After the success of Top Mañana and Tomorrow’s Worlds, we’ve expanded the franchise of our popular race prediction game to cover all men’s and women’s WorldTour races. Plus, for this weekend only, because it’s there, the ProSeries ranked Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.
The Rouleur band is back together, committed to spending hours each week poring over form guides, weather forecasts and stages profiles, all in an inevitably fruitless attempt to give themselves some sort of edge over their rivals.
After a winter of hard negotiating, we’ve managed to secure our old adversary, the Cycling Mole, on a season-long deal. Each week he will be raining on our parades, taking us to task and mercilessly mocking our selections.
Rather than a single guest “expert” pundit, we’re going to bring in a different one of our friends from the world of cycling each week. For opening weekend we’ve roped in columnist, commentator and editor of The Road Book – available now from the Rouleur Emporium – Ned Boulting.
So we’re all set. The only thing we haven’t got is a catchy title that will take us through the whole season. Send your suggestions on a postcard (or email, or Tweet.) Let’s go!
Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne 2020: – Kuurne to…er… Kuurne (203km)
Again, if you really want to know about Kuurne, Wikipedia is your friend. Even if the pages hasn’t been updated for a while. The most important thing to know is that the race doesn’t go anywhere near Brussels, the closest point being 45km West. Just as “Monster Island” is really a peninsula, Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne is really Kuurne-Kuurne. It probably has something to do with SEO.
It’s a relatively flat race with around 1000 metres of climbing over its 200 kilometres – about half that of its WorldTour cousin. The best-known climbs are the Kruisberg, the Oude Kwaremont and the Kanariberg, which is always fun to say, huh? Although not regarded as the sprinters’ classic, it comes down to a bunch sprint with some regularity. Last year Bob Jungels left a five-man break behind at 18km to go and held off the pack to take an impressive victory.
Tom Boonen holds the record for most wins with three. Jungels returns to the race to try to defend his title while Trek-Segafredo’s Jasper Stuyven is the only other previous winner on the startlist. No rider has ever followed a victory in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad with one in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.
Ian Cleverly: Fabio Jakobsen – Deceuinck-Quick Step
History suggests a Belgian winner – 42 versus second-placed France at 21 – but which Belgian? None for me, but a near-neighbour. Deceuninck always have a few cards to play in these races, which is occasionally their undoing, but their young sprinter from the Netherlands has the chops to see off the opposition if defending champion Bob
Jungels is marked out of it.
Ben Ward: Matteo Trentin – Team CCC
With precious little form guide to look at, I’m going for personal preference. I’ve always had a softspot for Matteo Trentin and the Italian will have plenty of those opportunities to fly under the radar this season while everyone focuses on Van Avermaet’s gold helmet. Loves the grim weather too.
Andy McGrath: Alexander Kristoff – UAE-Team Emirates
I foresee a grim day, a reduced peloton, a late attack brought to heel and a hardy Scandinavian outsprinting the remnants.
Miles Baker-Clarke: Fabio Jakobsen – Deceuninck-Quick Step
Though it’s difficult to look past his teammate – last year’s victor, Bob Jungels – Fabio Jakobsen’s early-season legs seem to pack some punch. The pattern of Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne’s winners could also suggest that a sprinter is due their turn, which of course is a highly scientific conclusion.
Nick Christian: Fabio Jakobsen – Deceuninck-Quick Step
It’s pretty unusual for Kuurne not to end in a sprint – whether big bunch or selective – with last year being an outlier. Though this year’s lineup looks a little light on really fast fastmen, Jakobsen is the closest to breaking through to the A list. If it comes down to a mass finish, there’ll be no man who can match him.
Ned Boulting: Yves Lampaert – Deceuninck Quickstep
Lampaert was made to win this race, and has come within touching distance on two occasions. He grew up on a vegetable farm five kilometres from the finish line, and now lives even closer – just two kilometres out! The former black-belt in Judo (he was a junior national champion) is perfectly suited to the kind of late attack that wins this race every other year, when it doesn’t come down to a sprint from a big group. It’s not the strongest start list in the history of this race (there’s no Mattieu van Der Poel, and no Jumbo Visma), so Deceuninck-QuickStep seem duty bound to produce the winning ride.
The Cycling Mole’s verdict:
Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne, a race where many things can happen. The organisers have lost patience with the old route, which provided a whole day of the peloton chasing a large breakaway. They have introduced a new climb, Mont Saint Lauren, which is the second hardest climb in the whole of Flanders, only behind the Koppenberg. The crucial point in the race is still going to be Oude Kwaremont, where we’ll see a group of strong riders break away from the bunch. Will they catch them? The weather is going to be nasty, with lots of rain and wind, increasing the difficulty of the day. We are making these predictions before the end of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, remember that no one has ever done the double, so we’re all desperate not to pick today’s winner.
Ned “Norris” Boulting is going with Yves Lampaert, he’s a cracking cyclist. Picking a QuickStep rider is obviously a safe strategy, but luck will be required in getting their chosen man. Ian, Miles and Nick are going with their sprint option, Fabio Jakobsen. The Dutch sprinter can handle a tough day in the saddle, and he’s started the season in fine form. Andy has taken one look at the weather forecasts and he’s picked a rider who excels, Alexander Kristoff, which is a sensible pick. Ben likes the look of Matteo Trentin, who is now riding for CCC. The Italian has said he’s not at 100%, but is that a bluff? Ben will certainly hope so.
This section is when I’m meant to let loose on the Rouleur picks, but they’ve clearly stepped up their game this season, there’s nothing for me to point and laugh at. Don’t worry folks, they’ll soon return to normal.
I’m going to go with the breakaway. As the organisers have reduced the distance between the top of the Kwaremont to the finishing line, I think it significantly increases the chances of the big move making it. I’m going with Norris, this is a day for Yves Lampaert.