Kuurne – Bruxelles – Kuurne 2015 Preview – Ciclismo Internacional

Kuurne – Bruxelles – Kuurne 2015 Preview

By David Hunter

Kuurne – Kuurne 197km

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After the fun of Omloop, most of the same riders prepare for another ride around Belgium.

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Despite the challenging parcours, the race traditionally ends in a sprint finish, but not always! We have climbs, cobbles and wind.

The forecast says we should get a dry day but lots of wind from the South. As the race mostly heads East and West, the riders will face challenging crosswinds, all day long. The roads are also very exposed, cutting through the countryside. The wind, not the parcours, is the biggest challenge for the sprinters.

The hardest of the climbs is Oude Kwaremont. It’s 2.2km at 4%. This doesn’t sound too hard but it is, thanks to the cobbles. The climb is a real leg breaker and usually sees an elite group of riders going clear. It was at this point in 2014, that OPQS blew the race apart. Stijn Vandenbergh hit the front and turned on the power. He took quite a few of his teammates with him and a few Belkin riders. This group stayed away for the rest of the race, with Boonen taking the sprint.

In past editions, we always get a group that escapes at this point, but the peloton usually brings them back. It really depends on who makes the break and who doesn’t.

This year most teams arrive with a sprinter:-

Etixx – Cavendish

Sky – Viviani

Lotto Soudal – Debuscherre

Katusha – Kristoff

Jumbo – Van Asbroeck

IAM – Pelucchi

Cofidis – Bouhanni

MTN – Farrar

Bora – Bennett

Wanty – Jans

Bretagne – Hutarovich

Europcar – Coquard

Southeast – Belletti

The only big team that arrive without a sprinter is BMC. They have to try every trick to stop the race ending in a big sprint. They do have quality in Van Avermaet, Gilbert, Drucker, Burghardt and Teuns, but they need to have a small group finish. It will be interesting to see what tactics they employ.

Etixx have the luxury of bringing in 3 fresh riders: Cavendish, Wisniowski and Lampaert with Vandenbergh, Terpstra and Keisse missing out. This is a huge luxury and one that will benefit the team. Cavendish won here in 2012 and has to start as one of the favourites. However, Etixx will certainly want to mark any attack and it’ll be up to the other teams to ensure the break is caught, if they manage to place a rider in the break.

Cofidis arrive with Bouhanni. It’s his first time at this race, something that didn’t stop Cavendish winning in 2012. I’m really not sure how he’ll cope with the cobbles. The climbs should be okay for him but I have serious doubts about his ability on the pave. He’ll certainly lose contact with the peloton but his team is built around him, so he’ll have a good chance of re-joining the main bunch.

Alexander Kristoff starts the race as the favourite. He’s already taken 4 stage wins and the Norwegian is very comfortable on the climbs and cobbles. He’s joined by his trusted lead-out men: Guarnieri and Haller. Simply put, Kristoff is flying just now. Katusha will stay beside him and put their men on the front of the peloton to try and bring back the break. Their presence is a big factor in the type of race we’ll get.

Jumbo will race for Tom Van Asbroeck (good chance of a top5)  and also have Sep Vanmarcke. If a break gets away, it’ll be a massive shock if he misses out. Brilliant on the cobbles, expect another day full of Vanmarcke attacks.

Elia Viviani has enjoyed a nice start to his season at Team Sky. Like Bouhanni, it’s his first time here. Sky have a very strong team and will ride for the Italian. Like Bouhanni, he’ll hope for a sprinter friendly race and no big attacks. If he gets to the finish, with the bunch, he has an excellent chance of success.

Another rider enjoying a fine start to the season, with a new team, is Yauheni Hutarovich. He had 2 top 5 finishes in San Luis and 3 wins in the Bongo. Not only that but he finished 2nd here in 2011 and 2012. Now riding for Bretagne – Seche, they’ll work very hard to ensure we get a sprint. Hutarovich has a good chance of making the podium.

Bryan Coquard is a very interesting rider. He had a great 2014 and is no stranger to the cobbles of Belgium. At 22 he’s still very young and it’s rare for such a young rider to win this race. He was a DNF in 2014, but I expect more from him this year. Having already won a stage this year, in Besseges, he arrives in form. Hopefully he can deliver a good performance.

With no Andre Greipel, Lotto will look towards Jens Debuscherre. The Belgian champion is a fast sprinter and will have the benefit of riding behind Greg Henderson. Riding in Belgium, wearing the national jersey is a huge motivation and he has a chance of making the podium.

Some of the other sprinters, who have enjoyed a good start to the season, might find this race a bit too hard. Both Matteo Pelucchi and Sam Bennett have started well but I will be impressed if they can manage to finish in the top 5 here.

Southeast arrive with Manuel Belletti. He won on his debut in GP Etruschi and has previously finished 13th here. He’s an in-form rider and another who would benefit from a sprinter friendly race. He’ll go a little unnoticed and could surprise a few. A strong contender for a top 10 finish.

Prediction Time

With so many teams having sprinters, I can’t see anything other than a sprint finish and a big one. Yes, we’ll get a break but I think with so many willing domestiques, a sprint is inevitable. In the sprint we should see a great battle between Cavendish and Kristoff. Cavendish already has 4 wins to his name, the same as Kristoff. The Norwegian arrives with his lead-out train, Cavendish doesn’t.

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The finish has a lovely straight for 2.5km before the final corner, 600 metres from the line. Cavendish not having Renshaw has to be a concern, but not as much as you would think. Even if Rens was here, he wouldn’t make the finish. Cavendish will rely upon Trentin, Boonen, Wisniowski and Maes. It’s a massive vote of confidence, in the young Pole, that he’s been selected for this race. He was with Cav in San Luis and Dubai, the team must have been impressed to throw him into this race. Inside the final 2km we should get a drag race between Etixx and Katusha, I’m not sure who wins. Cavendish does have the power to come from behind Kristoff, I don’t think Kristoff can do the same. If he’s to win, he needs to be on the front. For that reason, I’m going with Cavendish. Another win, in what is fast becoming a brilliant season.

David HunterFollow us in facebook https://www.facebook.com/CiclismoInternacionalLatinoamerica?fref=ts …

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