After the highs of victory at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, BMC Racing were dealt a reality check at Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, when despite numbers heavily in their favour, they missed the race winning move. That they were able to post four riders – half their team – in the top 20 was a sign that they had a squad that was riding strongly.
Omloop winner Greg Van Avermaet was their first rider to cross the line, finishing seventh after claiming second from the chasing pack, six seconds back from the winning group, with Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) taking the victory. Stefan Küng, Jempy Drucker and Daniel Oss also made it into the first 20 riders at 11 and 13 seconds down.
Van Avermaet tried twice to bridge across to the leading group but could never quite manage it. Speaking after the race, team directeur sportif Valerio Piva said that as soon as they had given Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) – who was in the lead group – more than a few metres, they were already on the back foot.
“I told my riders, he made the move last year,” Valerio Piva told Cyclingnews and Het Lastse Nieuws. “He took five metres, then 10 and then when the guys realised they tried to close, and they closed a little bit but then Sagan went with nobody in his wheel, and then we tried to close, and Benoot went. Everything went. I tell my riders all the time, that when you are chasing you are losing, you need to anticipate and that was the mistake today. We had to work to close the gap and the rest reaped the benefit.
“We made a mistake in this moment and, of course, against Sagan and those four riders in front it was difficult. They went so fast and they showed that they were the strongest.”
When the race began to split up over the ascents of the Oude Kwaremont and the Kluisburg with around 80 kilometres remaining, BMC, along with Quick-Step, dominated the group. Küng even went for the intermediate sprint, which offered up 2,500 euros to the first rider to cross the finish line when they began the opening local lap. The attacks served to diminish the group, but Piva believes that they paid for their early efforts.
“I think maybe our guys were a little euphoric and used a bit too much power in this move after the Kwaremont. I told the guys to take it a bit easy, that we needed to save the power for the circuit and that the group might come back,” he said.
“[Küng] is strong but he’s young and he wanted to show himself. He made a mistake in the sprint, I don’t know why he sprinted. Immediately after the sprint they attacked. I think that was a mistake of youth. They are so powerful but you pay.”
Piva notched this one up as a bad day out, and with several weeks until the Classics really ramp up, he is trying to look on the bright side. However, he wants the team to utilise the race as a learning exercise so that they don’t repeat their mistakes in the more important events in March and April.
“We made a mistake in this moment and we didn’t get a good result but I’m happy for the team and the quality was there,” said Piva. “We had four riders up there and it is good for the future. We needed to think about this mistake for the future.
“This is a lesson so I’m not angry about the bad result. It’s something that we need to learn together for the next races. We have some important races ahead.”