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Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne 2018

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Welcome back! We've got another helping of cobbles for you today with Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne. I hope you're not too full after yesterday. 

It is another very cold day out there in Belgium as the 'Beast from the East' keeps Europe cool. No snow, thankfully. The sun is out and we're in for another great day of action. 

The organisers issued a slight update on the weather conditions a little earlier, saying that there is a bit more wind out than previously expected. Thankfully, there should be more of a tailwind today, compared to yesterday's headwind, which made it rather difficult for those trying to go on the attack. 

Oliver Naesen is expecting a good battle today. The Belgian champion was in the key move yesterday but came away empty handed from it all. He's hoping for much more today. 

We are just a few minutes away from the start in Kuurne. See exactly who is in the peloton today with the start list, here.

Here is the view from today's start line

The peloton is off through the neutral zone, which is three kilometres today. 

This is what the riders will be facing today with the Wolvenberg the first climb of the day at 32 kilometres. 

Thanks to Lotto Soudal, this is the menu for today. Note the sticker below. The riders are going to have to ride at the limit if they want to combat the cold today. 

Today's final stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour is closing in on its conclusion with just 50 kilometres remaining. There is a breakaway up the road with more than six minutes on the chasing peloton. 

There have been a number of attacks already but nothing has managed to go clear in the opening kilometres. The peloton is keeping up a fast pace as the thermometer dips to 0 Celsius. 

Defending champion Peter Sagan is not present today as he completes an altitude training camp ahead of his Classics debut. While they don't have a big leader, Bora-Hansgrohe has a solid line-up at Kuurne. German champion Marcus Burghardt was their best finisher yesterday in 10th place.

With no Sagan and Mark Cavendish out of action, although he was never meant to race this weekend, there is only one former champion in the peloton today. 2016 winner Jasper Stuyven finished fourth yesterday and second here last year. He leads Trek-Segafredo, with Giacomo Nizzolo back after his crash yesterday. 

10 kilometres in and we're still without a breakaway despite a barrage of attacks. 

There will certainly be an incentive to attack as the riders reach the final local laps with a nice 2,500 Euros on offer for the first rider to enter the local laps. 

An interesting rider to watch today is Fernando Gaviria. He crashed yesterday after running over a stray bidon just before the Muur but he's back in the bunch today as part of a strong Quick-Step Floors line-up. 

This is Quick-Step Floors line-up for today's race. Note that Philippe Gilbert is not racing today. Dries Devenyns has also replaced Florian Senechal after the Frenchman fell ill. 

If you missed yesterday's race then you missed a corker, but you can read up on what went down with our report, with full results and a gallery.

It sounds like we might have a breakaway here in Belgium. A group now has a 30-second gap on the bunch and the brakes have been put on a little in the bunch. Will this one stick?

There are seven riders up front with a 1:15 gap on the bunch now. Astana reports that Truls Korsaeth is one of them, but we have no other names for now. 

170km remaining from 198km

The leaders now have more than two minutes on the bunch as the tackle the first climb of the day, the Wolvenberg. 

This is the second straight day in a breakaway for Van Bilsen after he made it into yesterday's 10-man move. With no serious contenders, the breakaway is the best option for the Cofidis team. 

Over in Abu Dhabi, Andre Greipel is one of the last three from the breakaway on the one and only climb of the race. This is a good sign for him going into the Classics. 

A small change to that front group as it comes down the race radio that it is Matteo Bono in the front group and not Marco Marcato. 

I spoke about Gaviria and his crash earlier. Here is what the Colombian had to say at the start of the day. 

The first hour of racing was slightly slower than yesterday's offering with an average speed of 39.5kph. The icy winds have probably not helped. 

After 42km, the breakaway has just 2:10 on the bunch. Just the Wolvenberg done with so far, the Onkerzele is up next. 

If you were under any doubt as to how cold it is, here is a worker de-icing the road on the Kanarieberg earlier today. 

Over in Abu Dhabi, Valverde has taken the victory on the final stage, along with the overall classification. Here is how the stage finished.

This is what that stage did to the overall classification in Abu Dhabi. 

Greg Van Avermaet missed out on the podium yesterday. Kuurne provides him a chance to get his own back but he says that it is more about finding form in Kuurne than taking the win.

The peloton keeping a very watchful eye on the leaders. They've given them little more than two minutes and don't look like they'll allow them to have much more. 

The Onkerzele berg is up next with 132km still to run to the line. It is one of the longer climbs of the day at 2.1km and it averages three per cent with a maximum of 7.5 per cent.

In the second hour of racing, the pace has dropped slightly to 38kph. 

Arnaud Demare was fairly active in yesterday's race, but he missed the key selection when the race broke up on the Muur. He's expecting something a little different today. 

The gap is still holding at about two minutes. It is a brutally cold day out there and that is having an impact. How long will this lead group co-operate with such a slim margin? Will we see some of the stronger riders group together and form another attack?

The peloton is ticking off the climbs now. They're approaching Kruisberg with just over 100km to go. The gap has dropped significantly to 1:35 with Quick-Step Floors doing a lot of work on the front. 

Yesterday, Greg Van Avermaet was looking to join the short list of riders that have won Omloop Het Nieuwsblad three times. The race didn't go down as he'd hoped and the Belgian said afterwards that the headwind and different course played against him. Read what he had to say here

A puncture for Oliver Naesen and he's got to stop to get a new wheel. 

Apologies, it wasn't a puncture for Naesen. It was actually a problem with his chain. It appears that the chain dropped and got jammed, forcing him to collect a new bike. He gets a shove to help him on his way and is almost pushed off his bike. Thankfully, he's on his way back to the peloton.

95km remaining from 198km

There has been a push on by the riders out front and they've extended their lead to 46 seconds. 

A crash in the peloton and there are about five riders down. It looks like Marcus Burghardt is one of them. 

The incident happened right near the head of the bunch, which was strung out in one long line and a replay shows that one of the Sport Vlaanderen riders ended up in a stream. Trek's Boy van Poppel was another that was involved in it. 

Most of the riders involved in the crash are back on their way, but Van Poppel didn't look like he would be carrying on too soon. 

Naesen tells television reporters that he's "fast but not fast enough. The only way I can win today is if I go to the finish with a group that is slower than me."

86km remaining from 198km

Bono is dropped from the lead group and is now back with the peloton. Bagdonas decides to go on the attack but he's almost caught by the peloton.

Quick-Step Floors collect Bagdonas and with 85km to go the race is one. 

The bunch has actually split. Van Avermaet missed the split initially but chased hard to make the juncture. Vanmarcke is one of the riders who made it across, as is Jasper Stuyven. 

This front group has grown to around 20 riders with Trentin, Benoot and Haussler also up there. 

That is a good effort from Haussler after he broke his collarbone earlier this year. 

No definitive list of riders in this move. Doing my best to pick out the faces and I will bring you names as and when I can. 

Yesterday's second placed rider Wisniowski is one of those who have missed out on the split. He's sitting second in the second bunch looking for his teammates. LottoNL-Jumbo doing the chasing for now. 

The front group has grown to more than 30 riders. Meanwhile, Fernando Gaviria is having problems and has been dropped. He's going slow and it looks like it's physical but he's also looking at his bike. 

Daniel Oss and Arnaud Demare are reportedly in that leading group, which now has 30 seconds. Dylan Groenewegen has missed out, which is why his team is chasing despite having Wynants in the lead group. 

73km remaining from 198km

A slow wheel change for Bettiol but he's back on his way. 

66km remaining from 198km

The leaders heading through a cobbled sector with 38 seconds of an advantage. Not one of them is actually riding on the cobbles and have taken to the dirt track on the side of the road. It's against the rules but with so many doing it there are unlikely to be any punishments. 

Without LottoNL making the chase, the gap has ballooned out to 52 seconds. Still a long way to go but that is a sizeable advantage. 

A full list of those riders in that leading group as the gap goes out to 1:05.

60km remaining from 198km

The leaders are onto the Holstraat. It won't be long until they are into the finishing loops. Can this group work together and stay away? The slight tailwind will certainly help. 

56km remaining from 198km

Sensing that it might be coming back, LottoNL have thrown a rider up front to help Astana. They did a lot of work before but none of the other teams was willing to help out. 

A crash in the bunch as one of the riders veers out of the peloton and heads into the ditch. He takes nobody else out and seems to be ok. Perhaps a small touch of wheels there. 

Astana now has four riders on the front of this chase group with one BMC Racing rider sitting just behind them. The gap is down to 42 seconds but it is leveling out and they're going to have to find a bit more if they want to bring this elite group up front back to them. The leaders are working very well together at the moment. 

Some echelons forming in the peloton but there is no panic at the moment. 

The peloton is back together as the leaders hit the Nokereberg. Stuyven pushes on and makes a gap. 

49km remaining from 198km

49km remaining from 198km

The gap is small for now as the chasers behind continue to ride as they were. 

A time check has Stuyven and Oss at 19 seconds ahead of group 2 and 57 seconds on the peloton. 

45km remaining from 198km

The local laps are coming up very soon, where the riders will complete two loops of a 15.3km circuit. There will certainly be attacks from this leading group. The question is when.

Nils Pollit has decided that now is the time for him to attack. Oss and Stuyven have 20 seconds and he wants to join them. 

Polit is brought back though and he does a turn on the front of the chase group. 

The peloton has finally been able to close the gap to the second group on the road. Only a handful of seconds separate them. 

The gap to Oss and Styuven is just 25 seconds still as the two groups come together. There is a slight crosswind and the peloton is in one very long line. 

The leading duo look calm and collected for now as they swap turns and just pedal along. Their gap is holding but it's not that big as Vliegen and Van der Sande attack from the bunch. 

Interesting that Van der Sande has gone up the road for Lotto Soudal. He wasn't racing yesterday so will have fresher legs. He's also less of a threat to the bunch. The same can be said for Vliegen of BMC.

Vliegen and Van der Sande have been brought back to the peloton. In the meantime, the pair up front has 43 seconds now. Bagdonas has been put to work on the peloton after spending the day in the break. He's one tough cookie. 

Puncture for Oss and it takes some time to change the wheel. 

33km remaining from 198km

33km remaining from 198km

With just one man out front, the gap is dropping. Stuyven won this race with a long-range attack but this is a long way to go on his own. He looks over his shoulder to see if he can find Oss, but he's not there. 

If Stuyven wants to win, he's going to have to time trial this all the way to the finish line. He looks unsure as he keeps glancing over his shoulder. 

Oss has not yet been caught by the peloton and he's pushing but they're not that far behind. Stuyven has pushed out his advantage to 51 seconds and growing, but the chase behind is not as fast as it could be. 

Oss looks over his shoulder, he's realised that the puncture has killed his chances and he sits up and waits for the bunch to catch up with him. 

That is a bit of a bummer for Oss. He has been looking strong over this weekend and with no Sagan here it was a chance to gt a result for himself. This is cycling, as the riders often tell me. Luck often plays a big factor. 

Sacha Modolo has crashed in the middle of the bunch. He appears to be in quite a lot of pain. 

It's hard to say what caused the crash. He fell onto his right side pretty hard and was lying on his back on the pavement covering his face with his hands. Let's hope that it's not too serious. A shame for him too because he could have challenged here in a bunch sprint. 

25km remaining from 198km

No news yet on Modolo's condition, but I imagine he has called it a day. He deserves to put his feet up after that fall. 

Stuyven still holding that small advantage of just over 30 seconds. He's got 22km to go. It's a very long shot, but his winning advantage in 2016 was just 17 seconds, so who knows. 

Away from Belgium, Hannah Barnes continued her good week with stage and overall victory in Valencia. Take a look at the results here

19km remaining from 198km

Stuyven is back with the main group, which has split in two following that push from Lotto Soudal. The second group is not too far behind. 

Lotto Soudal has their whole team hammering it on the front. They're really trying to do some damage but the main chunk of the peloton is about to come back to them. 

The Belgian team has obviously had a big telling off over night because they're really working hard today. 

AG2R La Mondiale has brought things back together. This is yet another move that Naesen has missed and had to rely on his team to get him back. 

For the first time in a long time, the peloton is all together, minus the dropped/abandoned riders. They cross the line for the penultimate time today and we've got just 15 kilometres until we find out the winner of the 2018 Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne. 

Niki Terpstra moves slowly up the side of the bunch and then moves off the front with ease. 

Terpstra is brought back and his former teammate Van Keirsbulck has a go. 

The gap is small for the Wanty-Group Gobert rider and there is another rider trying to bridge across to him. 

It's one of the AG2R La Mondiale riders in the middle. All he seems to be doing, though, is dragging the peloton across.

Van Keirsbulck is brought back and one of the AG2R La Mondiale riders goes again. 

10km remaining from 198km

One of the Dimension Data riders has jumped across to the AG2R rider and we now have a duo up front. 

The Dimension Data rider is Vermote and the AG2R rider is Duval. 

8km remaining from 198km

Vermote is pushing on but Duval doesn't look so convinced. He looks over his shoulder and reluctantly slots into Vermote's wheel. 

Vermote is flicking his elbow but Duval looks cooked. 

6km remaining from 198km

It is Vliegen up front again and we now have three riders in the lead with an advantage of less than 10 seconds. 

5km remaining from 198km

Up front, Vermote has ramped things up and Vliegen has to almost sprint to keep up with him. Duval still hanging in there. 

4km remaining from 198km

The peloton doesn't look troubled behind. They're riding at a relatively sedate pace and they still have this trio in their sights. Just 15 seconds between the two groups. 

2km remaining from 198km

Adrien Petit has attacked the peloton

1km remaining from 198km

The catch looks inevitable as the gap ticks down and FDJ start pushing behind. 

Sinkledam is pulling the peloton along for Arnaud Demare, one of the only riders mad enough not to wear leg warmers today. 

Into the final kilometre, the leaders are about to be caught.

Duval is brought back and Vermote pushes on

Groenewegen wins

Vermote was caught in the last few metres by a charging Groenewegen with Demare finishing in second place. The Frenchman never looked like he would pass the Dutchman. 

Sonny Colbrelli managed to come through for third place. That's his biggest result in the Classics so far. 

Since winning the Champs Elysees stage of the Tour last year, Groenewegen has gone from strength to strength. 

Groenwegen had this to say after his victory. 

Today's top 10

Groenewegen definitely has a lot of thanks to give his teammates after that result. He missed that big split earlier in the race and they did a lot of work to bring him back. Astana also helped him out of a sticky spot too, after their big names missed that big group. 

A massive grin from Groenewegen as he sits down for his race winner's press conference. 

Sonny Colbrelli is learning English with his new team and he said a few words in the language after claiming third today. 

EF Education First DS - and Sep Vanmarcke's brother - Ken Vanmarcke was not a happy chappy after missing out on a result today. 

More on Gaviria, who we saw in big trouble midway through the race. It seems that yesterday's fall had a bigger impact than first thought. 

Elsewhere today, Ellen van Dijk won Oloop van het Hageland.

And Alejandro Valverde took victory on the final stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour to give him the overall win too. Read about that here.

Today's podium

Matteo Trentin had this to say after today's racing: “This weekend is the first time we have raced together as a classics squad and I think that we have a really good base to build on going into the next races and the spring.”

We have put together a big gallery from today's racing, with a full report and results so if you missed anything then you can read up on it here. 

 

With that, we finish our coverage of Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne. I hope you enjoyed it and make sure to keep tuned to the website this evening for plenty of reaction from Belgium and this morning's racing in Abu Dhabi. 

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