Wisniowski comes 5th in Kuurne after aggressive day of the team
Tom Boonen and Julien Vermote spiced things up, before the Polish rider notched his maiden top 10 in a Flemish classic.
A huge breakaway formed seconds after the start of the 68th edition of Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and got a green light from the peloton to build a huge gap, of over 8 minutes, that began to melt once they hit the second half of the course. While the escapees had their own race, the peloton was split following a crash, because of which more than 50 riders lost contact. Then, on the iconic Oude Kwaremont, Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) attacked, his action leading to another split, which saw only 35 riders survive in the main group.
On the last climb of the day, Julien Vermote made his move and only a couple of riders could respond to his attack, among whom there were teammate Tom Boonen, Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo), Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), Magnus Cort (Orica-GreenEdge) and Luke Rowe (Team Sky). Having Vermote and Boonen come at the front and take long pulls together with Boy Van Poppel (Trek-Segafredo) helped the group open a 40-second gap on the peloton – despite the strong headwind – which was drove by Katusha and IAM Cycling.
Inside the final 20 kilometers, Stuyven launched his bid and went alone, while his former breakaway companions tried to reconnect with the young Belgian. Despite their efforts, they were caught by what was left of the peloton in the closing kilometers, while Stuyven took the victory. In the last 500 meters, Lukasz Wisnikowski surged clear of the pack in an attempt to get on the podium, but he was swept away by the sprinters – Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) and Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) – and eventually finished fifth, a result which left him content: "I felt good today, and while Tom and Julien were at the front, I remained in the second group and recovered, waiting to see how things will unfold. After they got caught, Nikolas created some space in the peloton and I could go for a nice result."
Although Etixx – Quick-Step didn't get a win on the opening Belgian week-end, sport director Tom Steels was satisfied with what he saw in the team and is confident the riders are going into the right direction ahead of this season's Spring campaign: "We've learnt a lot from the first Classics. We were close in the past two days, we could control the race, we were aggressive at times, and in the races that are coming up in the following weeks we will be at the top. Let's not forget that Tom is returning following his crash in the Abu Dhabi Tour, and he still has room for improvement."
A three-time winner of Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, Tom Boonen echoed Tom Steels' feelings on the two cobbled races: "Today it was a tough day, which was made tougher by the strong cold wind. I felt good and that's why I attacked a couple of times. When Stuyven went in the final, we thought it was too soon for such an action, but he managed to keep a high pace and take a well-deserved victory. Compared to Sunday, I felt good and I could really feel a diference, which comes as proof that I'm on the right track."
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele