Riders look back at Belgian opening weekend

Belgian and Dutch riders had a mixed reaction to the weekend's races, with both Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne being won by outsiders.

Nick Nuyens of Rabobank, who has won both races in the past, finished 55th on Saturday and joined the majority in not finishing on Sunday.

The 29-year-old rode well on Saturday, but was thrown back by three punctures – once early, once descending the Taaienberg, and then again near the end of the race. “That was crap! Because the legs were super. So you see, even with super legs, you aren't assured of anything,” he told sportwereld.be.

As for Sunday, Nuyens had not fully recovered from the previous day. “And this: that lousy weather! I just froze.”

Philippe Gilbert of Omega Pharma-Lotto had to settle for 26th place in the Omloop. He crashed during the race, coming away with “a few abrasions to my knee and elbow.” But the timing of the crash was bad, as there were only 40km to go, and it caused him to lose touch with the leaders.

Would he have been able to beat eventual winner Juan Antonio Flecha (Team Sky)? “Well, you never know. Flecha was really strong. I wanted to ride with him into Gent, because I'm faster than him in the sprint. But he just rode away from me.”

The 27-year-old did not ride Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne, and instead returned home to the better weather in Monaco.

The best Belgian finisher in Kuurne was Davy Commeyne of Landbouwkrediet-Colnago, who is better known as a cyclo-cross rider. That experience may have given him an advantage on Sunday.

“I've been through a lot in terms of weather, but that beat everything!” he told sportwereld.be. He rode for a long time in the lead group. Then the rains came. “It was as if the world was drowning. And when Traksel, Stannard and Flens got away, the motivation for our group was gone. I tried to escape but was not able to join the leaders.”

The 29-year-old ended up in 8th place, over five minutes down.

39-year-old Niko Eeckhout (An Post-Sean Kelly), who abandoned on Sunday, was the best Belgian finisher Saturday, in seventh place. He had fallen back on the climbs, but managed to make his way back up to the front, and mix in the closing sprint of the chase group. “A seventh place is not bad for an old Belgian,” he said.

“But I must be honest,” he said Saturday evening. “Today I feel five years older. What a difficult course that was.”

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