Hello and welcome back for our live coverage from Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne. Yesterday saw Ian Stannard claim the win in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, and with Sky having had success in Kuurne before, can they do it again?
Good morning and welcome back for the second in our back-to-back races this weekend. As we said, yesterday saw Stannard win in Omloop but Kuurne’s a different race, with a modified field and a parcour that throws up a number of news challenges.
The team buses are parked up and riders are busily signing on so let’s take a moment to run through the
Due to the adverse weather of 12 months ago the race was cancelled so there's no 2013 defending champion on the start line. Tom Boonen, a multiple-time winner of this race, wears dossard number 1 though, and he'll want to put in a respectable performance after an 'off-day' in yesterday's race.
Terpstra, one of the strongest riders in yesterday's race is also set to start, but Omega are also here with Andrew Fenn. A few people have him down as a dark horse for today and he's had a couple of top tens already this season.
Yesterday's winner Ian Stannard is also set to start. His legs might just be a bit tired after yesterday's efforts but with Boasson Hagen in the team as well as former race winner Chris Sutton in the line-up, Sky have a number of options for the sprint.
Perhaps the clear favourite for today is
. He's already had his customary strong start to the year with a number of wins but today marks an important marker in his season. No Cavendish, no Kittel, and no Sagan so if the German can make sure he's near the front with 300m to go, he could, and should win today. Though as we saw yesterday with Stannard and Van Avermaet, the result of a sprint is never certain.
We're about 10 minutes away from the official start of the 197km race.
The riders are now starting to gather on the start line. Blue skies but the temperature is still pretty low with arm warmers, gloves and the odd snood out on show.
Katusha were fairly quiet in yesterday's race but in Alexander Kristoff they have a genuine contender for the win today. He was ninth here a couple of years ago when Mark Cavendish won and has picked up a win already this season in Oman. If he can pick the right line in the sprint then he could give Greipel a lot of trouble.
As for Garmin, they have Tyler Farrar and Steele von Hoff. On their day both riders can be up there but it will be interesting to see who is the lead out man today. The team have a number of riders who could play a hand in the early break though too.
Arnaud Demare looked strong yesterday, he just lacked that extra edge to make the winning break but with Bryan Coquard (Europcar) in action today as well the French have a number of riders to watch for.
And they're off. 197km to go with a number of climbs along the way. It's a race that typically suits the sprinters but with a number of riders having points to prove after yesterday's race, we could always be in for an upset.
The riders tackle the first climb quite soon, the Edelareberg, and at 1.5km in length it's an opportunity for an early break to form.
You can watch this video of the 10 riders to watch from this weekend.
While you can subscribe to the Cyclingnews Youtube channel, for free, right here too.
180km remaining from 197km
So far the pace is too high for any serious moves to take off, a bit similar to yesterday, and the peloton are still together with 17km covered so far.
There's a two man move clear but they only have ten seconds on the field at the moment. It looked as though a much larger split was about to happen but the majority of the bunch are back together.
This duo have 18 seconds now. They are Silvan Dillier (BMC) and Vladimir Isaychev (Katusha). It's the second day in a row that the Russian team have positioned a man in the early break.
The gap is down to 12 seconds as the leaders head towards the first climb. Will we see a counter attack bridge up to the leaders?
The answer is yes with two more riders joining the break. The bunch is only at 10 seconds though so it's still all touch-and-go at this stage.
The leaders are nearly over the top of the climb, the bunch hot on their heels.
There are a couple of splits now with four riders clear, two chasing and then the bunch at just 8 seconds. The peloton aren't willing to let this early move go just yet.
The second group on the road has been caught leaving us with four leaders, and the peloton at 1'08 with 156km to go.
So our four leaders are Vladimir Isaychev (Katusha), Silvan Dillier (BMC), Gert, Joeaar (Cofidis) and Michael Vingerling (Team 3M).
Vingerling is a track specialist, he's won multiple titles on the boards, including a junior worlds title in 2008. Now 23, he's in his second season with the 3M team.
Dillier came through the ranks at the BMC development team and is in his first full season at the WorldTour level. He's a decent track rider who can time trial and of course he won a stage in last year's Tour of Alberta. Like Vingerling, he's just 23 years of age.
150km remaining from 197km
The four leaders now have two minutes over the peloton.
45.6kph for the first hour of racing with the lead to the break now out to three minutes.
Jõeäär, 26, has gained most of his results in his home nation of Estonia but as a second year pro with Cofidis this a big year for the rider. He won the Tour of Estonia last year.
Omega Pharma are currently on the front of the peloton. They have a bit of a point to prove in certain corners. They were on the front foot for most of yesterday but Boonen failed to show his form and he'll want to deliver a better account of himself today.
Sky on the other hand were excellent. The way Boasson Hagen rode will have pleased the team immensley and in truth they could have won even if the Stannard break had been brought back as you would predict Boasson Hagen winning any sprint involving the top five riders.
Sky of course have done well during this week before with Flecha, Cavendish and Sutton all winning. That's never translated into wins in the major spring races but yesterday was probably one of the most comprehensive one day displays the team has mustered since their debut season in 2010.
137km remaining from 197km
137km to go and the gap to the bunch is at 3'47.
Arnaud Démare (FDJ.fr) had a good race in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday. The fast French rider featured in the eight-man lead group at the Molenberg and then again in the five-man lead group on the Paddestraat. He missed the two late breakaway attempts and sprinted to a tenth place in his Omloop-debut. On Sunday morning Démare seemed well recovered from the cold and the hard race. He was confident that his FDJ.fr team would be able to get a good result in Kuurne.
“We have our weapons to fight André Greipel. I think it’ll come down to a sprint of a reduced peloton,” Démare said.
It's a similar scenario to yesterday with break allowed around four minutes by the bunch, but little more than that in terms of time. 121km to go.
The foul weather conditions during the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday took its toll on Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto-Belisol). The Belgian rider arrived at the finish with a frozen eye. On Sunday morning his left eye was still in a bad shape. “It has never gone away since they got frozen last year,” Roelandts said, referring to the corneal damage he sustained at last year’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. “I always feel it but yesterday was pretty bad again.” Roelandts said the injury didn’t affect his racing in the Omloop.
He featured in the lead group out of which eventual winner Ian STannard (Sky) and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) escaped. Roelandts regretted that he didn’t react when Sep Vanmarcke (Belkin), Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-Quick-Step) and Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) launched a counter-attack. “If these guys go I should not have hesitated. Afterwards everybody had somebody in front except our team. There’s always a next time I guess,” Roelandts told Cyclingnews on Sunday morning in Kuurne. Roelandts finished thirteenth in Ghent on Saturday. Today he’ll work in support of André Greipel, probably featuring as lead-out man.
The leading four riders are still tapping away and working well together. They're about to hit the feedzone with the peloton at 3 minutes.
The peloton, as you might expect, take a bit more time as they navigate the feed zone. It allows the break to extend their advantage out to 3'37.
Weather wise, the sun is still out, and there are only a few clouds in the sky. There's little wind so it's perfect racing conditions for this time of year.
The four leaders press on as they approach the next climb La Houppe. 2.8km in length with just an average gradient of 3.3 per cent. There are some sections at 10 per cent though.
For the first time today Lotto move up to the front of the peloton. The gap to the break drops by around 10 seconds as Greipel's men get to work.
There's been a crash near the back of the peloton and a number of riders are down, including BMC's Taylor Phinney.
Meanwhile Lotto continue on the front, the gap now under two minutes as the four leaders start to climb.
A reminder of our video here, in which we highlight the riders to watch out for this weekend.
While here's our report, results and photos from yesterday's women's Omloop.
Jens Debusschere is near the front, he's perhaps a plan B if Greipel isn't in contention for the sprint.
Phinney is out of the race, according to reports with the American off to hospital for checks. As soon as we know more we'll bring it to you.
Arndt was another faller in that crash. He's sporting a pair of torn shorts but he's back on the bike and racing again.
89km remaining from 197km
89km to go and the gap is at 2'12.
The signs are that the wind is picking up as the leaders on the front of the peloton begin to hug the left hand side of the road.
Belkin have joined Lotto on the front of the bunch, the Dutch team one of the best when it comes to riding in cross winds.
There are still riders trying to make their way back from that crash that involved Phinney. They should make contact fairly soon.
There are around 25-30 riders in the chase group.
As BMC move up and join Belkin at the front.
Knees and Rowe have moved up as well and suddenly there's more pressure on the front of the peloton. They have a climb coming of course so they all want the best position.
IAM Cycling are the team leading the chase in the group behind the main bunch.
At the head of the race the four leaders are now climbing, the gap at 1'40.
Arm warmers off for a number of riders in the bunch as the racing starts to hot up. Dillier out of the saddle, and leading the break, is doing an impressive job for the BMC brigade.
At the back of the bunch the riders grind to a stand still as Van Avermaet and Vanmarcke set the pace.
Over the crest of the hill and it's Marcus Burghardt who lifts the pace, with the entire bunch now strung out behind the German, and former Tour de France stage winner.
And now Belkin have lit the race up and there are gaps all over the place. The sprinters need to pay attention here and make sure they're near the front.
All the danger signs were there: Belkin came to the front a few minutes ago when they noticed that the wind picked up. There was an acceleration into the last climb and now anyone caught out is going to have a hard time coming back.
Belkin have forced a split and there are only 15 riders in the front group.
Boonen is there. Four Belkin riders, a couple of BMC chaps too.
More riders have made the split but there's another group of around 40 riders cut adrift.
Boonen has at least one teammate with him. Van Avermaet is there too. The question is, who will help Belkin?
Greipel is there too.
Greipel won a stage in De panne a few years ago, and he did it by going on the attack. He knows how to ride these races, and he's more than just a pure sprinter.
It's all starting to come back together but that was a real warning for the rest of the peloton, especially the riders suffering from yesterday.
The four leaders are climbing once again but the gap is now less than a minute.
74km remaining from 197km
74km to go, the gap at 55 seconds.
As Marcus Burghardt once again sets the pace on the climb. Omega are starting to take control though.
And it's Omega now on the front as there's another stall at the back of the peloton.
With Michael Vingerling the small Team 3M will be delighted to have made it into air time. That time in the picture will soon be over. Before the start team director David Philips told Cyclingnews about the team's ambitions. "It'll be hard. There's slight crosswinds all race long. Our ambition is to be in the breakaway and then a top-20 result would be fantastic," Philips told Cyclingnews.
And over the top of the climb and this time it's Omega who split the field. Riders are scrambling to make it to the group but there are so many tired legs out there. Omega are trying to weaken as many sprinters as possible here.
Vandenbergh is so big he almost takes up the entire width of the road, his huge frame smashing along the cobbles as Boonen looks back to check on the damage created.
The four leaders have just 23 seconds.
Vansummeren has made this small split
And Belkin and Omega have the numbers here. Can they work together?
There are maybe 9 riders in the Boonen group but they're all working well together.
Vanmarcke is there for Belkin and he has a number of teammates. Lotto, Sky and BMC have to chase this one down.
There's still a long way to go but this could be pivotal in the outcome of the race.
The four leaders have just 10 seconds as Vansummeren takes a turn and brings them a little bit closer.
There's around 15-20 seconds between the Boonen/Vanmarcke group and the chase behind..
Belkin have men in the main chase group and they're just trying to slow things down.
David Millar, by the way, is wearing special shoes for every race this year and auctioning them for charity. You can read about it here.
The first break has been caught and now the lead between the Boonen/Vanmarcke group to the peloton is 42 seconds.
And it's Stannard who is setting the pace in the bunch but he's not getting much help at the moment. Lotto have missed the split with Greipel nicely tucked in. There's no reason to panic just yet but they need to start working.
64km to go and the gap is at 44 seconds.
64km remaining from 197km
The leading group consists of Tom Boonen, Stijn Vandenbergh, Matteo Trentin, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), Sep Vanmarcke, Moreno Hofland, Maarten Wynants (Belkin), Johan Vansummeren (Garmin-Sharp), Yves Lampaert (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise) and Michael Vingerling (Team 3M).
The leaders are climbing and the gap is at 48 seconds so the bunch are holding it.
Boonen hasn't done a turn on the front but his team are working well together.
And it's still Stannard on the front, doing all the chasing.
Tom Boonen, Stijn Vandenbergh, Matteo Trentin, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck, Nikolas Maes (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), Sep Vanmarcke, Moreno Hofland, Maarten Wynants (Belkin), Johan Vansummeren (Garmin-Sharp), Yves Lampaert (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise)
The gap creeps out to 55 seconds as Stannard does all the work on his own.
BMC and Lotto will be happy to see the Brit burn himself out but they need to think about chasing once the climbs are finished with.
All the Omega riders are on the front now as they hit the next flat section. Belkin through in some support with Vansummeren helping too.
61km remaining from 197km
61km to go and the gap is now a minute. Lotto have a number of riders further back from the main peloton so Greipel is going to have to wait for support. But Sky hit the front with reinforcements.
And now Lotto move up and join Sky at the front so it's Omega and Belkin vs Sky and Lotto.
A change of bottles for the riders in the lead group as they settle in, with the gap at 1'05.
Eisel is now on the front of the chase group, the gap at a stable 1'04.
FDJ are waiting in the wings. They have a number of riders in the chase group but so far they've not come through and helped with the chase.
As the Boonen group add another couple of seconds to their advantage. The gap now out to 1'06.
There's just one more climb to come before the finish. After that it's flat all the way to the finish. There's still a long way to go and the bunch will hold the advantage but they'll need FDJ to turn the tables.
Onto the final climb for the leaders, the gap now 1'09.
The climb is done, it's was only 350m in length as the bunch hit the foot of the ascent.
Lotto lead the chase, Sky close by as the gap moves to 1'11.
Belkin and Omega against Sky. Throw in Saxo and it would be just like Saint-Amand-Montrond.
Lampaert is given a bottle by the Omega team car and with 47km to go the gap is at 1'09.
Wynants drops back to his Belkin team car and picks up some food, as well as some advice. Belkin have moved off the front for now so it's just Omega who are driving the group.
Knees is on the front of the chase now and the gap has come down to 1'05.
The race is going passed where Dwars Door Vlaanderen finishes.
44km remaining from 197km
And the gap ticks under a minute for the first time.
Belkin have started to work again with Omega, the lead now at 57 seconds.
And Katusha now join the chase, they'll be working for Kristoff of course.
Paolini takes a short turn on the front as Stannard and the Eisel follow suit.
It's a long flat stretch of road so the chase can see the riders up ahead. That will help them.
More signs of a cross wind so there's a chance that the chase group might split once more.
37km remaining from 197km
37km to go and the gap is at 54 seconds. The chase have taken 10 seconds in around 10km.
Everyone in the lead group is working, both Boonen and Belkin fast man Hofland.
Vansummeren talks to his DS. There's a slight headwind at the moment so that's going to be factor even though both groups are going to face the same conditions.
The work rate at the front is exceptional though, while in the chase there are couple of riders skipping turns. Eisel is on the front, he grits his teeth and then moves over to allow a Lotto rider to set the pace.
34km remaining from 197km
34km go to and the gap is up to 59 seconds.
And now the gap is 1'01.
The Topsport car, or rather the driver in it, hands some food for Vanmarcke, who used to ride for them of course. There's a two-circuit loop now before the finish as Paolini takes yet another turn.
There are a few rocking shoulders in the chase group, Knees can't have much left in the tank by the manner in which is swung off after his last turn.
Paolini has gone too fast and he's split the chase. Knees starts shouting and now the chase needs to organise itself again. That's going to cost a few seconds.
The gap has come down again though, it's at 54 seconds.
30km remaining from 197km
30km to go and the gap is at 54 seconds.
And now the gap has moved back out to 1'01.
26km remaining from 197km
There are 26km to and Katusha and Lotto are doing most of the chasing now. Sky have moved back a bit for the time being.
Hofland takes down a gel as Vandenbergh takes one huge pull on the front of the group. The gap is still at 1'01.
Vansummeren continues to work as well but the Garmin rider is up against it today. He'll need to think about the finale at some stage, unless he's riding for a top ten place.
Another couple of seconds for the break with the gap out to 1'03.
Boonen and Hofland, on paper are the fastest men in this group and they'll probably be happy to go up against each other if it comes to the finish. Paolini, meanwhile, takes one more turn on the front of the peloton.
Still no sign of FDJ in this chase and with 23km to go the gap is at 59 seconds.
Hofland is in form of course, he's won already this season. We saw a bit of an upset yesterday in the sprint and perhaps it can happen again. Hofland didn't race yesterday, Boonen did.
Into the final 20km of racing and the gap is still at 1'01.
Lampaert has been working throughout the break, and he takes another quick turn on the front before an Omega rider comes through.
The leaders are now approaching the final lap of the circuit. There's the bell.
Lampaert leads them over the line, 16km to go.
Giant have posted a man on the front but it could be too late.
14km remaining from 197km
14km to go and the gap is at 1'04.
And FDJ finally jump in and start working. Sky have totally given up though.
The leading group might be tired, but they're still working well together. Each rider is taking a turn as Vansummeren takes a look at Boonen as he comes through.
Boonen takes a turn, then Trentin.
13.km to go and the gap is still over a minute.
Up to 1'06. Surely it's all over for the bunch now.
Cougie @Cougie 18m
@dnlbenson @Cyclingnewsfeed is this a rerun of American Flyers or KBK ? I can't tell pic.twitter.com/C2HnKSclba
Katusha continue to chase but Lotto have moved away from the peloton as the gap is now up to 1'09.
A few tired legs, as you would expect, in the break with a couple of the Omega riders near the back and starting to struggle.
But the leaders are all back together as they take a couple of tight corners. Who will be the first to attack?
Boonen takes a turn. We might not see him at the front again until the sprint.
Into the final 9km of racing.
It's been a while since Hofland has taken a turn as Vansummeren follows him in the group.
All five Omega riders are now on the front and setting the pace.
6km remaining from 197km
Just over 6km to go as the leaders head to the finish. Vansummeren hits the front.
The second group is at 1'12.
Lampaert moves to the back of the group. Is he going to attack and try and catch everyone off guard?
4km remaining from 197km
Less than 5km to go.
Wynants attacks and QuickStep need to shut this down.
Trentin pulls the move back. 3km to go.
omega will want to keep the pace high.
Vandenburgh has a gap and Belkin have to chase.
It's all back together but Trentin has blown.
Omega still on the front. Boonen and Hofland both watching each other.
So it's 4 vs 3 plus Lampaert and Vansummeren.
1.5km to go.
Vanmarcke swings over and takes a look. 1km to go.
One more corner to go and then a sprint into a headwind. Here we go.
Vansummeren attacks but is caught.
So close but Boonen raises his hands.
What a messy sprint, Omega seemed to pick two different lines in the finale, Boonen had to do a bit of work to get back with his teammates but he had Hofland on his wheel the entire time.
Boonen opened up the sprint with around 200 meters to go and Hofland was closing on him. We've not seen a finish line shot but Boonen looks confident.
It looks like Kristoff won the bunch sprint.
Hofland takes second then but no confirmation on third yet.
Third went to Sep Vanmarcke.
1 Tom Boonen (Bel) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team 4:28:55
2 Moreno Hofland (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling
3 Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Belkin-Pro Cycling Team
4 Yves Lampaert (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen – Baloise (PCT)
5 Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team
6 Maarten Wijnants (Bel) Belkin Pro Cycling
7 Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Bel) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team
8 Nikolas Maes (Bel) Omega Pharma - Quick Step Cycling Team
9 Matteo Trentin (Ita) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team
10 Johan Van Summeren (Bel) Garmin Sharp
Another thrilling race on the back of what happened yesterday in Omloop. This time Omega bounce back with a real show of force. It's amazing how well that team can perform when their leader is really on top form.
Thanks for joining us today. You can find our report, results and photos from today's race, right here.
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