By Jeff Jones
Normally taking place the day after Omloop Het Volk, Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne forms the second half of the Belgian opening weekend. It's a different style of parcours compared with Het Volk, and often the hardened sprinters prevail in Kuurne, a West Flemish town on the outskirts of Kortrijk. As with Het Volk, the weather conditions will play a role, and even though the snow will probably stay away, it will still be extremely cold with temperatures hovering just above the freezing point.
After the start in Kuurne, the race heads due east to the turning point at Ninove (km 60), which is as close to Brussels (25 km) as the riders get. The outward journey is fairly uneventful, as nearly all the climbs are reserved for the second two thirds. After passing through Geraardsbergen, but not via the Muur, the real climbing begins at La Houppe (km 91). Then it's onto the Kanarieberg (km 98), Kruisberg (km 103), Oude Kwaremont (km 108), Mont Du Trieu (km 123), Tiegemberg (km 134), and the final climb, the Nokereberg (km 144).
As with Het Volk, there are still 45 km to go to the finish after the last climb, so a regrouping is possible, depending on how hard the race has been ridden up to this point. Following the cancellation of Het Volk last year, K-B-K was a little more intense than normal, and a group of eight riders got away in the closing kilometres to contest the sprint. Steven de Jongh (Rabobank), who relishes cold conditions, won ahead of Paolo Bettini and Gerben Löwik.
The wind often plays a factor in the finale, and this Sunday there are moderate northeasterly winds predicted, which will assist the riders coming home. At this stage, the forecast maximum is -1 for the centre and 1 for the coast, so it's going to be a real race for those best adapted to the conditions.
Cyclingnews will be covering the 58th Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne live, starting 14:30 local time (CET)/08:30 (USA East)/05:30 (USA West)/00:30 (Australia East).