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Scrapbook: Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne Brussels Kuurne 2017

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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.

Het Nieuwsblad 2017
Bars and cycling fit together perfectly in Belgium. Photo©Ed Hood

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!

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

Het Nieuwsblad 2017
The kit these days is all so good. Photo©Ed Hood

It’s always nice to skek the new kit which is on show at Het Nieuwsblad; not so long ago you could have Campag or Shimano brakes then along came SRAM – well, now you can even chose which FSA calliper you go for.

Het Nieuwsblad 2017
Colour-matched seat posts and saddles. Photo©Ed Hood

We DON’T like this, number behent the seat, how the heck are you meant to identify who’s who?

Shoulder numbers may not be cool but they do the job.

Het Nieuwsblad 2017
Needs must. Photo©Ed Hood

And we’re sure the mechanics don’t like this, back brakes tucked under the bracket to catch everything the roads of Flanders have to offer. This is one of the Bahrain Meridas, nice machines – brake position apart.

Het Nieuwsblad 2017
Leon Van Bon, Photo©Ed Hood

Just another snapper? Nope, former Tour de France stage winner, Netherlands Champion and Worlds medallist, Leon Van Bon who’s now a pro photog.

Het Nieuwsblad 2017
Tomeke is still the star attraction. Photo©Ed Hood

Boonen – we’ll miss him but maybe it’ll be easier to get around the QuickStep bus after his final Paris-Roubaix?

He’s a God in Flanders – and rightly so, his palmarès speak for themselves and he oozes charisma.

The sport will be the poorer without Tomeke.

Het Nieuwsblad 2017
Though Peter Sagan has the character and class to attract the fans too. Photo©Ed Hood

But the people of Flanders have taken Sagan and his eccentric ways to their heart – it was almost as difficult to get close to him as it was to Tom.

He had to have stewards clear a passage to the sign on for him.

Het Nieuwsblad 2017
The organised picnics still happen roadside, same as ours – but they use cutlery. Photo©Ed Hood

The ViP packages are not cheap – 250 Euros upwards, but they do it right. And you can even have a helicopter package at some of the major races…

Het Nieuwsblad 2017
Van Kiersbulck is coming into form. Photo©Ed Hood

It’s always a bit confusing at the early races with riders in their new liveries.

Big Guillaume Van Keirsbulck has been a QuickStep stalwart for years, spending thousands of kilometres on the front – but this year he’s moved across to Pro Continental Wanty.

A good move too, with victory in Le Samyn coming just days after Het Nieuwsblad for the big chap.

Het Nieuwsblad 2017
Dan McLay is back after his crash in the Trofeo Palma. Photo©Ed Hood

Dan McLay looks like he belongs in the Classics, big and strong – the Omloop is too hilly for a man of his build but we had hopes for him next day in Kuurne.

Sagan scuppered those though.

Het Nieuwsblad 2017
Quite a palmarès. Photo©Ed Hood

Think what you like about Astana – but their team car reminds you that they have done the biz.

Het Nieuwsblad 2017
It’s early season, but the cobbles still hurt. Photo©Ed Hood

I read a comment somewhere about ‘silly Saggy’ doing too much work in Het Nieuwsblad – to whoever wrote that; ‘he’s not Cav!’

World Champion Classics riders don’t sit in and wait; they attack, forge on, shape the race and sometimes they don’t win – but the way they ride makes for proper bike racing, not that formulaic stuff which has become the norm.

Het Nieuwsblad 2017
Tony Martin struggled. Photo©Ed Hood

Tony Martin is another man who’s changed simits for 2017, despite his huge power he’s never pulled off a big result in a Classic.

He wasn’t having fun on Saturday when we spied him on the Haaghoek cobbles.

Het Nieuwsblad 2017
Max Walscheid will have a wait for his car to get to him. Photo©Ed Hood

Having even less fun was big Max Walscheid – on the rim over cobbles, ouch!

Kuurne Brussels Kuurne

Het Nieuwsblad 2017
FDJs Lapierre Pulsium 600s in a range of colours. Photo©Ed Hood

Sunday and we headed up to Kuurne where you can get a right good look at the bikes.

We like the F des J Lapierre ‘triple triangle’ frame – reminded us of those GT’s which Lotto used to ride.

Het Nieuwsblad 2017
The Kristoff fans were out. Photo©Ed Hood

Kristoff – the bull-like Norwegian wasn’t on his best weekend despite the efforts of his fans to pump him up.

Het Nieuwsblad 2017
AG2R are hoping for a strong Classics season. Photo©Ed Hood

The team with the ‘love it or hate it’ strip – AG2R have bolstered their squad this year with Big Stijn Vandenbergh backing strong men Naesen, Gougeard and Bagdonas.

Watch for them in the longer Classics.

Het Nieuwsblad 2017
Greg Van Avermaet puts the hurt on. Photo©Ed Hood

Het Nieuwsblad 2017
GVA is featured in the ket cutter’s window. Photo©Ed Hood

No longer the ‘nearly man’ Olympic Champion GVA defended his Het Nieuwsblad title and was well to the fore in Kuurne. And you know you’ve made it in Flanders when the caricature artists feature you in the shop windows.

Het Nieuwsblad 2017
Miles Scotston. Photo©Ed Hood

Not so ‘at home’ in the cold and cobbles of Flanders was 2017 Australian Road Race Champion, Miles Scotston.

Sunshine and Oz on smooth tarmac are one side of the coin; on the other is an icy wind and The Flemish Ardennes cart tracks.

Het Nieuwsblad 2017
Sagan gives another ‘interesting’ interview. Photo©Ed Hood

Having watched Peter on Sunday we were left with Monday to fill before the flight home.

Het Nieuwsblad 2017
Merckx is presented as a holy being. Photo©Ed Hood

The Flanders Cycling Museum in Roselare is being refurbished so they’ve relocated temporarily to the ‘Paterskirk’ [Father’s Church] in Roselare.

The main shrine is to Eddy Merckx of course, but we’re not sure his rivals of the day saw him as a Deity, more a Devil.

Het Nieuwsblad 2017
The confession box isn’t big enough to handle cycling’s misdemeanours. Photo©Ed Hood

The confession box contains Lance confessing to Oprah on a continuous loop – we felt this may be getting very close to blasphemy but we’re not religious men.

Het Nieuwsblad 2017
Frank Vandenbroucke remembered. Photo©Ed Hood

On a serious note there’s a tribute to the late, great Frank Vandenbroucke – like that Specials song says; ‘too much, too young.’

He lived the life of a professional from his early teens – eventually something had to give…

Het Nieuwsblad 2017
Jean-Pierre Monseré was struck by a car on the race route. Photo©unknown

And we’ll close on another serious note.

Belgium’s Jempi Monseré was a wonderful rider; the 1970 World Champion and 1969 Tour of Lombardy winner crashed head-on into a car which had infiltrated the closed roads of the Grote Jaarmarktprijs in Retie on March 15th 1971.

Jempi died on the spot and the images of him lying on the tar, rainbow jersey on his back with team mates De Muynck and De Vlaeminck looking on helplessly reminds you that it’s not a sport for the faint hearted.

Rest in peace, Jempi.

Gallery

Photos © Callum MacGregor

Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 45 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, team manager, and 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. 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.

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