2021 winner Mads Pedersen is an absentee, leaving his Trek-Segafredo teammate and 2016 winner Jasper Stuyven to wear dossard number 1. Omloop winner Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) has also opted out of today’s race, but Tiesj Benoot is on hand. Ineos again line out with Tom Pidcock, Ethan Hayter and Jhonatan Narvaez, while Greg Van Avermaert and Oliver Naesan form AG2R’s leadership duo, and Bahrain Victorious field Sonny Colbrelli, Matej Mohoric and Heinrich Haussler.
Fast finishers in the field include Peter Sagan (TotalEnergies), Alexander Kristoff (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) and Caleb Ewan (Lottto Soudal), who skipped the UAE Tour to come here. Fabio Jakobsen’s sprint is a key part of QuickStep-AlphaVinyl’s strategy, though men like 2020 winner Kasper Asgreen, Zdenek Stybar and Yves Lampaert will be keen to put yesterday’s disappointment to rights.
The peloton will be flagged away from Kuurne at 12.06 local time and is scheduled to reach kilometre zero at 12.15 for the official start of the 195km race.
There’s no Oude Kwaremont on the route this year, as Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne undergoes something of a refresh, but the basic tenets of the race remain intact. The peloton leaves Kuurne, splinters as it tackles thirteen hellingen and then has a chance to regroup on the flat 50km run-in, which features a lap of a 12.5km finishing circuit in Kuurne.
Patrick Fletcher has all the details in his race preview:
There are a total of 13 climbs on the menu, the last of which tops out some 52km. Despite the claims of a ‘renewed route’, the final 50-plus kilometres give it a similar overall complexion to previous editions.
The riders set out and make their way to the paved slopes of the Tiegemberg before heading for a new climb in the form of the Kattenberg and then ticking off the Boembeek. The first real string of climbs comes between 120 and 110 kilometres to go, with the Bossenaarstraat, Berg Ten Houte, and La Houppe.
There’s then a 20km jolt over into Wallonia, for a phase of the race that could suit the audacious. Three new climbs – Hameau des Papins, Le Bourliquet, and Mont Saint-Laurent – come in the space of 14km. Of the three, the latter looks the most brutal, with an average gradient of nearly eight per cent, pitches of 17 per cent, and rough curving cobblestones.
From there, the race heads back into Flanders on a 10km stretch before the decisive phase of the race. With 68km to go, they’ll take on the Kruisberg, followed immediately by Hotond. It’s then onto the Côte de Trieu – also known as Knoketeberg – and Kluisberg, which tops out 52.3km to the line.
We go again. The second instalment of Belgium’s Opening Weekend presents a slightly different challenge to Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, but Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne always offers an immediate chance of redemption for those who fell short on Saturday. QuickStep-AlpaVinyl, as flagged before this weekend, don’t have an unblemished track record at Omloop, despite wins in 2019 and 2021, and yesterday’s showing was rather in keeping with their displays there in the Tom Boonen era. In the Boonen era, however, QuickStep also developed the useful habit of responding by winning in Kuurne the following day – Tommeke won here three times, after all – and we can surely expect the empire to look to strike back this afternoon.