Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne will change in complexion in 2020 after the race organisation unveiled a new route that could make it more difficult for sprinters to remain in contention until the finish.
Although the revamped route features two climbs fewer than in 2019, the new section of parcours around Ronse means the race ought to be more selective than in the past.
"Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne is traditionally a race for the sprinters. I think it was time to do something else," race director Peter Debaveye said, according to the Belga news agency. "The pure sprinters are going to find a more complicated route beneath their wheels."
As ever, the race will start from the hippodrome in Kuurne, and the Volkegemberg and Eikenmolen will be the first two climbs on the agenda. Instead of taking on the Onkerzeleberg, the peloton will then head directly towards Zottegem.
"We wanted to use wider roads, thinking above all of the safety of the riders," said Debaveye, who said the race will take in an exposed section of road in Zwalm before tackling two new climbs: Mont Saint-Laurent and the Bossenaarstraat, which is the reverse side of the Taaienberg.
After La Houppe, the race takes in the trio of the Kanarieberg, Kruisberg and Hotond near Ronse, before tackling the Knokteberg and Oude Kwaremont, which now comes just 60km from the finish.
The Nokereberg will no longer be the final climb on the route. Instead, the race will take in the Kluisberg before a run-in via Moen and Bellegem that includes what the race organisation has described as a "nice, spicy cobblestone strip to digest".
After crossing the finish line in Kuurne for the first time, the peloton will take on a 15km finishing circuit.
Although Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne is traditionally more amenable to sprinters than Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on the preceding day, the race has witnessed its own share of breakaway winners in recent years. In 2019, Bob Jungels (Deceuninck-QuickStep) claimed victory after a long solo effort, while Jasper Stuyven held off the sprinters to win in 2016.
Two years earlier, Tom Boonen claimed victory from a severely reduced front group after QuickStep shredded the peloton in the Flemish Ardennes, while inclement weather has also contributed to some dramatic editions, most notably in 2010, when winner Bobby Traksel was one of just 26 finishers in a race hit by the remnants of cyclone Xynthia.
As ever, Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne forms part of Belgian cycling’s Opening Weekend. The 2020 edition takes place on Sunday, March 1, the day after Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise, Circus-Wanty Gobert and Total-Direct Energie have already earned wildcard places alongside the WorldTour teams, with four additional invitations still to be handed out.
Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne 2020 climbs: Volkegemberg, Eikenmolen, Bossenaarstraat, Mont Saint-Laurent, La Houppe, Kanarieberg, Kruisberg, Hotond, Knokteberg, Oude Kwaremont, Kluisberg.
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Barry Ryan is Head of Features at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation, published by Gill Books.