Start Location: Kuurne
End Location: Kuurne
Start Location: Kuurne
End Location: Kuurne
Sagan is more expansive than usual in his post-race interview, though he is coy when asked about his principal target this spring. "We will see. The big goal is to stay good. After that, whatever comes, everything is good."
Peter Sagan speaks to Sporza as he waits to mount the podium. "I wanted to go for a normal sprint, but they started attacking after crossing the finish. After that, I was in the front in the breakaway and I was really glad the guys in the front worked very well and in the end we came to the finish as five guys, it was good," he says. "It was a little bit of a slow sprint today because Trentin attacked early and then Rowe came to catch him. We stopped again on 500 metres to go, so it was a slow sprint, but I decided I would go from 250 metres."
1 Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
2 Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
3 Luke Rowe (GBr) Team Sky
4 Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal
5 Matteo Trentin (Ita) Quick-Step Floors
6 Arnaud Démare (Fra) FDJ
7 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC
8 Oliver Naesen (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale
9 Zdenek Stybar (Svk) Quick-Step Floors
10 Baptiste Planckaert (Bel) Katusha-Alpecin
Arnaud Demare (FDJ) won the sprint for 6th place ahead of Greg Van Avermaet. The chasers were within sight of the leaders after they stalled in the finishing straight, while the main bunch, led home by Dylan Groenewegen, wasn't much further behind.
1 Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
2 Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
3 Luke Rowe (GBr) Team Sky
4 Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal
5 Matteo Trentin (Ita) Quick-Step Floors
Sagan's brutal acceleration with 220 metres remaining seemed to catch out his breakaway companions. He opened a gap immediately and despite Stuyven's best efforts, the result was never in doubt.
Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) takes second place ahead of Luke Rowe (Sky).
Peter Sagan (Bora-Hangrohe) wins Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne.
Sagan opens his effort from distance and opens a gap...
Trentin is going to have to lead out the sprint...
Trentin attacks with 800 metres to go, but he isn't able to open much of a gap...
Sagan slows so much that Trentin is forced onto the front. The Italian has lost his position of power...
Trentin is happy to sit on Sagan's wheel from here on in. The world champion leads the group from one side of the road to the other and back again.
Sagan leads the break into the final two kilometres. The tension rises as the speed decreases...
The pace slackens slightly in the front group for the first time. Benoot and Stuyven might sense an opportunity to take a flyer.
Still the five leaders exchange turns on the front. The peloton is about to swallow the Van Avermaet group, meanwhile, but the gap is insurmountable at this point.
Benoot leads the group into the final five kilometres. After a disastrous showing for Lotto Soudal yesterday, Marc Sergeant's men have salvaged something from their weekend here.
The pace is still too high in this front group for anybody to consider trying to jump away, but with such a healthy buffer over the chasers, the shadow boxing will surely begin shortly.
The five leaders now have 45 seconds in hand on the Van Avermaet group. The winner will come from this quintet.
Trentin has probably done marginally less work on the front, purely by dint of the fact that he hitched a ride on Sagan's wheel when they first bridged across to Stuyven, but the Italian has been generous in his efforts since.
Each of the five riders on the front have impressed in their own way here. Stuyven showed the initiative to launch the move, Sagan and Trentin moved decisively to join him, while Benoot and Rowe had to be very strong indeed to bridge across alone.
Into the final 10 kilometres for Sagan and company, and they look to have a winning lead. 39 seconds the buffer.
Sagan tightens his shoes in anticipation of the finale, eyeing up the rest of the front group as he does so. On paper, he is the quickest sprinter of their number, though he did, of course, lose a sprint to Trentin in the opening week of the 2014 Tour de France...
Considering the numbers they had in the front group, BMC will be wondering quite how they allowed a five-man move featuring Peter Sagan to drift away from them. The men in red and black are fighting a losing battle, and trail the five leaders by 37 seconds.
The five leaders are all committed to the pace-making for the time being, and they stretch their lead out to 35 seconds, but they will surely grow cagier as the finish draws nearer.
Cofidis and Katusha lead the main peloton past the same point 1:20 down on the break.
Benoot, Rowe, Stuyven, Sagan and Trentin approach the finishing line and take the bell for the final lap. Their advantage over the chasers continues to grow and now stands at 30 seconds.
The spread of teams in the Sagan group means that the responsibility to marshal the chase is falling squarely upon BMC. The likes of Stannard, Roelandts and Stybar have no reason to help, while Arnaud Demare (FDJ) has no teammate to lend a hand. The gap grows to 25 seconds.
Sagan, Trentin, Stuyven, Rowe and Benoot are smoothly exchanging turns at the front, and they've nudged their lead out to 20 seconds over the chasers.
Stefan Kung leads the chase in support of his leader Van Avermaet, but the gap stretches out to 15 seconds. The trading of blows among the big hitters at the front, meanwhile, has seen the peloton's deficit stretch back out to 1:10.
Luke Rowe (Sky) also scrambles across to the Sagan group. This quintet has 10 seconds over the BMC-led chasers, while the bunch is now at 1:08.
Tiesj Benoot (Lotto Soudal) senses the danger and bridges across alone to the Sagan group. That's a hugely impressive effort from the young Belgian, and this is a very dangerous four-man group at the front of the race.
Sagan and Trentin join Stuyven at the head of the race. They have a gap of 10 seconds or so over the chasers, and they have stretched the buffer over the main peloton out to 54 seconds.
Peter Sagan takes off in pursuit of Jasper Stuyven, with Matteo Trentin locked onto his wheel.
Stuyven has a lead of seven seconds over the front group, with the peloton now 44 seconds back.
Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) attacks alone from the front group and opens a small gap. He may have been hoping for some company but, undeterred, he presses on regardless.
The strongmen in the leading group have begun to pull on the front once again, but it might be too little, too late. The gap is at 27 seconds to the main peloton.
Oliver Naesen leads the break through the finish line for the first time, and the Direct Energie-led peloton comes past the same point just 28 seconds later.
Roelandts et al are finally subsumed by the elite chasing group - but the peloton is now very much part of the equation again. The gap is down to just 35 seconds. Cofidis have Nacer Bouhanni in this group, Direct Energie have Coquard and Katusha have Kristoff...
Roelandts, Gougeard, Duchesne and Farazijn continue to dangle a few metres ahead of the Sagan-Van Avermaet group. They are 40 seconds ahead of the bunch.
The two groups at the front have almost merged. We have 24 riders, including Sagan, Van Avermaet, Stybar, Benoot, Demare, Rowe and Stannard at the head of the race, 41 seconds clear of the bunch.
The main peloton isn't quite out of this yet, with Direct Energie riding hard on the front for Bryan Coquard. They are only 1:00 down on the leaders and 50 seconds down on the elite chasing group...
Yves Lampaert (Quick-Step) drops back to his team car and picks up some energy gels to distribute among his teammates ahead of the finale. The race comes through the finish line for the first time with 30 kilometres remaining, before tackling two laps of a 15-kilometre finishing circuit.
Quick-Step have been doing the bulk of the heavy lifting in the chasing group, but they have allowed the gap to yawn out ever so slightly to 17 seconds.
The chasers are almost within touching distance of the six escapees, and we look set to have a group of around 25 riders contesting the finale of Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne.
Only 30 seconds separate the break and the chasers over the Nokereberg, as they face into the fast, 50-kilometre run-in to the finish in Kuurne. It's only a matter of time before these two groups coalesce. The main peloton, meanwhile, is some 2:00 back.
Sagan sits a yard or two off the back of the chasing group over the summit, but his smooth pedalling suggests that he is not under any real duress.
Roelandts leads the break up the Nokereberg, while Devenyns sets the pace in the chasing group 46 seconds behind.
Gougeard, Roelandts, Kirsch, Van Ginneken, Farazijn and Duchesne are sticking gamely to their task at the head of the race as they approach the Nokereberg, but their lead keeps tumbling. 46 seconds the gap.
Over the Holstraat, the chasers are just 50 seconds down on the leaders. Only one climb, the Nokereberg, remains, and it seems inevitable that the front two groups will merge shortly afterwards.
Baptiste Planckaert was not injured in the crash, and the Belgian has produced a fine chase effort to catch back up to the Sagan-Van Avermaet group ahead of the Holstraat. They are exactly a minute down on the leaders.
Stuyven sets the tempo in the chasing group on the Tiegemberg, meanwhile, and the break's lead is sliced still further, and now stands at 1:28.
Martin fell on his face and has a cut to his cheek. Remarkably, he remounts and continues, but he knows that his race is over as a contest.
The echelon fans across the road and Tony Martin (Katusha-Alpecin) clips a car parked on the roadside and crashes. Baptiste Planckaert (Katusha-Alpecin) and Guillaume Boivin also come down with him.
The gap drops inside the two-minute margin as the chasers crease into an echelon on the flat, exposed road before the Tiegemberg.
Devenyns leads the 20-strong chasing group onto the cobbles at Varent - and then immediately onto the pavement on the roadside. Despite some misgivings, Rowe and the rest of the group follow the Quick-Step riders onto the pavement. 2:13 the deficit to the leaders.
The six leaders hit a cobbled section... and immediately hop onto the pavement to their right. A commissaire waves an arm from the race car behind them, and they duly hop back onto the cobbles.
The Tiegemberg is the next climb on the agenda, a little under 7 kilometres away. Quick-Step and BMC are now beginning to drive the chasing group, and the gap to the remnants of the peloton is rising accordingly.
There isn't much cohesion in the chasing group, but they have closed the gap to 2:30. Sagan, Van Avermaet, Benoot, Rowe, Jasper Stuven (Trek-Segafredo), Tony Martin, Matteo Trentin, Dries Devenyns, Arnaurd Demare, Ian Stannard, Yves Lampaert, Zdenek Stybar, Luke Durbridge, Oliver Naesen (Ag2r La Mondiale), Silvan Diller, Stefan Kung and Jempi Drucker are among the names in this group.
Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), Arnaud Demare (FDJ), Tony Martin (Katusha), Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), Tiesj Benoot (Lotto Soudal) and Zdenek Stybar (QuickStep) are among the riders in this rather elite chasing group, which is 2:57 down on the leaders. The main body of the peloton is 3:50 down.
The break is on the smooth climb of the Kluisberg, and is down to just six riders: Gougeard, Roelandts, Duchesne, Van Ginneken, Farazijn and Kirsch.
Peter Sagan is also in this selection, which has swelled to around 30 riders on the flat road ahead of the Kluisberg.
Stybar, Kung and Benoot are caught by the group of 15, which includes Tony Martin (Katusha), Ian Stannard (Sky) - and quite a smattering of Quick-Step Floors jerseys. The empire strikes back...
Stybar, Kung and Benoot look set to be caught by a group of around 15 riders ahead of the next climb, the Kluisberg, and this could be the decisive selection of the race. The break, meanwhile, remains 3:25 up the road.
Stefan Kung (BMC) made it across to Benoot and Stybar right at the top of the Kwaremont and this trio has opened a small lead over the fragmented peloton.
Stybar and Benoot lead the front section of the peloton over the top of the Kwaremont and they begin the rapid descent 3:28 down on the nine leaders.
Ian Stannard (Sky) leads the front segment of the peloton on the Kwaremont's uneven sea of cobbles, before Zdenek Stybar (Quick-Step) attacks, with Tiesj Benoot (Lotto Soudal) on his wheel.
The peloton duly fragments as the speed ratchets upwards on the rapid approach to the Oude Kwaremont. The gap drops beneath four minutes.
There's an injection of pace in the peloton, and the break's lead is shaved by a minute and now stands at 4:30.
The break's lead remains stable over the Hotond and the Cote du Trieu, but we can expect an increase in intensity in the main peloton on the day's eighth climb, the Oude Kwaremont, which is little more than six kilometres away.
Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) is one of the top favourites for the win in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, especially if it comes down to a bunch sprint, writes Brecht Decaluwe. “At the start here there’s not a lot of wind but it might pick up during the day. Normally it’ll be a sprint of a bigger group but last year, Stuyven was really strong and stayed away. It’s a quite open race. Some riders are tired from yesterday, other sprinters didn’t race yesterday. Hopefully I’m good and able to win. If I have a chance today and I’ll try to grab it. First we have to make it over the climbs without being too far back. Otherwise it’s difficult to close it,” Kristoff said at the start in Kuurne.
On Saturday, Kristoff was part of the massive pile-up on the cobbles of the Donderij, and he abandoned Omloop Het Nieuwsblad soon afterwards. “I have some muscle damage in my legs and in my shoulder. I also hurt my ankle. I did not race full gas yesterday,” he said. “I did not do the hardest 50 kilometres. I managed to save my legs a little bit but at the same time I banged them up a little bit. I hope the legs will be ok but right now it feels a little bit stiff.”
Roelandts, Gougeard and company have safely negotiated the Kruisberg, the fifth of the day's climbs, and are heading towards the Hotond. The lead remains just shy of six minutes.
The peloton crests the summit of the Kanarieberg some 5:43 down on the nine leaders.
The nine leaders have padded out their advantage still further. The gap to the peloton now stands at six minutes as they head towards the Kanarieberg.
Arnaud Démare (FDJ) is a top contender in the event of a bunch finish today. The Frenchman made no impact at Omloop, placing 20th, but Kuurne provides another opportunity to end the weekend on a high. "The goal today is to get a result," he said. "The level is high. During the Belgian Opening Weekend it’s often hard to find your rhythm but this is a very nice race."
Gougeard, Roelandts et al are over La Houpe with their lead of 4:30 still intact.
It's worth noting that there's a race within a race in these early-season classics, as Pro Continental squads battle to earn invitations to bigger events later in the spring, as Boivin's Israel Cycling Academy teammate Dennis van Winden explained at the start. "Yesterday at the Omloop, all of our riders tried to get in the right move but it was really hard. We are hoping to get the final wildcard for the Tour of Flanders but I think we blew our chances yesterday by missing the right move," Van Winden said in Kuurne.
The gap has stabilised at 4:30 as the escapees continue towards the day's third climb, La Houpe.
The nine escapees are: Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r La Mondiale), Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto Soudal), Antoine Duchesne (Direct Energie), Guillaume Boivin (Israel Cycling Academy), Alex Kirsch (WB Veranclassic Aqua Protect), Sjoerd van Ginneken (Roompot), David Boucher (Pauwels sauzen – Vastgoedservice), Sander Cordeel (Vérandas Willems-Crelan) and Maxime Farazijn (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise).
We now have nine riders at the head of the race, and the peloton has knocked off the pace substantially. The break has a lead of four minutes.
The 22-year-old Maxime Farazijn is the son of the former professional Peter Farazijn, who raced for Lotto under Jean-Luc Vandenbroucke's management in the 1990s and later for Cofidis before hanging up his wheels in 2005.
The sextet establishes a small lead, while David Boucher, Sander Cordeel (Vastgoedservice-Golden Palace) and Maxime Farazijn (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise) look to bridge across.
Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r La Mondiale) tries another attack on the approach to the day's second climb, the Onkerzele berg. This time he has Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto Soudal) for company, and they are joined by Antoine Duchesne (Direct Energie), Guillaume Boivin (Israel Cycling Academy), Alex Kirsch (WB Veranclassic Aqua Protect) and Sjoerd van Ginneken (Roompot).
Peter Sagan lines up as a favourite in just about every one-day race he competes in, and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne is no different. He showed few hangovers from his lengthy stint at altitude at Sierra Nevada en route to second place yesterday, and downplayed the suggestion that he had been hampered by stomach problems in the finale.
Last year’s winner Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) was delighted to show up in his grandparents’ hometown of Kuurne with race number one pinned on his back, writes Brecht Decaluwe. “Pinning on race number 1 was a great sensation and hope that I’ll be able to repeat it on many other occasions,” Stuyven said. Whether or not he would be able to repeat his win remains to be seen. After the frustration of Saturday, the 24-year-old Stuyven hoped to take revenge in Kuurne. “It remains a question how the race will unfold but with the wind I hope it’ll be a good tough race and then revenge is possible. I hope it will not be a bunch sprint. Throughout the day last year, there were crosswinds blowing, but from the other side, although that doesn’t mean it’s easier. Yesterday I was really good, but I don’t know if I was good enough to ride solo. Then again, I said the same thing last year.”
Almost 60 kilometres into this edition of Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne and still the deadlock persists. The pace remains high and no breakaway attempt has been able to gain a foothold.
With a win in Kuurne, Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) can become the first rider to claim the Omloop-Kuurne double, writes Brecht Decaluwe. The 31-year-old smiled when asked about the feat at the start. “I’ll try it but history shows how hard it is. Yesterday we raced really hard for 70 kilometres. It’s normal that one day later, there’s a fall-off or decompression,” Van Avermaet said. “Racing today is tough on the body but I’ll take it as good training and hopefully I’ll be back in front. It’s always good to race in blocks of two days. It’ll be good to get ready for the Strade Bianche next week which is more important than today. It’s pleasant to come here without having to seek revenge after missing out at the Omloop. I hope to do well and make it safely through the day.”
It's little wonder we haven't had a successful breakaway attempt thus far. The peloton has covered a blistering 48.5 kilometres in the first hour of racing.
Alexander Kristoff's Omloop challenge was ended in the mass crash on the cobbles at Donderij, but the Katusha-Alpecin man is in the peloton today and looking to land victory in Kuurne after two successive second place finishes. His directeur sportif Torsten Schmidt was upbeat about his chances.
Oss and Gougeard's tentative escape is quickly shut down. As was the case at Omloop yesterday, it's taking some time for the first break of the day to take shape, as the peloton barrels along at a brisk pace during the opening hour.
The early breakaway attempt has petered out. Daniel Oss (BMC) and Alexis Gougeard (AG2R La Mondiale) are next to try their luck with an attack.
Quick-Step Floors manager Patrick Lefevere offered some more details on Tom Boonen’s illness at the start in Kuurne. Boonen was ruled out of Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne shortly before the start due to stomach problems. “It’s unfortunate that Boonen has to miss the race, but in these circumstances there was no choice,” Lefevere said. “It’s possible that Boonen picked up the virus at home because his twins have had similar problems.”
Bram Tankink and Yoann Offredo tangled and crash in the main peloton, but seemingly without consequence.
It wouldn't be Opening Weekend without a polemic blowing up over the UCI's repeated insistence that riders must not ride along sidewalks during races - and their repeated failure to apply said rule. The top three of Greg Van Avermaet, Peter Sagan and Sep Vanmarcke all rode along the sidewalk at times during Omloop, but despite protests from Trek-Segafredo directeur sportif Dirk Demol and Lotto Soudal manager Marc Sergeant, the result stood. Brecht Decaluwe has the full story here.
It's a bit windier and bit colder than it was for yesterday's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, but nothing like the kind of hardships endured by the peloton in the 2010 edition of Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, which was struck by Storm Xynthia. Only 26 riders finished on that occasion, with Bobbie Traksel emerging victorious.
Lawrence Naesen (WB Veranclassic Aqua Protect), Mark McNally (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Benoit Jarrier (Fortuneo-Vital Concept), Julien Stassen (WB Veranclassic Aqua Protect), Jonas Rickaert (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise), Berden de Vries (Roompot), Timothy Stevens (Pauwels Sauzen-Vastgoedservice) and Jimmy Janssens (Cibel-Cibon) are dangling just ahead of the peloton during these early exchanges.
A group of eight riders has established a lead of 20 seconds over the peloton, and it seems as though they might be granted a degree of freedom.
Boucher's solo attack doesn't last long, however, and he is quickly pegged back by the peloton.
The flag drops at kilometre zero and almost immediately David Boucher (Pauwels-Vastgoedservice) goes on the attack. A native of Maubeuge in Picardy on the Franco-Belgian border, he took Belgian citizenship following his marriage. Boucher was famously sent home from the 2015 Eneco Tour by FDJ for defying team orders to go on the attack, but such enterprise seems to be encouraged on Pauwels-Vastgoedservice.
If Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne has built a reputation as something of a sprinters’ classic, it is primarily because of the flat and fast run-in to the finish, but, as Quick-Step proved in 2014, for instance, there are enough hills scattered around the middle part of the course to make this into a very different kind of race. There are twelve hellingen in total:
1 Edelareberg (28km)
2 Onkerzele berg (68km)
3 La Houpe (83km)
4 Kanarieberg (90km)
5 Kruisberg (97km)
6 Hotond (99km)
7 Cote de Trieu (106km)
8 Oude Kwaremont (115km)
9 Kluisberg (122km)
10 Tiegemberg (138km)
11 Holstraat (143km)
12 Nokereberg (150km)
The flag drops and the peloton rolls away to start the 2017 edition of Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne beneath menacingly grey skies.
The disappointment around Kuurne's hippodrome is palpable. This is, after all, Boonen's final spring as a professional bike rider and he will never add to his haul of three Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne victories, but the start list is still liberally sprinkled with star quality, including world champion Peter Sagan and Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet. The full start list is available here. The peloton will be flagged away for the neutralised start at 11.45 local time, and should reach kilometre zero around 11.53.
The second leg of Belgian cycling's Opening Weekend traditionally gives those who fell short at Omloop a chance to dream it up all over again in Kuurne, and Patrick Lefevere's teams have followed this template more than most, from Johan Museeuw in 1997 to Mark Cavendish in 2015. This will, however, have to go down as a total loss weekend for Tom Boonen. After crashes forced him out of Omloop yesterday, the Belgian woke up this morning with stomach problems and will not start Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne.