For top guns like Tom Boonen, Mark Cavendish (Etixx-Quick Step), and Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) the semi-classic Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne is a side dish in their classics campaign. For other riders it’s their first ever classic, a dive into the unknown.
At the start of Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, a small team from New Zealand was getting their riders ready for the race. Most of the year the CCT p/b Champion System team is racing at lesser known events without TV coverage. The boys from Belgian manager Franky Van Haesebroucke were lining up with their camper and party tent next to the big team busses from the WorldTour teams. Clearly the budgets are different but it turns out their goals are completely different as well.
"It's not our goal – like many other Continental teams – to ride the Tour de France in a few years time. It's our goal to offer a chance to foreign riders to ride a Classics campaign. That's why we chose to ride under the flag of New Zealand," Van Haesebroucke said.
The manager rode throughout the world as a professional cyclist and used his contacts in New Zealand to found his team. "The federation helped to get the team up and running. There are a huge amount of great talents in New Zealand who are ready to take the step to come racing over here."
After Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, the team is racing the Dorpenomloop Rucphen, two races in Drenthe, the Omloop van het Waasland in Wanzele, the Handzame Classic, Route Adélie de Vitré. "We’re racing mostly in Belgium, Netherlands and France. The riders are staying in Hof Ter Cammen in Oudenaarde. The MTN-Qhubeka riders are staying there too. It's more or less a bed and breakfast for riders," Van Haesebroucke explained.
The team is sponsored by Champion System, a Hong Kong-based company for custom apparel. The company-owned Pro Continental team pulled the plug after the 2013 season. Now the company sponsors Van Haesebroucke's team, which features riders from multiple countries including Japan, Denmark, France, Belgium, New Zealand, Great-Britain, Germany and Lithuania.
Three weeks ago Japanese rider Yuma Koishi won the Asian championships in the U23 category, held in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand.