I love the drive from Gent up to Kuurne for the Kuurne Brussels Kuurne semi-classic... staring out of the car window at the fields, the canals, tree-lined avenues, the steeples, tiny concrete roads that would be great to explore on the bike. There was a little rain on the way up but by the time we got to Kuurne it was a mild, sunny morning; ideal for wandering down the main drag where the busses line up and checking out 2020’s new hardware.
Rudy Pevenage was the man behind Jan Ulrich and guided him to a Tour de France win and many other successes, but let's not forget he was a top rider in his own Pro career. Not much has been heard of the man from Moerbeke recently, so we looked him up on one of our visits to Belgium for the Omloop...
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.
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.
Roadside at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and KBK 2018. The first classic weekend of the year has been and gone and safely back in a rather snowy Scotland I've got time to reflect on the Classic season opener. The glorious Belgian sunshine all weekend could not lift the thermometer and the riders endured bitterly cold conditions for both Het Nieuwsblad or Kuurne Brussels Kuurne.
Dylan Groenewegen (Lotto-Jumbo & The Netherlands) goes from way out, Arnaud Demare (FDJ & France) scrambles for his wheel but is lengths back at the line with Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain & Italy) doing well for a man whose speciality is late season races in balmy Italy, taking third. We agree it was a great sprint from the Dutchman but it wasn't a vintage Kuurne Brussels Kuurne.
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!
It was Sean Connery's character in the film "The Untouchables" who suggested you don't bring a knife to a gun fight and it was clear that the weapons of choice at the opening classics weekend in Belgium would contribute to the outcome and individual's performance. Having wandered around the teams at both the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne it became clear there was a lot of nice kit being readied to race.
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.
The first weekend of the classic season is fast approaching, with the ‘semi-classics’, the 71st Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (Elite 1.HC) on Saturday 27th Feb and 68th Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne (1.HC) the next day; the heat and sun of the Middle East and Australasia being replaced with the cold and biting wind of the Flemish Heartland.
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.
It's the 'Belgian Opening Weekend'; Het Volk used to be a cult race, the teams would line up in the street just up from the Kuipke velodrome. The first team to set up would be the late Frans Assez’s Flanders squad — no flash bus or trucks, just a ‘Luton’ style van...
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.
Kuurne Brussels Kuurne 2011 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.
Sky Procycling just missed the win yesterday with Flecha finishing second in Het Nieuwsblad, but the team stepped it up a notch today, setting up Chris Sutton perfectly for a superb win in the bunch sprint at Kuurne - Brussels - Kuurne.
We're in Flanders for Het Nieuwsblad 2011 and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, but first there are mechanics to annoy, bars to visit and bergs to climb. Donna Summer, Barry White, The Real Thing - and even a bit of Joe South; three pils for €5.40 and all the smoke you can handle - cigarettes and cigars - The Vivaldi, it's a proper bar. 'We won't kick the backside out of it, tonight,' says Dave on Thursday; but the pils was cold and smooth, the soul and disco flowed... we got to bed at 03:45 with all of Scottish Cycling and the UCI's problems sorted out.
Kuurne Brussels Kuurne 2010... "Opgave door storm" says the headline, of Tom Boonen - 'gave up during the storm'; I don't ever remember seeing that headline about Eddy Merckx. For the last four years, Kuurne Brussels Kuurne is where QuickStep have pulled the fat out of the fire on the Sunday, after a disastrous Het Volk on the Saturday.
Another beautiful day; I like the drive to Kuurne Brussels Kuurne, if the weather is nice. The fields, the canals, the rows of poplars, the old brick farm houses, counter posed by flat roof modernist houses. The routine is well rehearsed at Kuurne - check the 'B' team car park at the sports centre, then up to the 'A' team car park at the start...
Saturday morning dawned bright and mild; this gives rise to mixed feelings - on the one hand you want a freezing, wet, death race, but on the other, it's no fun standing in the cold and wet for hours. One thing is sure - sunshine would have been of no use to Viktor at the Kuurne Brussels Kuurne!
We're at Gent-Gent. His long torso arches, like that of a tiger about to pounce on it's prey; elbows out, the black Specialized with it's hugely over-sized down tube - necessary to absorb the mega wattages this beast produces - surges forward.
Back Swinging. After what seems like both forever, and no time at all, we're headed to the final stanza of this year's Tour. Today's stage is another medium mountain stage, with only one Cat. 2 climb to deal with, followed by a short descent into the town of Gap. The day is a steady climb uphill for the majority of the day, with two sharp descents that may be of note for general standings-the descent that leads to the Col de Manse (the climb of the day) and then the 11km after the summit of the Col, which is all downhill to the finish.
2012 Tour de France: one sprint stage, one stage win for Mark Cavendish. The world champ was sensational in the finale of last night’s stage. He squeezed by “The Gorilla” Andre Greipel who ran off the back of a beautifully organised leadout train.
As the Commonwealth Games fade in our memory to be replaced by The Vuelta and Worlds we thought there should be a ‘last word’ on the biggest week of cycle sport in Scotland’s history. And who better to provide it than Scottish Cycling President, Alasdair MacLennan who kindly agreed to share his thoughts with VeloVeritas.
Chris Smart (Paisley Velo) explained to us that he’d no choice but to successfully defend his Scottish Olympic Time Trial Championship over the Meldons course in the Scottish Borders, recently. If he hadn’t, he’d only have been the champion for half a year; with the Trossachs being the championship race in October 2014 and the Meldons coming in April of this year.
If you were on the UK race scene in the late 70’s through to the mid-90’s then you’ll be familiar with the name ‘Paul Curran.’ The man could do the lot – he was British Champion in the team pursuit, madison, points, motorpaced, pro criterium, amateur road race, team time trial and hill climb.
Despite the Lance Armstrong Scandal, it’s not hard to dislike Lance Armstrong; he’s arrogant, controlling, self-obsessed, hypocritical and brought to cycling the horrors of bodyguards, blacked-out SUV windows, black socks and celebrity visits to the Tour de France.
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