Traksel wins epic Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne
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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Traksel wins epic Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne

by Bjorn Haake at 10:52 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Race Reports and Results

Bobbie Traksel emerged the victor in Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, a race dominated by a heavy storm that raged over central Europe on Sunday. Traksel won the sprint of a three-man lead group in a race that was shortened by 20km, due to the atmospheric conditions. Rick Flens finished second, Ian Stannard was third.

Traksel has a special reason for celebrating his win today. "Kuurne was my first race as a pro. It is also the town where I signed my marriage certificate," he said after the race on Belgian TV.

Traksel was the lone survivor of an early break. "I thought it was a bit silly, why do I accelerate now?" His move came around the halfway mark.

He was still ahead over the Oude Kwaremont and was joined by Flens and Stannard after that. The three were able to hold off the chasers.

Attack after attack in the end

Flens opened the attacks in the front group, with nine kilometers left to race. Moves were initiated and marked by all three riders. But noone was able to get a decisive gap, although Stannard appeared to have the most trouble catching up after others attacked. He may have been hindered by the rain jacket that he was still wearing.

Traksel was the only one out of the saddle in the sprint. "In the end, Bobbie went and he was just gone," said Flens.  "I am happy with the second place."

Stannard was so cold he could hardly speak at the finish. "This was a really hard day. It was just about surviving, really,  and trying to stay as warm as possible. When there is only three left there is always a possibility to win."

Flying trash cans and quitting riders

The heavy storm brought unusual problems, as Stijn Devolder was briefly stopped by a compost bin that was blown into the street. A lot of riders abandoned early, including yesterday's winner Juan Antonio Flecha and pre-race favorite Tom Boonen.

Nobody could blame them, as Sky's director, Scott Sunderland, explained after the race. "It rained all day - it just never stopped - and the winds were around 50-60km/h and at times up to 80km/h."

That made for freezing conditions.  "The wind-chill factor was just crazy and Ian couldn't rip the top off his gels. Mathew Hayman, our other rider to finish, couldn't get food out of his pocket."

Sunderland was full of praise for Stannard's performance. "It was a fantastic ride. He's a big, strong lad who was super-motivated after Saturday and he did everything right to get on the podium." Sunderland thinks that with a bit of experience he can win these races. "I'm sure he's going to be the next big British classics rider."

A storm is brewing

Unlike the day before, Kuurne offered true Classics weather, with a storm bringing winds between 60 and 100 km/h. Sébastien Hinault (AG2R), Matti Breschel (Team Saxo Bank) and Francesco Di Paolo (Acqua & Sapone) apparently checked out the weather report beforehand and decided to stay home.

The peloton initially had a tailwind, so the average speed for the first two hours was around 45 km/h. The wind and the speed caused the peloton to split into two early on, which caused lots of riders abandoning even before the feed zone. This included some big names, like Tom Boonen, Nick Nuyens, Filippo Pozzato or yesterday's Omloop winner Juan Antonio Flecha.

Three racers emerged on the front, but the group dwindled to two Vacansoleil riders, a minute ahead of an 11-man group. When Arnoud Van Groen was caught 82km from the finish, Bobbie Traksel was alone at the front.

Over the Oude Kwaremont Rick Flens and Ian Stannard moved out of the chase group to follow Traksel. But the Belgian was still half a minute ahead over the top. The climb was additionally treacherous due to the wet cobbles. Jeremy Hunt had some trouble staying on the course.

A few kilometers later Traksel, Stannard and Flens formed the front group, while more and more riders from the peloton moved up to the nine riders chasing.

When the group didn't appear to be working well, Hunt, Thor Hushovd and Hayden Roulston gave it some stick and went in pursuit of Flens, Stannard and Traksel.

This constellation stayed for a while, until Hunt suddenly pulled over and stepped into the neutral car. The rain and cold had finally gotten the better of him. 

"It was a crazy day on the bike," commented Cervelo TestTeam's Dominique Rollin after the race. "The wind just got stronger and stronger and it got colder and colder. It reminded me of a couple of other big days I had on the bike and I did have the legs today. It was a great ride by the guys, we had four guys up there but I think the weather got the better of most of us unfortunately we finished fifth and sixth but it's still decent. The performance was there and I'm looking forward to Paris-Nice to sharpen everything for the rest of the classics."

With two laps to go after the first passage of the finishing line, Traksel, Stannard and Flens had a gap of 40 seconds over Hushovd and Roulston. Dominique Rollin was chasing behind, but was already almost four minutes back. A group around Jürgen Roelandts was more than five minutes behind.

Hushovd was the next who had to let go from the chase, with 20km to go. He dropped back and by the team trying to feed him bars, it appeared he had a hunger knock. That left Roulston alone to chase after the three leaders, but they were never caught by anyone.


1. Bobbie Traksel (Ned/Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team)
2. Rick Flens (Ned/Rabobank) s.t.
3. Ian Stannard (GBr/Sky Pro Cycling Team)
4. Hayden Roulston (NZl/Team HTC-Columbia) at 1'00
5. Dominique Rollin (Can/Cervélo Test Team) at2'58
6. Thor Hushovd (Noo/Cervélo Test Team)
7. Sébastien Turgot (Fra/Bbox-Bouygues Telecom) at 5'38
8. Davy Commeyne (Bel/Landbouwkrediet) at 5'41
9. Grégory Rast (Zwi/Team RadioShack) at 5'50
10. Sebastian Langeveld (Ned/Rabobank)


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