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Belgian opening weekend: van Aert adds Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne to palmares

Belgian opening weekend: van Aert adds Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne to palmares

The opening weekend of the Belgian season, a time of Classics and Semi-Classics, concluded with Sunday’s 1.Pro-rated Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, which Wout van Aert won out of a trio that was created 69 km from the finish line. Van Aert was third in Saturday’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad behind teammate Jan Tratnik, and K-B-K was his second road victory of the season.

The Course

Thirteen climbs and four sections of cobbles were spread out over 196.4 km. There was a finishing circuit. With 12.5 km to go, the riders would hear the bell.

Three Canadians were on the start line. Israel-Premier Tech’s Riley Pickrell was in Saturday’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and made one of the key selections. Pier-André Coté jumped up from the Israel-Premier Tech Academy to join Riley. Canadian road champion Nick Zukowsky represented Swiss ProTeam Q36.5.

This weekend didn’t deliver good news for Israel-Premier Tech’s Canadians. Derek Gee crashed out of the Omloop with a broken collarbone; Dylan Teuns replaced him at K-B-K. With 156 km remaining Pickrell was in a crash and he climbed off the bike 19 km later.

At the midpoint of the race, the majority of the climbs having been dispatched, the field was chopped into pieces: a breakaway of five, twenty with most of the favourites, forty and thirty. Visma-Lease a Bike led the favourites group. On the Le Bourliquet climb the Visma-heavy group absorbed the breakaway. Julian Alaphilippe was there with Toms Skujiņš, Tim Wellens, Matej Mohorič and the Visma bloc of van Aert, Christophe Laporte, Matteo Jorgenson and Dylan van Baarle.

A van Aert acceleration on tough Mont Saint-Laurent (1.2 km of 7 percent) created a leading quartet of riders from different teams. Van Aert had Spanish champion Oier Lazkano, Wellens and Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race winner Laurence Pithie for company.

The van Aert quartet.

Alaphilippe and Skujiņš tried to organize the 15-strong chase group. On the penultimate climb, Côte de Trieu with 68 km to go, van Aert hit the gas, unhitching Pithie and putting Lazkano into difficulty.

Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne is known as a sprinter’s race, something underscored by the fact that the final climb, Kluisberg, peaked with 61 km remaining. The leading trio had a minute…

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