Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne is the second race in the opening weekend of the Classics season, coming after Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday, which was won by Greg Van Avermaet. Kuurne is more of a sprinter-friendly race, with the final climb coming over 50km from the finish. Cyclingnews' Brecht Decaluwé and Patrick Fletcher were at the start line and spoke to some of the key protagonists ahead of a cold and windy day in the saddle.
"There’s many teams that didn’t win yesterday. We were the only team that tried to turn things around. Today will be even more nervous than yesterday because of the stronger wind. I hope everybody will be more tired so it will become a power sprint."
"Yesterday I was in the group with Etixx but my wheel broke so i was able to save some energy in the last 30km. Today it’s very windy. On the climbs it will split again. The last 80 kilometres are not so hard so hopefully I’ll be able to come back if it splits on the Kwaremont or before.
[A sprint against Caleb Ewan?] "Last year I sprinted against him in Norway. I saw he was very fast in Australia. I’m more used to this weather than him but he didn’t race yesterday so he probably has fresher legs."
"We are really confident about taking a big result. It's not easy because it's really windy and also we have a new climb after the second time up the Kwaremont. Luke Rowe is in really good condition and he'll stay with me, we'll stay at the front and try to do a good sprint. After Dubai I have a good shape, I've worked a lot on the track, I think I'm really explosive, maybe I lack some endurance, so we'll see how it is after 200km."
"I slept well. I’m finding it harder to sleep when I don't win. I went through the sprint once - I was surprised to see how big the gap was. Today I’m keen to race again. It’s a good race and there’s wind. I’ll quickly discover if my legs recovered well when the first echelons are formed."
"I'm feeling good, and had my first victory of the season at Ruta del Sol last week, so the form's coming bit by bit. It's important for the confidence to win early, so i hope to keep building towards Paris-Nice and Milan-San Remo. It's going to be the first confrontation [with the likes of Sagan and Kristoff] so i hope to be up there with those guys doing a good sprint at the end of it."
"I’m late, sorry for that," joked the world champion as he hurried to the podium for sign-on just a few minutes before the race start. "Thanks for waiting for me up on the podium. There's no excuse for it."
"Today I want to race. Caleb [Ewan] should try to stay with me in the hill zone. He can go very deep, especially if he smells the finish. I’m somewhat fast but he’s extremely fast. He rode here in the youth categories but we’ll have to see how it goes today. He’s got a couple of guys who take care of him today."
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