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.
Interestingly, it’s one of the very few cobbled races Eddy Merckx didn’t win.
And whilst Styby’s Saturday success in Het Nieuwsblad was Patrick’s team’s first success since 2005, the QuickStep boys have often gained revenge on the Sunday with Tom Boonen – three times to make him ‘recordman’ – Nick Nuyens, Steven de Jongh and Mark Cavendish all taking home the Kuurne Brussels Kuurne donkey trophy.
Kuurne residents are known as ‘donkeys’ but not in disparaging terms, a tribute to their work ethic and stubbornness.
Kuurne Brussels Kuurne is much less glam than the Omloop with no glitzy presentations, the teams roll up, park the busses in the main street and pedal off to the sign on, through the crowd.
Stalking the mechanics is no problem, albeit we kept clear of the Bahrain dude with the evil eye; standing ready with the hand held compressor as his buddy smothered the chain with lube on what looked like it was going to be a wet day.
And if you thought the single ring dies with Aqua Blue – not so, Trek are experimenting with it.
And whilst you can’t get near the QuickStep or Lotto bus, Movistar’s Canyon’s sit sad and lonely – Spanish cobble guys?
Nee, nee, nee – not since Flecha anyway.
And the jury is out on big Conor Dunne’s De Rosa paint job over at Israel Cycling Academy.
The mood at the Kuurne Brussels Kuurne start is kinda chilled with Roompot DS Erik Breukink chewing the fat with old friends.
And ‘Le Gorille’ just hops on his bike right beside you to pedal up to the sign on.
Lithuanians Bagdonas (AG2R) – current national champion – and former champ, Konovalovas (F des J) were all smiles despite the rain.
Why, even baby-faced Dutch hitman Niki Terpstra (Direct Energie) had a smile.
And there’s always the crazy band at the start.
Our first sighting of the race was just 12 K in at the top of the cobbled Volkegemberg – definitely no smiles and the hurt well on.
We had to watch our toes as riders kamikaze dived for the smooth concrete gutter and brief respite from the horror of the Kasseien.
We waited to see the juniors through, a huge field with an eventual Dutch winner, four Brits in the top 10 and the best home boy 11th – questions will be asked.
Out in the open country and you come across little shrines – it would nice to hear the story behind each one.