-list alters slightly from the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, though several riders who are riding Omloop will be given a second long, cold, cobbled ride a day later. Lucky them.
The most recent winners of the race are:
2008: Steven de Jongh (Quick Step)
2009: Tom Boonen (Quick Step)
2010: Bobbie Traksel (Vacansoleil)
2011: Chris Sutton (Sky)
2012: Mark Cavendish (Sky)
What happened last year?
Mark Cavendish took his first European victory at Sky after sprinting to success following a strong ride from the British outfit. They reeled in a talented breakaway group which contained the in-form Tom Boonen and other strong classics men Gert Steegmans, Tyler Farrar, Johan Vansummeren and the team’s own Juan Antonio Flecha.
After the break was caught, Sky controlled the race, and after being released by lead-out man Chris Sutton – who had won this race a year earlier – Cavendish characteristically surged to the line to take a comfortable win. FDJ’s Yauheni Hutarovich managed an impressive second place, while Kenny van Hummel of Vacansoleil rounded out the podium.
1. Mark Cavendish (Sky) 4:27:20
2. Yauheni Hutarovich (FDJ-BigMat) same time
3. Kenny van Hummel (Vacansoleil-DCM) s/t
4. Arnaud Demare (FDJ-BigMat) s/t
5. Alexander Serebryakov (Type 1-Sanofi) s/t
6. Tom Veelers (1t4i) s/t
7. Sebastien Chavanel (Europcar) s/t
8. Stefan Van Dijk (Accent.jobs-Willems Veranda’s) s/t
9. Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) s/t
10. Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) s/t
Our 2012 race review can be found here.
This year’s race
The K-B-K route features eight climbs, with the majority occurring after the race has switched back towards the finish in Kuurne. There are seven in the space of around 60km from just before the halfway mark including some tough, cobbled climbs, some of which feature in the Tour of Flanders later in the season.
However, the final climb of the day comes with over 50km remaining, so even if the peloton is shredded over these climbs, it is likely it will come together in time for a sprint victory.
Who to watch
Last year’s winner, Mark Cavendish, is back, and arguably has the chance to test his Omega Pharma-Quick Step train truly competitively for the first time – though I’m sure the Tour of Qatar organisers won’t thank me for saying that! [You’re right, though – Ed.] He must be the favourite for this race, and looks in good shape.
His old nemesis Andre Greipel of Lotto-Belisol will probably provide his toughest competition, especially as teammate Tom Boonen will not ride after his efforts on Saturday at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp) is a good sprinter, though never seems to quite deliver when it matters.
Heinrich Haussler (IAM) will be riding on both Saturday and Sunday, and while he’s good in the Classics and a fast finisher, he probably doesn’t have the out-and-out sprint power to challenge Cavendish or Greipel here. Arnaud Demare (FDJ) and Adam Blythe (BMC) are both rank outsiders.
Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne takes place on Sunday 24th February. The race will be shown live on Eurosport. For other live coverage check cyclingfans.com.
Link: Official website