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Sunderland on Kuurne and the ProTour

By Jeff Jones in Gent

Tomorrow's Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne tips the balance in favour of the sprinters after Omloop Het Volk, with fewer climbs and a less technical finale. But that doesn't mean there will be a large peloton at the finish, especially with the icy weather conditions set to continue: although it should remain dry, a maximum of -2 is predicted combined with strong north winds. After Friday's team managers' meeting in Gent, Cyclingnews spoke to CSC director Scott Sunderland about the second race of the Belgian opening weekend.

"Kuurne is always very aggressive in the first 100 kilometres, because it's more or less flat on the big roads," said Sunderland. "Sometimes a break will go away and then it winds up on the Muziekbos. Then there's the Kruisberg and then it's more or less trying to be in good position there and keeping it on the run in down to the Kwaremont. If there's a bit of crosswind there, it puts it in a line and like last year, it splits on the Kwaremont and they go home with 30-40 riders."

In KBK, the tactics for some riders can change, depending on what happens on the previous day. "If the favourites are racing right to the line [in Het Volk], then you'll always get a few guys who are having a bit of a bad day on the first day or a bit of bad luck," said Sunderland. "Then they'll pull the pin and wait for Sunday. You've got a few guys who'll not do Het Volk and will purposefully get ready for Kuurne. The thing with in Kuurne, you've got a couple of finishing laps at the end, so most of the time it comes down to a bunch sprint."

We also asked about the effect that neither of these races being a ProTour race will have on the riders' motivation. "The riders that are here are the ones who are serious about the classics," explained Sunderland. "Most of them are Belgian teams naturally, but if you want to be good there, you want to be racing Het Volk. Some riders choose not to do it, because of the bad weather, but tactics wise or anything else because it's not ProTour...ProTour is great but prestige is prestige. The race still there, it's ingrown in the people. It's not because it's not a ProTour they're just going to forget about Het Volk. Riders have been riding this for years and years and there's folklore in these races. Most riders, you ask them, to win a race - that's what they're riding for. The money comes after but it's just that feeling. There's still prestige in being a winner."

On the other hand, the fact that ProTour teams can't score points in non-ProTour races could very well lead to situations that if they are not racing for the win, then they will sit up. "Probably they won't be racing for the points, because there's no UCI points any more," admitted Sunderland. "Top 20 possibly on the bigger races with a bigger prize purse, but definitely for the smaller races, forget about it. If there's not much money there, the riders aren't going to worry about trying to finish up there. That definitely will have an influence on that part."

Not chasing points all year could be a good thing, according to Sunderland. "That's the whole thing - it's taken that stress off. In that respect, it's going to be a lot better. Domestiques will come back in flavour again. You're going better working happening within the teams. We'll see how it unfolds. It's going to be interesting."

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