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Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne gives Peter Sagan first win of 2017

Pete Muir
26 Feb 2017

The World Champion holds off last year’s winner in a sprint for the line to win in the opening weekend of the Spring Classics

Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) took his first win of 2017 at the Belgian classic Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, going one better than the second place he managed at the previous day’s race.

As always, the World Champion was alive to every break throughout the day, eventually ending up in a group of five who rode the last 30km together at the front of the race.

In the final sprint, none of the others could come close to Sagan’s acceleration, and he won easily after what he later described as ‘a slow sprint’. 

Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, which forms a double act with Omloop Het Nieuwsblad to mark the opening weekend of the Spring Classics, is considered to be a race for the sprinters and often finishes in a bunch dash for the line.

Mark Cavendish has won twice in the past, while Belgian Classics specialist Tom Boonen has won three times.

However, last year’s race was won by Trek-Segafredo’s Jasper Stuyven in a lone breakaway, which meant that this year the sprinters’ teams were wary of letting anyone get ahead of the pack early on.

It took over an hour for a break to form, when nine riders managed to get away and build a gap of four minutes over the peloton.

At 84km to go, just over the most famous climb of the race, the Oude Kwaremont, Czech rider Zdenek Stybar (Quick-Step Floors) rode off the front of the peloton, drawing a number of big-name riders with him.

Soon a group of 20 riders had established a decent gap on the peloton, and by 75km to go they had a minute on the main bunch.

The group included Ian Stannard and Luke Rowe (Team Sky), Tony Martin (Katusha-Alpecin), Sagan, Arnaud Démare (FDJ), Luke Durbridge (Orica-Scott), Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), last year’s winner Stuyven, and a pack of four Quick-Step Floors riders.

Sadly the selection missing Tom Boonen, who failed to start the race after crashing at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad the day before.

With around 65km to go, the group was riding in the gutter when Martin clipped a parked car and crashed heavily, landing on his face.

Despite blood pouring from a gash around his eye, Martin got back onto his bike and attempted to get back into the race, but failed to regain the G2 group of favourites. 

By 37km, the peloton had pulled back to less than a minute behind, forcing a surge in effort from the G2 group of favourites, which quickly mopped up the few riders left from the original breakaway.

On flat roads with strong winds, the peloton continued to close the gap so that by the time the front group started the first of two 15km laps around Kuurne, the main pack was only 30 seconds behind.

With sprinters such as Alexander Kristoff (Katusha-Alpecin), Bryan Coquard (Direct Energie) and Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) looking for a win, it looked like it might all come back together quickly. 

However with 28.4km to go, Stuyven tried to do the same as he’d done the year before and attacked on his own.

About 3km later, Sagan and Matteo Trentin (Quick-Step Floors) crossed the gap to join Stuyven, creating a powerful group of three, which was soon joined by Rowe and Tiesj Benoot of Lotto-Soudal.

BMC Racing led the chasing group to bring back the break of five, but the gap went out to around 35 seconds by the time they got to within one lap to go. 

With no other teams prepared to help BMC, Greg Van Avermaet had to wave goodbye to any thoughts of making it two wins in two days.

In the final 5km, the lead group of five riders continued to work together to keep the chasers at a safe distance.

At 1km to go the group was still together but vying for position. Trentin was the first to go for the sprint but couldn’t stay away, and at 300m Sagan put the pressure on and easily outsprinted his rivals to take his first win of the year, and the first ever win for new WorldTour team Bora-Hansgrohe.

Lead photo: Juan Trujillo Andradres