Saturday, May 28, 2022
HomeDiariesOmloop Het Volk & Kuurne Brussels Kuurne - Day 1

Omloop Het Volk & Kuurne Brussels Kuurne – Day 1

-

You know you’re in Belgium at the Kuurne Brussels Kuurne when the barman is Iljo Keisse’s dad – and when there are posters for bike races in the loo!

But I’m getting ahead of myself; “live cargo”, that’s how the airlines refer to their passengers.

And that’s how we feel: the flight is two hours late and we’re sitting on the floor at Prestwick Airport, or ‘Glasgow South‘ as Ryanair would have it, despite the fact that we’re 50 kilometres from the city on the Clyde.

Eventually we board, running across the tarmac through sheets of freezing rain blasting in from the Atlantic.

Ryanair, we love them, you have to pay to check-in, there’s no place to put your newspaper and the value for money on the in-flight refreshments is outstanding – four euros for a small tin of beer and five euros for a sandwich.

As the French pilot tells us, it’s “bompee, in zee cloudz.”

Charleroi Airport, and there’s a shiny new terminal building; Ryanair’s cheap flights from the airport have breathed new life into a run-down part of the Belgium.

But there’s really no such place as Belgium: there’s the French speaking south, Wallonia, where we are now; the cosmopolitan and elegant French-speaking capital city of Brussels, and then there’s Flanders to the north. Up there, you don’t hear much French spoken; Flemish is a harsh language, difficult to learn; similar, but not exactly the same as Dutch.

Until the demise of heavy industry in the the south – coal mining and steel making – the south was where the money was.

Fortunes are reversed now and there’s a mood in prosperous Flanders that their impoverished southern brothers and sisters should be cut loose.

This winter has seen crisis after crisis in the Belgian parliament and for a long spell, the country was without leadership, leading to inflation in the economy. There’s talk of Wallonia becoming part of France; Brussels becoming a city state like Luxembourg or Monaco and Flanders becoming a nation in its own right.

Hertz supplied the hire car and Ryanair’s delay was perfect to drop us into the Brussels rush hour.

The knowledgeable talk is all Quick-Step.
The knowledgeable talk is all Quick-Step.

Viktor was in the back seat checking-out the newspapers; big Gert Steegmans is the name at the end of most journalist’s pens along with ‘Tomeke’ or ‘Tornado Tom.’

With Bettini and Devolder also in the team, QuickStep are the big favourites, only a win will do Patrick Lefevre on Saturday.

The big teams stay at the Gent Holiday Inn for the Het Volk / Kuurne weekend and we always head there first to pester the mechanics, but we were too late, with just the AG2R spanner men still at work.

Being a Pro Tour mechanic seems like a pretty glamorous gig, until you see them on a night like this, washing bikes in the dark with a cold wind driving the rain off the North Sea.

Nearly everyone is at dinner, or relaxing on the massage tables - not the mechanics though.
Nearly everyone is at dinner, or relaxing on the massage tables – not the mechanics though.

Frittes were required, then pils; not just in any bar though – Iljo Keisse’s dad’s Café de Karper.

The service is good, the pils is cold, there’s 70’s disco on the PA and there are framed cycling prints around the walls.

We met-up with Dirk Van Hove at the de Karper; he was a close friend of the late Gary Wiggins and as the pils flowed, so did the ‘Doc’ (Gary’s nickname) stories.

L to R: Dirk, Dave, Ronnie and Viktor "enjoying of the lager".
L to R: Dirk, Dave, Ronnie and Viktor “enjoying of the lager”.

Ronnie Keisse joined us and told us that Iljo is in South Africa, training for the Track Worlds where he’s riding the madison (with Kenny De Ketele), points and perhaps the scratch race.

Ronnie’s bar is hard-core, even when you go to the toilet, you can’t get away from cycling – there’s a poster for the Deinze-Ypres amateur classic right in front of you!

Only in Belgium!
Only in Belgium!

As Friday became Saturday we decided we better get at least some sleep and be fresh for taking you to the races.

Ed Hood
Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 47 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, a team manager, and a sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days for some of the world's top riders. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

Related Articles

Scrapbook: Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne Brussels Kuurne 2017

Ghent, or rather ‘Gent’ we love it; the bars, the people and the fact you can walk into a filling station and there are six quality cycling magazines on the shelf to chose from, and you have to love a city where they have taps to discharge the rainwater. Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, the first real races of the year – Down Under, the Desert races, Langkawi? Come on!

Kuurne Brussels Kuurne 2012

From the point that his Sky Procycling teammates took up station on the front of the peloton with 60km to go in Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, Mark Cavendish never looked like losing today, and so it proved as he swept to an easy bunch sprint win over FDJ-Big Mat's Yauheni Hutarovich with Vacansoleil-DCM's Kenny Van Hummel in third.

Bob Jungels Solos Victorious in Kuurne Brussels Kuurne 2019

Sunday’s Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne UCI 1.1 HC is the bridesmaid to Het Nieuwsblad’s UCI WT bride but it’s a race with a long history dating back to 1946 and has some interesting winners including Roger De Vlaeminck, Patrick Sercu, Johan Museeuw, George Hincapie, Cav – and a certain Patrick Lefevere in 1978.

James Shaw – Winner of the Junior Kuurne Brussels Kuurne 2014

What have Geraint Thomas, Adam Blythe and new sprint star – he was only narrowly beaten by Boonen at Kuurne – Moreno Hofland all got in common? There’s a clue above in the place name: they’ve all won the junior Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. And adding to that illustrious list is another Englishman; 17 year-old James Shaw from Heanor in Derbyshire, he rides for HARIBO Beacon Cycling Team in the UK and took the honours with a perfectly timed move in the finale of one of the world’s premier junior races.

Kuurne Brussels Kuurne 2016 Goes To Stuyven

The Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne adventure began when I met Craig Grieve, Spokes bike shop owner and U23 race team backer, early Friday morning, to get a picture of the newly-logoed team car. For Craig, the journey to Kuurne is a long haul; catching a ferry from Hull, arriving Saturday in time for the riders to recce part of the course. We caught up with them on Saturday night in Kortrijk for a pizza and to hear how their preparation has gone and to plan for the race.

Flatlands Friday – Preparing for Het Nieuwsblad 2019 and KBK

It's the start of the season proper with UCI World Tour Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday and UCI 1.1 HC Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne on Sunday. It was a tad savage when the alarm blasted at 03:10 on Friday but on the other side of the scales we were on Belgian soil bright and early.

At Random

World Road Championships – Rohan Dennis wins the Elite Men Time Trial

How did we do with our Worlds Elite Men Time Trial pre-race predictions? Well, to start with, we weren’t sure if the slim Aussie Rohan Dennis could come back from his pre-Tour time trial abandon – but it’s amazing what a couple of months with a sport psychologist can do and the tattooed chrono specialist was in a class of his own...

Joe Nally – Reflecting on a Season of Ups and Downs

We caught up with Joe after his Boxing Day training ride (I can just about remember those, up into North Fife with Dave Chapman for a couple of hours then home for steak pie at Mum’s)... Here’s what he had to say:

Le Tour de France 2017 – Stage 5: Vittel – La planche des belles filles, 160.5km. Fabio Aru’s classy win

It may seem like scant evidence to base a major assertion upon but from what happened in the Stage One time trial – and yesterday’s first significant ascent of the race, La Planche des Belle Filles, Chris Froome (Sky & GB) has the 2017 Tour de France won barring disasters or acts of God.

San Sebastian From The Outside

A week after the Tour, and Mands and I got ourselves over to San Sebastian for a bit of vacation relaxery after the saga that is the nose to the grindstone month of the Tour.

Le Tour de France 2007 – Day 7: Stage 17, Pau – Castelsarrasin

Pau, Thursday morning, the sun is out, so that's a good start. How do we feel? A tad flat, it has to be said, but the show must go on. Over to our left, the publicity caravan is rolling-out, headed for Castelsarrasin. It's a day for the "baroudeurs" today - the breakaway specialists. There are five fourth and one third category climbs today, so it's a hard day's work - maybe a French win? That would be nice, this Tour could do with a 'lift'. The Pez guy is out of the office today, checking-out the 2008 Look frames and bikes launch in San Jose - a dirty job, but...

Bernie Burns – My Tribute to the 1964 Falcon Team

Bernard Burns got in touch with us recently to share a bit of cycling history and to comment on what today’s champions put back into a sport that has given them so much. But we felt that Bernard’s career both as a rider, manager and coach was also well worth looking at...