Saturday, 27 February 2016

Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne is the first uci rated race of the season for juniors and first important test for all the big names that will look to open the winning count. This year's editions is the sixteenth one. Last year, Dutch Yannick Detant won the sprint from elite group beating Frenchmen Mathieu Rigolot and Alan Riou. Winning such a big race was for sure one of the reasons why Detant is now racing in SEG Racing Academy, one of the best development teams in the peleton.

Despite it's the first race of the season and on the startlist we can find teams mostly from Belgium and the Netherlands the race is a big one. The list of previous winners include guys Like Moreno Hofland, Barry Markus and Geraint Thomas. In recent editions, most of the strongest juniors looking for glory in classics start the season here. Last year, Pavel Sivakov and Pascal Eeenkhoorn missed the crucial move and didn't contest for the victory but showed first sights of great form which they both later confirmed during the season by winning the big races. In the end, both of them are now riding for BMC Development Team. Who will take their place ?

Yannick Detant winning 2015 edition (photo: Joeri De Coninck)

The course is slightly different then last year and riders will tackle one more hellingen then last year. The race is 120 km long and starts in Kuurne before heading to Oudenaarde for the most important part of the race with all the hellingens. The big change is including famous Oude Kwaremoont in the middle of the race. The first difficulty, just like last year, will be Edelare Top (1,5km long, avg. 4,2%, max 7%) after 30km of racing. The next 55 kilometers is the crucial part with all the bergs that will surely split the field. Riders will tackle one after another: Stokstraat (38km, 1.1km, avg. 5%, max 8%), Kanarieberg (47km, 1km, avg. 7.7% , max 14%), Hotond  (53km, 2.7km, avg. 3% , max 7,5%), Oude Kwaremont (63km, 2.2km, avg. 4% , max 11,6%), Tiegemberg (74km, 0,75km, avg. 5.6% , max 9%) Holstraat (78km, 1km, avg. 5.2% , max 12%) and finally Nokereberg (85km, 0,35km, avg. 5.7% , max 7%) which ends 45 km from the finish line. After that, riders will head back to Kuurne on flat roads with one 15 kilometers lap at the end in Kuurne.

Map (photo: 

The big change is obviously addition of Oude Kwaremoont in the middle of the race. It's very hard climb, well known from cobbled classics. It's long and cobbled which will definitely have a big impact on peleton. We can expect a big move here from the favorites. If not, peleton will be shattered and crucial attacks may happen right after the Kwaremont. The race usually decides in the flat section after the cobbles. Peleton is often divided and strongest riders are still able to get away. Expect similar scenario tomorrow.

Profile and hellingen list (photo:

Jasper Philipsen, who recently finishes training camp on tenerife, is the first name to watch. Last year, with his first race as a junior he fnished fairly back (53th) but just a few weeks later he was already third in Guido Reybrouck Classic and fourth in Paris Roubaix proving his talent for classics. Philipsen is also one of the fastest guys in the peleton is going to one of the top favorites if the race finishes in any kind of group sprint. He's riding for Balen BC, clearly one of the strongest teams in Beligum which will be a big advantage for young Flandrien.

The second favorite is Clement Betouigt Suire, vice world champion from Richmond who will ride for French National Team. The big Frenchman managed to beat Philipsen several times last year in sprint finishes ( like in Trophée Centre Morbihan and Ster Van Zuid Limburg) and his performance in World Champs was clearly a prove that he can win a big classic this year. If he will do well on hills he will be a big threat in sprint.

Avia W Cup Team bring a strong team with few candidates to win. Merten De Wever had a pretty good first year as a junior with great performance in Guido Reybrouck Classic where he finished second. Also watch out for youngster Tom Peters who has some impressive results in u17 category and now starts his journey in juniors.

 Next riders that deserves a mention is Alexys Brunel from Dunkerque Littoral Cyclisme team. Frenchman impressed in the second part of the season last year with a big solo win in Philippe Gilbert classic and huge ride in the Worlds where he attacked in final kilometers. He's one of the top guys to watch this year and I'm really interested how he will start his season tomorrow.

Finally I would like to mention Charlie Quaterman who rides for South East Cycling Team (the same team in which James Shaw won the race in 2014). Young Brit already had a big win this season in Spain where he won the season opener, Circuito Guadiana. Riders from UK has a nice history in this race and Quaterman can continue this tradition.

Other names to watch: Jarno Mobach, Robbe Debuyck, Sasha Weemaes, Mathieu Burgaudeau, Michel Ries,


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