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