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Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne - Live coverage

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Good morning and welcome to our live coverage from Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne. It's another chilly morning in Belgium, the CN blimp is charging up, and we're set for another day of racing and the conclusion from Opening Weekend.

Ahead of the riders, we have 12 climbs, and 197km of racing but typically this race suits the sprinters and often teams draft in fresh legs after Omloop. Perhaps today will be different after yesterday ended in a sprint, with the Classics specialists looking to make up for a lost opportunity after Davide Ballerini took the victory. You can read all about that, right here.

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad 2021

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The official start is in about an hour from now and we're just seeing the first team busses arrive. There's Ineos, and Groupama not far behind. You can usually tell where the Deceuninck-QuickStep bus is because it typically draws the biggest crowd but not today, as there are very few people around due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Kuurne starts at this really old race track. It's run down and smells of feet (a metaphor for my life?) but has a real charm to it. Usually it's packed at this point in the morning and the beers are already flowing but today things are a bit more subdued. 

Big favourite for today is Demare. He didn't race yesterday but was arguably the best sprinter of 2020 (who didn't race the Tour). He was unstoppable after lockdown and today a great course for him and his train. Here's what he's had to say this morning:

"I am happy to return to these Classics. It's a race where you have to be at 100%. I have some random sensations at the moment, I hope that the trend will be good for tomorrow. In any case, I have envy, I like it. It's always a difficult race to go and win, there are cobblestones, breakaways that can be created. I have already done 4th and 2nd, the sprint is hard because you have to keep your strength. It is a race of movement and I like it. On a collective level, we have some riders who have found each other well last year for the Classics, I can't wait to see what it will be like 6 months later."

Demare's DS today is Guesdon who won Paris-Roubaix for Marc Madiot's team back in 1997 with one of the biggest upsets the race had ever seen. It was arguably bigger than Hayman's win given that no-one looked Guesdon as a potential winner when the winning group entered the velodrome. All eyes were on Mapei and the rest but Guesdon came from the back of the group. That win, coupled with David Duffield's commentary still gives me goosebumps. Check it out on Youtube if you have a couple of minutes. Anyway.... here's what Guesdon has to say about today:

"Arnaud Démare makes his comeback in competition after the Tour de la Provence, he needs to ride before Paris-Nice, so maybe he will be a little bit short but he likes this kind of event, he is hyper motivated. We have a solid group well adapted to the course. If the race gets tougher, Stefan Küng will have a good card to play, but if the finish is grouped together, Arnaud has good chances for victory."

Major favourites for today are also this lot. We're just waiting to see if Lampaert and Stybar are racing after their crashes yesterday.

1Kasper Asgreen (Den)
2Alvaro Hodeg Chagui (Col)
3Stijn Steels (Bel)
4Yves Lampaert (Bel)
5Jannik Steimle (Ger)
6Zdenek Stybar (Cze)
7Bert Van Lerberghe (Bel)

A team that will be desperate for a result will be Trek-Segafredo. They missed all the key moves yesterday and their best finisher was 63rd - not the result that the defending champions will have wanted or expected. They've got to step up today and at least race on the front foot.

Please let me draw your attention to this piece from Kirsten Frattini, which expertly analyses the women's race yesterday. Well worth a read over your morning coffee.


5 conclusions from Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Elite Women

Dutch Anna van der Breggen of Team SD Worx celebrates on the podium after winning the womens elite race of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad oneday cycling race 124km from Gent to Ninove Saturday 27 February 2021 BELGA PHOTO DAVID STOCKMAN Photo by DAVID STOCKMANBELGA MAGAFP via Getty Images

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Agree with these ratings from Sporza in terms of today's favourites?

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Mathieu van der Poel has to a major favourite today. He won the opening stage in the UAE Tour, was forced to come home due a COVID case in his team but is ready to race today. He can beat any sprinter here, and then can attack over the climbs too. He'll want to put in a huge performance today after missing out the chance to add to his tally in the middle east.

Watch out for Kirstoff too because he looked super fresh yesterday but then saw his race fall apart, literally, with a late mechanical. The winner of Gent-Wevelgem a couple of years ago, and a Monument winner - he'll be determined to win today.

Here's a story about him that our man on the ground, Brecht Decaluwe, sent in overnight. 

Little known fact, but Kristoff is a huge Eastbound & Down fan. Can almost imagine him listening to Kenny Powers motivation tapes in the team bus right now. 

Omloop 2020

(Image credit: Getty Images)

We're about 35 minutes away from the official start and riders are just signing on. Time for one last coffee.

Here's our complete start list for today's race (from last night so subject to small changes today.

'For now I'm going to sit back and bank on the sprint. We'll see how I feel during the race to see if more is possible.'

Demare

(Image credit: Brecht Decaluwe)

In the mayhem at yesterday's finish it was almost lost that Heinrich Haussler took fourth in the sprint. He wasn't meant to be the leader for Bahrain but they lost Colbrelli to crashes but the Australian rolled back the years to take morale boosting result. He's 36 now but still utterly loves racing - as shown by his cyclo-cross antics over the last couple of months. Let's see what the veteran Australian can do today. 

Bahrain McLaren’s Heinrich Haussler leads the way at the 2020 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Brecht Decaluwe has tracked down a rider who wasn't meant to be originally start today:

Sep Vanmarcke takes the start, unexpectedly. "There was one spot left in the team. These are Flemish races, my races. I'll try not to spend too much energy. I have to stay fresh for Samyn and Paris-Nice. Much depends on how early MvdP opens the debates. I haven't looked at the startlist really. The feedback after the Omloop was good. People seem to grant me the success. I was never gone but it was good to see that I'm still capable of a finale."

Vanmarcke, like Haussler, is a veteran rolling around in a young man's peloton but he put in a timely reminder of his experience and class on the bike yesterday. Here's a story about the ISN rider.

We're about 15 minutes away from the official start and riders are beginning to roll out of their team busses and head to the start area. 

Away from here, Adam Yates took second in the UAE Tour. He was taken to hospital last night after a fall but the injuries appeared to be superficial. Here's our latest on the Ineos rider.

And remember you can stream today's race if you set up a VPN. Just head on over this page to find out more. 

Jasper Stuyven: "Yesterday wasn't good. I'm the first to admit that. We have no explanation. We have to switch the button and look to the future. That is Kuurne. We'll do what we can to come out of this weekend with good spirits. I've got family and friends here and good performances in the past. I'm motivated but surely I was motivated to perform well with race number 1 in the Omloop too."

Perfect blue skies greeting the riders on the start line this morning. It's absolute bliss and a sea of colour as the peloton gather for the final race of Opening Weekend.

Happy birthday to a pioneering site that was fighting for women's race coverage long before so many other titles. 

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This image can live in my head rent free.

Kuurne

(Image credit: Brecht Decaluwe)

And we're up and running. The riders have rolled off from the line and ahead of them 3km of a neutralized zone before the flag drops and we're officially racing.

The Tiegemberg is a new climb on the route and comes at 14km of racing. It's only about 1,400m in length but could be a great launchpad for an attack. 

Volkegemberg comes next at around 34km, and then the Boembeek at 56km of racing. The final climb comes with the Kluisberg but there's still around 50km to go from that point to the finish - hence why the sprinters hold all the good cards on a course like this. Still, it's early in the season and surprises do happen. Asgreen won last year, for example. Never take your eyes off a race in Belgium, because you're always liable to miss something.

We managed to get a quick word with van der Poel at the start:

"I'm glad that we were able to travel away quite easily and our team can race this weekend. I'm here because it's a little bit less stress, less favourites. It's easier to get into the rhythm."

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No real action just yet but we've seen Dillier have a bike change. 

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14km covered and we're still waiting for a serious break to form. 

Diiller has made it back to the peloton after his bike change and we'll be on the Tiegemberg soon. Will be see the day's break form on the first climb of the day?

180km

180km to go and we have a four man attack off the front. Bodnar, Gamper, De Winter and Zacharov. 

That's a tasty little quartet, with a Tour de France stage winner and three decent domestiques thrown in for good measure but no time checks at this point.

35 seconds for the leaders and it looks like that gap is about to expand rapidly as the peloton sits up. They're not at all interested in chasing this one down.

172km to go

We've got two chasers and then the peloton at a whopping 3'35.

 The four leaders are:

Bodnar (Bora-Hansgrohe)

Gamper (Bora-Hansgrohe)

De Winter (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert)

Zacharov (Astana)

No Sagan for Bora and they weren't in the mix yesterday so they clearly want to make a strong impression today.

Tom Paquot and Jonas Iversby Hvideberg are the two chasers at 35 seconds behind the leading quartet. They should make it. That would give us a strong group of six as we get deeper into the race.