Opening Weekend concludes with action-packed Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne
Fernando Gaviria's abandon and a puncture of Max Richeze left Quick-Step Floors without any cards to play in the bunch sprint.
The 70th edition of Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne rolled out under a bright blue ski and in freezing temperatures, but that didn't stop seven riders from booking a place in an escape which was always kept in check by Quick-Step Floors, whose efficient tempo at the front meant that the breakaway's advantage didn't go over two minutes.
Our team's impetus and a series of crashes fragmented the field before the first ramps of Oude Kwaremont, where Yves Lampaert tested the waters with a well-timed attack that caught many off-guard and saw only a handful of riders extricate themselves from the peloton. Unfortunately, it was after this hill that Fernando Gaviria had to stop, as the 23-year-old Colombian was still feeling the aftermath of Saturday's crash in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, when a stray bidon took him to the ground after the Muur-Kapelmuur.
For Fernando, who came to Europe following a highly successful campaign in South America, it wasn't the start he had desired for his Classics season, but that didn't dampen his spirits.
"Yesterday I had bad luck, but really wanted to start this race, because things looked better and I was confident in my chances. Unfortunately, the back pain returned and together with the cold took its toll on me today. Together with the team, I decided that the best option was to stop and not endanger my future races. Despite all that has happened this weekend, I'm glad for having had the opportunity to race here, it was a tough experience, but one from which I will learn a lot, that's for sure."
Lampaert's group, which numbered 17 riders, ensured themselves a nice buffer of over a minute, but once the peloton organized behind them, the gap got knocked back and all the leaders, bar Daniel Oss (Bora-hansgrohe) and Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo), were reeled in. The local circuit made the peloton's life much easier and a regrouping took place 20 kilometers from the finish, but the attacks kept coming and a late trio put pressure on the sprinters with a powerful surge.
In a dramatic finale, the three were swarmed with 300 meters to go, and the sprinters moved to the front, fighting for a victory which was bagged by Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo), ahead of Arnaud Demare (FDJ) and Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida). Same Lampaert carried the flag for our team, drawing the curtain over the Opening Weekend with a 12th place.
Sports director Wilfried Peeters, who followed the squad from the car on Saturday and Sunday, made an analysis of the first cobbled classics of the season.
"It's only the start of the classics season, so there aren't too many conclusions to be drawn. We were very active in both races, Stybar has shown a good form in Omloop, while Gilbert nabbed a morale-boosting top five. Today we tried again to shape the race, but we had a lot of bad luck. Fernando was in pain after Saturday's crash and was forced to abandon, while Richeze got dropped from the bunch due to a puncture. We were gambling on a bunch sprint finish, which we had in the end, but without our top guys we couldn't be a factor."
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele/ Getty Images