Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) has a special relationship with Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne. His grandparents hail from Kuurne, and he managed to win the race with a surprising solo move as a 23-year-old rider in 2016.
Before the start of the 2018 edition, he was called to the podium and received a painting from local painter Nesten.
During the cold and windy race, he featured in the breakaway group of 21 riders that dominated in the hill zone. At the last climb, the group enjoyed a bonus of 50 seconds on the peloton, but there were still 50 flat kilometres to cover including two local laps until the finish in Kuurne.
On Nokereberg, the final climb of the day, Stuyven set the pace, and at the top, he pushed on. Daniel Oss (Bora-Hansgrohe) marked his wheel and joined the move. Arnaud Démare (FDJ) hesitated but then opted to sit up and await the rest of the group.
Stuyven and Oss kept their advantage for about 20 kilometres while the large breakaway group was caught back by the peloton. Then, Oss punctured, and Stuyven was forced to continue solo.
"When I ended up alone I wasn’t very hopeful," Stuyven said while heading for the doping control in a warm doctor's cabinet near the finish line.
"It was very hard and even further than when I won. While still with Oss I did have high hopes. He's a really strong rider. Before he punctured, I was keen on showing off a great 'numéro' with the two of us. It was sad that he punctured," Stuyven said.
It was impossible to fight up against the wind and the peloton, and at ten kilometres later he was caught back. Meanwhile, during the first crossing of the finish line, Stuyven did pick up the cheque of €2,500.
"I didn't start today or attack today with the intermediate sprint prize as a target. It's a bit of a consolation prize. I was able to show myself today. The wind wasn’t ideal for attackers. The gap was never big enough on a peloton that kept in control. It was a good effort, but it can't always work out."
Stuyven glanced back on the Belgian classics opening weekend and was satisfied. He won the bunch sprint for fourth place at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday. He missed the breakaway move with all the favourites that kicked off on the Muur.
"I hit the Muur in about 15th position, but then someone crashed, forcing me and Edward Theuns to stop. It's a pity because I had the legs to go with them," Stuyven said on Saturday. "For the chasers, it was good that a strong rider was able to ride away, so they started doubting. That was my luck. I rode a very good sprint. Too bad I once again missed out on the podium."
Stuyven didn't like the criticism in the Flemish media that the Belgians disappointed. He certainly didn't disappoint because he showed off his good form two days in a row. "I can't complain. There's room for improvement. This time last year I was going smoother, but I'm satisfied about my current form," Stuyven concluded.