Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne: Wout van Aert takes dominant win from the break

Belgian rider made several attacks before beating his last remaining rivals in a sprint

Clock15:47, Sunday 25th February 2024
Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne came down to a three-man sprint with Wout van Aert taking the win

© Luc Claessen/Getty Images

Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne came down to a three-man sprint with Wout van Aert taking the win

Wout van Aert (Visma-Lease a Bike) put in his best performance of the season yet to win Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne from a three-man sprint.

The Belgian rider was the most dominant force throughout the race, attacking several times before linking up with Tim Wellens (UAE Team Emirates) and surprise package Oier Lazkano (Movistar) with around 80km to go. The trio were never seen again and despite a late attack each from Lazkano and Wellens, it was Van Aert who coasted to the win.

Wellens was forced to settle for second, with Lazkano completing the podium.

A crash inside the final 1,000m affected the bunch sprint for fourth before Christophe Laporte (Jumbo-Visma) burst from the pack to solidify his team's position as the best Classics team during Opening Weekend.

The win in Kuurne came a day after Jan Tratnik and Van Aert had finished first and third in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

Van Aert made his first move on the Mont Saint-Laurent with around 90km to go. The race had already split due to a relentless early pace and Visma-Lease a Bike once again had numbers with Dylan van Baarle, Laporte and Matteo Jorgenson stringing out the field.

When Van Aert attacked on the climb only Wellens, Lazkano, and Laurence Pithie (Groupama FJD) were able to follow but on the Côte de Trieu, with 69km to go, Van Aert kicked again, with Pithie unable to follow and Lazkano and Wellens scrambling to survive.

The last 65km saw the three remaining leaders share the workload but there was an air of inevitability about the finale. The rest of the peloton had no response, even with the likes of Matej Mohorič (Bahrain Victorious) leading the charge from a small group on the road. In the end, the sprinters were left feeding on scraps as Van Aert and his two companions built up a lead that at one point peaked at over three minutes.

In the last 4km Wellens made a canny attack but Van Aert quickly nullified his move.

Lazkano, who had been on the ropes for some time, kicked twice in the last 1,000m but once again Van Aert had the power and the calmness to reel in the Spaniard before dispatching his rivals with ease in the dash for the line.

The win marked Van Aert's second victory of the season after he won a stage at the Volta ao Algarve.

"It was a hard race. I had two good competitors in the break. We had a lot of talent in the final which is good and we wanted to get away on the hills and then hold to the finish with the tailwind," Van Aert said after his win.

"We rode a hard tempo and without looking behind I could tell it was just splitting to pieces. It was the most logical tactic for our team to do that. We ended up with a much smaller group than I expected but that did make controlling the group easier. With three riders in the front it is hard for a rider to make a surprise. I knew there was going to be an attack or two but it is easier with three than it is with a 10 man group," he added.

Another day of long-range attacking

Kortrijk played host to the second race of the men’s Opening Weekend and provided several teams with the chance to seek redemption after a Visma-Lease a Bike’s first and third in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

On paper, Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne was a race for the sprinters in the field but there was little intent to allow a large group to contest the finish with a relentless pace set during the opening two hours of racing.

Eventually a break of five riders formed with around 100km to go as Luke Rowe (Ineos Grenadiers), Dries De Bondt (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale), Fran Miholjević (Bahrain-Victorious), Luca Mozzato (Arkea-B&B Hotels), and Jasper De Buyst (Lotto Dstny) moved clear. The quintet’s lead never extended to a meaningful gap and on the Le Bourliquet with 92km to go Van Baarle began to increase the pace and string out the peloton. The effort made by the former Paris-Roubaix winner ended the break’s escape.

On the next climb of the Mont Saint-Laurent Van Aert drove to the front and kicked free, with a group that contained Julian Alaphilippe and several other pre-race favourites cut adrift.

Only Wellens, Lazkano, and Pithie could match the force of Van Aert and the four riders quickly established a lead of over 30 seconds as they ticked through the bergs and sections of cobbles.

Jorgenson and Mohoric darted out from the chase group soon after and quickly picked up Pithie after he was dispatched with on the Côte de Trieu to leave just three riders in contention. Steadily the gap began to grow as neither Mohorič nor the fractured peloton would deal with the pace of the leaders up ahead.

With 33km to go, and on the final stretch of cobbles, Lazkano, Wellens and Van Aert held a lead of over three minutes, and even with Lazkano tiring during the final 25km it was clear that the sprinters’ teams and those who had faint hopes of catching the break were fighting for the minor places. A brief but ultimately futile attack from Wellens brought a semblance of life to the finale but it was tokenism at best with little chance of shaking Van Aert.

In truth, the Visma rider’s only scare was when he overcooked a corner with around 25km to go. After that, it was plain sailing with a strong tailwind helping the leaders to the finish. Mohorič’s chase group was rounded up with 2.6km to go but by that point, Van Aert was closing in on his win, while Laporte raced home to take fourth.

Race Results

1

be flag

VAN AERT Wout

Team Visma | Lease a Bike

4H 21' 01"

2

be flag

WELLENS Tim

UAE Team Emirates

"

3

es flag

LAZKANO Oier

Movistar Team

"

4

fr flag

LAPORTE Christophe

Team Visma | Lease a Bike

+ 1' 23"

5

nl flag

EEKHOFF Nils

Team dsm-firmenich PostNL

"

6

fr flag

JEANNIÈRE Emilien

TotalEnergies

"

7

us flag

LAMPERTI Luke

Soudal Quick-Step

"

8

be flag

TAMINIAUX Lionel

Lotto Dstny

"

9

de flag

MAYRHOFER Marius

Tudor Pro Cycling Team

"

10

be flag

STUYVEN Jasper

Lidl-Trek

"

Provided by FirstCycling

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