Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne used to be the ‘revenge match’ for Gent-Gent (Het Nieuwsblad); after poor showings in: Saturday’s race, QuickStep usually rode on Sunday with great panache to salvage the weekend — they did this with Nuyens in ’06, Boonen in ’07 & ’09 and brilliantly with de Jongh in ’08.

Tom Boonen.
Tom Boonen.

In this year’s: finale all of the survivors were sitting looking at Boonen to react when Rabobank Langeveld (the same fellow who won Gent-Gent on Saturday) went clear; Quickstep’s de Jongh countered and Lefevre, knowing that his boy would get the better of the Dutchman in the sprint told his floor layers to sit up and have a ‘blow.’

Riders who had been sitting pretty waiting for the sprint realised that they had to chase hard — but it was too late.

It was the classic double bluff swerve by Lefevre, turning the situation around in a blink.

Last year the race was a victim of horrendous weather but still produced a great winner in Bobby Traksel — this year, well…

Bobby Traksel features on the posters this year.
Bobby Traksel features on the posters this year.
And finished a respectable 13th this year.
And finished a respectable 13th this year.

A number of factors have to be considered, the weather was kind — cold but calm with no killer crosswinds or rain; but another factor is that so many riders are coming in to the race in great condition and there’s little to choose between them.

Many of the riders have ridden the Tour Down Under, San Luis, Oman, Qatar or Langkawi; and the early races in Europe are no longer ‘training’: they’re full on, brutal.

Kristian House told me recently that he started his season with 7,500 kilometres in his legs — and that’s for a largely domestic UK programme.

Maybe the organisers at Kuurne have to change the parcours?

Lose one — or both — of the finishing circuits, keep the riders out on the cobbles and bergs for longer and shorten the run-in?

We joined the An Post convoy to the start.
We joined the An Post convoy to the start. (click for the full image)
Russ Downing was 18th yesterday in Het Niuewsblad.
Russ Downing was 18th yesterday in Het Niuewsblad.

We had more time to ‘bike skek’ at Kuurne but it took us a while to get our bearings, the wee teams all used to park up at the football pitches whilst the ‘big guns’ were in a compound near the start.

This year however, there were few teams at the football pitches and the compound was being used for a gymkhana — the team buses were all parked up on the main road instead; but by the time we sussed that out the start was approaching.

Waiting for the start.
Waiting for the start.
Ed and Callum pose beside a big beer - not for the first time this weekend.
Ed and Callum pose beside a big beer – not for the first time this weekend.
VR pal John Young and his monopod.
VR pal John Young and his monopod.

We caught up with Hamish Haynes, looking good in his new Colba-Mercury team strip — he’s put in a mega winter and we’ll be keeping a close eye on the results for him.

Hamish Haynes.
Hamish Haynes.

James Spragg was looking good too, his QIN team has morphed into Donckers Koffie; the QIN jersey was a bit ‘different’ and almost worked, but this year’s jersey is cool, if conventional.

James Spragg.
James Spragg.

The budget at Donckers is good, with a nice bus and some strong riders — Kevin Hulsmans, Kurt Hovelynck, Huub Duyn and Tom Stubbe.

Kuurne still has that ‘race of the people’ feel with little police control or corporate schmooze-type-goings-on and a generally laid back, friendly vibe — we like it.

Rabobank DS Erik Dekker was relaxed and happy - ten wins by the end of February does that to a man.
Rabobank DS Erik Dekker was relaxed and happy – ten wins by the end of February does that to a man.
One of the many bookies.
One of the many bookies.

We caught the early break on the Edelare — which is just the drag out of Oudenaarde on the way to Brakel — and four were away but soon to be DQ-ed for ‘risking their lives’ at a level crossing.

The general feeling is that the guys in the break were treated a bit harshly - the barriers at the level crossing hadn't started to move when they went through.
The general feeling is that the guys in the break were treated a bit harshly – the barriers at the level crossing hadn’t started to move when they went through. (click for the full image)
Once the break was removed, it was a full peloton which made it to the finish.
Once the break was removed, it was a full peloton which made it to the finish. (click for the full image)

Andy Fenn was giving the AN Post jersey a good airing between the break and bunch — our pal Viktor doesn’t like their Dolan bikes, but I do.

Andy Fenn.
Andy Fenn.
The An Post Dolan's.
The An Post Dolan’s. (click for the full image)

The Oude Kwaremont was in bountiful mood for 2011, blue skies, little wind and dry cobbles — last year it was like standing at the gates of Hell.

Dan Lloyd.
Dan Lloyd.
Stijn Devolder.
Stijn Devolder.
Tommy Voeckler.
Tommy Voeckler.
Ian Stannard.
Ian Stannard.
Irish Champ and new HTC recruit Matt Brammeier.
Irish Champ and new HTC recruit Matt Brammeier.
Serguei Ivanov.
Serguei Ivanov.

Dan Fleeman and Sarah Reynolds were out on the course and came up to see us — the Lichfield man is looking good, lean and tanned.

Dan Fleeman and Sarah Reynolds.
Dan Fleeman and Sarah Reynolds.

When I texted him to tell him that, he replied that I looked fat and pale. Thanks Dan – but trouble is, he’s right.

Sarah rode the Ladies’ Gent-Gent on Saturday and Dan competed in the Ster van Zwolle in Holland, both finishing in the bunch. Dan was happy with his ride having done a lot of work for his Raleigh team.

Last year there was no point in doing the mad dash over to the top of the Cote de Trieu to see the race again, a fallen tree scuppered that; but this year it was business as usual and we walked briskly up ‘Tour of Flanders Street’ to the top of ‘Phil’s Hill’ as Dave Duffers always used to call it.

Tour of Flanders Street.
Tour of Flanders Street.

The reason being that Aussie star Phil Anderson used to do his interval training on it — no wonder he was a beast.

Most of the climbs we’re all familiar with are within a very small geographic area, rearing from various directions up the ridge near Oudenaarde — ‘The Flemish Ardennes,’ the problem is that the traffic chaos means it’s impossible to get quickly from one to the other.

But with the Kwaremont and Trieu it’s perfectly feasible, even if you’re not a quick walker you’ll at least see them hurtle down back to the main road.

After that it’s hard to catch the race, the organisers — at the behest of the police — have ‘stretched’ the course to make it difficult to ‘race hop’, so it’s best to retire to a bar to watch the finale on TV.

Looks hard, doesn't it?
Looks hard, doesn’t it?

Our fave watering hole is L’Escale in Ronse, two years ago we had Callum in there, he was horrified by the heavily pregnant young lady quaffing Krieks and chain smoking; ‘It’s Belgium, son.’ was our explanation.

Our host in Ronse.
Our host in Ronse.

I’ve already whinged about the ‘paint drying’ finale; but credit to Boonen for his ‘dig.’

Peter van Petegem is working with Garmin, we understand that his hiring has much to do with the radio ban: he's there to keep JV's guys right on tricky parcours of the cobbled classics.
Peter van Petegem is working with Garmin, we understand that his hiring has much to do with the radio ban: he’s there to keep JV’s guys right on tricky parcours of the cobbled classics.

All that remained was to meet up with Hamish at the team hotel near Waregem to hand over a parcel of gels, isotonic drink powder and shoes.

The pizzas were good in Waregem, and as we wandered back to the cars we were treated to a well dressed but highly inebriated — perhaps at ‘couldnae bite his thumb’ level – Flemish gentleman lurching out of the back seat of a Mercedes and stumbling across the car park to jump into his beautiful silver Porsche coupe and driving off with a flourish.

It’s different in Belgium.

Belgians love donkeys - it's a long story.
Belgians love donkeys – it’s a long story. (click for the full image)

Result

1 Christopher Sutton (Aus) Sky Procycling 4:39:39
2 Yauheni Hutarovich (Blr) FDJ
3 André Greipel (Ger) Omega Pharma-Lotto
4 Tyler Farrar (USA) Team Garmin-Cervelo
5 Jonas Vangenechten (Bel) Wallonie Bruxelles – Credit Agricole
6 Sébastien Chavanel (Fra) Team Europcar
7 Anthony Ravard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
8 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling
9 Adrien Petit (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne
10 Kristof Goddaert (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale
11 James Vanlandschoot (Bel) Veranda’s Willems – Accent
12 Leif Hoste (Bel) Katusha Team
13 Bobbie Traksel (Ned) Landbouwkrediet
14 Stijn Neirynck (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen – Mercator
15 Wouter Weylandt (Bel) Leopard Trek
16 Bert De Backer (Bel) Skil – Shimano
17 Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Quickstep Cycling Team
18 Saïd Haddou (Fra) Team Europcar
19 Kurt Hovelynck (Bel) Donckers Koffie – Jelly Belly
20 Borut Bozic (Slo) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
21 Nikolay Trusov (Rus) Katusha Team
22 Matthew Brammeier (Irl) HTC-Highroad
23 Jarl Salomein (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen – Mercator
24 Luca Paolini (Ita) Katusha Team
25 Mirko Selvaggi (Ita) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
26 Gianni Meersman (Bel) FDJ
27 Stéphane Poulhies (Fra) Saur – Sojasun
28 Tony Gallopin (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne
29 Romain Lemarchand (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
30 Sébastien Turgot (Fra) Team Europcar
31 Jimmy Casper (Fra) Saur – Sojasun
32 Gorik Gardeyn (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
33 Gediminas Bagdonas (Ltu) An Post – Sean Kelly
34 Kevin Ista (Bel) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne
35 Pieter Serry (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen – Mercator
36 Lloyd Mondory (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
37 Martin Elmiger (Swi) AG2R La Mondiale
38 Danilo Wyss (Swi) BMC Racing Team
39 Dominique Rollin (Can) FDJ
40 Rob Ruijgh (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
41 Sergey Lagutin (Uzb) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
42 Alessandro Donati (Ita) Acqua & Sapone
43 Renaud Dion (Fra) Bretagne – Schuller
44 Gatis Smukulis (Lat) HTC-Highroad
45 Maxime Vantomme (Bel) Katusha Team
46 Mathew Hayman (Aus) Sky Procycling
47 Lars Ytting Bak (Den) HTC-Highroad
48 Bram Tankink (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team
49 Jens Keukeleire (Bel) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne
50 Gilles Devillers (Bel) Wallonie Bruxelles – Credit Agricole
51 Pieter Jacobs (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen – Mercator
52 Gert Steegmans (Bel) Quickstep Cycling Team
53 Rony Martias (Fra) Saur – Sojasun
54 Ludovic Mottet (Bel) Wallonie Bruxelles – Credit Agricole
55 Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Bel) Quickstep Cycling Team
56 Jos Van Emden (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team
57 Anthony Delaplace (Fra) Saur – Sojasun
58 Maarten Tjallingii (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team
59 Yuriy Krivtsov (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
60 Marcel Sieberg (Ger) Omega Pharma-Lotto
61 Mathieu Claude (Fra) Team Europcar
62 Klaas Lodewyck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
63 Robin Steenuit (Bel) Wallonie Bruxelles – Credit Agricole
64 Frédéric Guesdon (Fra) FDJ
65 Mickaël Delage (Fra) FDJ
66 Cyril Lemoine (Fra) Saur – Sojasun
67 Arnaud Labbe (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne
68 Travis Meyer (Aus) Team Garmin-Cervelo
69 Staf Scheirlinckx (Bel) Veranda’s Willems – Accent
70 Ian Stannard (GBr) Sky Procycling
71 Wim De Vocht (Bel) Veranda’s Willems – Accent
72 Aliaksandr Kuchynski (Blr) Katusha Team
73 Koen De Kort (Ned) Skil – Shimano
74 Sander Armee (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen – Mercator
75 Egidijus Juodvalkis (Ltu) Landbouwkrediet
76 Mark Cassidy (Irl) An Post – Sean Kelly
77 Huub Duyn (Ned) Donckers Koffie – Jelly Belly
78 Johan Coenen (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen – Mercator
79 Bert Scheirlinckx (Bel) Landbouwkrediet
80 Tristan Valentin (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne
81 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team
82 Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Spa) Sky Procycling
83 Nikolas Maes (Bel) Quickstep Cycling Team
84 Manuel Quinziato (Ita) BMC Racing Team
85 Davide Vigano (Ita) Leopard Trek
86 Sébastien Hinault (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
87 Jan Ghyselinck (Bel) HTC-Highroad
88 Sébastien Minard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
89 Danny Pate (USA) HTC-Highroad
90 Geert Verheyen (Bel) Landbouwkrediet
91 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quickstep Cycling Team
92 Olivier Pardini (Bel) Wallonie Bruxelles – Credit Agricole
93 Sebastian Lang (Ger) Omega Pharma-Lotto
94 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Team Europcar
95 David Veilleux (Can) Team Europcar
96 Kevin Hulsmans (Bel) Donckers Koffie – Jelly Belly
97 Jeremy Hunt (GBr) Sky Procycling
98 Maarten Wynants (Bel) Rabobank Cycling Team
99 Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Katusha Team
100 Karsten Kroon (Ned) BMC Racing Team
101 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quickstep Cycling Team
102 Johan Van Summeren (Bel) Team Garmin-Cervelo
103 Marco Bandiera (Ita) Quickstep Cycling Team
104 Matthieu Ladagnous (Fra) FDJ
105 Martin Velits (Svk) HTC-Highroad
106 Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
107 Damien Gaudin (Fra) Team Europcar
108 Serguei Ivanov (Rus) Katusha Team
109 Martin Reimer (Ger) Skil – Shimano 0:00:21
110 Jimmy Engoulvent (Fra) Saur – Sojasun
111 Joost Van Leijen (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
112 Dominic Klemme (Ger) Leopard Trek 0:00:24
113 Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Nor) Sky Procycling 0:00:52
114 Robin Chaigneau (Ned) Skil – Shimano 0:01:06
115 Robert Wagner (Ger) Leopard Trek 0:01:20
116 Alessandro Proni (Ita) Acqua & Sapone 0:01:33
117 Sjef De Wilde (Bel) Veranda’s Willems – Accent
118 Anthony Geslin (Fra) FDJ 0:01:40
119 Frederik Willems (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto 0:01:57
120 Jurgen Van De Walle (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto 0:02:44
121 Thomas Leezer (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:02:54
122 Vicente Reynes Mimo (Spa) Omega Pharma-Lotto 0:03:35

Cheers!
Cheers!