Storms that ripped through Europe on Sunday demolished the Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne’s field and caused organisers to shorten the race by 20 kilometres. While just 26 riders were able to finish the race, others both present and watching from afar were shocked by the tough conditions.
Quick-Step's director sportif Wilfried Peeters described the race as a 'hors category' event. "It's not only about being strong enough mentally to fight the elements. If your body can't stand the cold it's just not possible to complete such a race," Peeters said.
Cyclingnews was speaking to Johan Van Summeren at the finish line when the Garmin-Transitions rider noticed a Team Sky rider coming up the finish straight. It was Australia’s Mathew Hayman, who in 26th position was the final rider to cross the line, almost 14 minutes after winner Bobbie Traksel.
"There's another one coming in. Wow, that's crazy," Van Summeren said. Van Summeren was one of the 169 riders that withdrew during the race, the Belgian opting to save his energy as he abandoned at Oude Kwaremont.
Omega Pharma-Lotto's director sportif Herman Frison described the race as a battle for survival. The Belgian ProTour team was one of the stronger finishers in the field, with both Jurgen Roelandts and Leif Hoste finishing the event on a day when finishing was in itself an accomplishment.
"For our team it was looking good at a certain moment,” Frison told Sporza. “We wanted to take control of the race with Jurgen Roelandts and Leif Hoste. Then the wind came up and some riders can handle that better than others. From then on it was only about making it to the finish line."
Cervelo’s riders Roger Hammond and Dominique Rollin were also shocked by the conditions. Hammond said the atrocious weather was character building for the team’s riders.
"There is such a contrast in the weather conditions today to what I was riding," said Hammond. "One week ago, it was 30 degrees centigrade today it is three degrees and it seems like minus five, a really big difference in temperature. Yesterday we were lucky because the weather stayed dry and showed that we were strong. But today it's just the cold weather and that really makes a difference.
“Normally I don't mind the cold normally this kind of thing is ok for me,” he said. “But when you've been acclimatized to hot weather and then you suddenly do this, it's really hard. It's a real pity, me and the guys built character at the front, well anyway we tried to make a race of it.”
Canada’s Rollin was pleased with the outcome of his day. Rollin landed himself in the top five, finishing 2:59 behind Traksel when he crossed the line with team-mate Thor Hushovd.
"It was a crazy day on the bike," said Rollin. "The wind just got stronger and stronger and it got colder and colder. It reminded me of a couple of other big days I had on the bike and I did have the legs today. It was a great ride by the guys, we had four guys up there but I think the weather got the better of most of us unfortunately we finished fifth and sixth but it's still decent. "
The race jury was forced to cancel the pass over the Cote de Trieux during Sunday’s race, thanks to a fallen tree blocking the route. The removal of the day’s sixth climb left the race 20 kilometres shorter than planned. Organisers were also forced to remove signage along the finishing straight, due to fears wind would blow the fencing over.
Maps of the radical weather system show it moving through France, west of Paris before travelling directly through Brussels on its way to Germany. The weather system, known as Xynthia, claimed the lives of dozens in neighbouring France.
The 2010 race conjured images of the epic 2003 edition, when Roy Sentjens grabbed his biggest victory in Kuurne. Back then triple world champion Oscar Freire finished as last rider in 26th position, 8:32 minutes behind Sentjens. Providing a good test for what lay ahead of him, Traksel was one of the few finishers back then, arriving in 15th place around five minutes behind Sentjens.