Niko Eeckhout enjoys breakaway day in Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne
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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Niko Eeckhout enjoys breakaway day in Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne

by Kyle Moore at 5:27 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics
Belgian veteran ultra-aggressive as usual for Sean Kelly’s team

Niko EeckhoutNiko Eeckhout (An Post-Sean Kelly) was the 120th rider to cross the finish line at the end of the Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne semi-classic, but the 41-year-old Belgian spent nearly the entirety of the 198-kilometer race at the head of the field, as one of the first into the day’s initial break and one of the last to be caught in the waning kilometers.

It would be a while before any break could be established however, as nearly 50 kilometers were covered in the first hour of racing with no group able to get away.  Things settled down after everyone was forced to stop at a railroad crossing, and Eeckhout was one of seven who finally sparked a move.

Joining Eeckhout in the day’s first breakaway were Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing), Jérôme Baugnies (Team Netapp), Koen Barbé and Gilles Devillers (Landbouwkrediet-Euphony), Justin Van Hoecke (Wallonie Bruxelles-Credit Agricole) and Julien Fouchard (Cofidis).

Eeckhout said that it was extra motivation and experience that helped him show so well on Sunday.

“I was motivated today because I was riding so close to home,” he stated according to Het Nieuwsblad.  “Last week I was a little sick so I was not very confident.  It was also very nervous at the beginning of the race.  Everyone wanted to get in the real escape group.  It was through my experience that I made it into the right bunch.”

As the race hit several famous climbs, it was Van Avermaet who appeared the strongest of his breakaway mates, and the BMC rider often pushed a pace on the climbs that put the rest of the break into the red.

But Eeckhout never seemed to struggle with the pace of his younger compatriot.  When the group of seven hit the Oude Kwaremont, Van Avermaet dropped everyone in the break save for the An Post-Sean Kelly rider.  Splits in the peloton on the same climb forced action amongst the favourites, and it wasn’t long before a swiftly moving peloton was nearly upon the original break, which had consolidated into a group of five.

Before he could be caught, Eeckhout attacked again, this time taking with him Wouter Mol (Vacancoleil-DCM), Alexandr Kuchynski (Katusha), Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Jimmy Engoulvent (Saur-Sojasun), Jan Ghyselinck (Cofidis) and Sébastien Delfosse (Landbouwkrediet-Euphony).

This move would also be doomed, but not before Eeckhout accelerated with Engoulvent for a bit more time off the front.

Eeckhout, who was second on stage four of the Etoile de Bessèges and often has a busy early season, mentioned that it was his solid preparation that helped him get ready for an aggressive ride in Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne.

“How do I prepare for the new season?  I don’t explore the world,” he stated.  “We did the Etoile de Bessèges and then we rode the Volta ao Algarve.  To me that is really ideal.

“I’m not getting any younger, but I still like riding a bike.”


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