What's Cool In Road Cycling

Roadside PEZ: Frituur In Flanders – Kuurne’17

Roadside PEZ: Part 1 of Ed Hood’s trip to Belgium saw him at the roadside of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and the ubiquitous Belgian bar! Part 2 takes the merry band on to Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, frituurs and maybe a beer or two… and some race chasing.

If only we’d looked in the window of Frituur Yves in Ronse before Sunday’s Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne we’d have known who was going to win – that remarkable man, Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe & Slovakia).

Near the front all day, he covered last year’s winner, Jasper Stuyven’s (Trek-Segafredo & Belgium) move out of the lead group, never missed a spell in the break and then won the sprint from Stuyven and Luke Rowe (Sky & Wales) with disarming ease, opening a huge gap with his jump. Two great races over the weekend with the cream rising to the top in both finales. It was cool but dry up at Kuurne, this morning. The disc debate, it’s everywhere, even at the start of Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.

We were chatting to Michael Mørkøv before the start of the race and asking him if he liked the SRAM wireless gears on his Katusha Canyon; “perfect” came the reply; “but I’m looking forward to getting a bike with disc brakes!” So the ex-Danish Elite Road Champion and six day star isn’t one of those 600 riders we’ve heard about who don’t want discs.

Dan McLay (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) had time for a chat too, he’s fully recovered from his bad crash when he hit a photographer right after his early victory in the Trofeo Playa de Palma in Majorca. But he was back on the deck yesterday, in the same crash which ruined Boonen’s chances. His chances today are good with many of the mega sprinters otherwise occupied in the Middle East; Cav, Greipel, Kittel are all absent. Albeit Bouhanni, Demare and Kristoff are all here. Kuurne is UCI 1.1 which means home Continental teams can ride – so lots of cost effective Ultegra gear mechs and brakes to be seen.

And FSA have made big inroads into chainset market with many of the Pro Continental squads choosing Full Speed Ahead. It’s nice to be away from the controls of WorldTour and able to chat freely to riders and get a proper look at the bikes.

Luke Durbridge leads the Orica-Scott squad past us as Lotto Soudal get organized for Benoot – Belgium’s ‘other team’ will be disappointed if they come out of this weekend empty handed.

And despite having defected to French team Cofidis, Belgium’s Jonas Van Genechten still has his followers in Flanders.

Time’s a passing, back to the PEZ wagon, first stop the Edelereberg, really the just the main road drag out of Oudenaarde; Daniel Oss (BMC) and Hugo Houle (AG2R-La Mondiale) are just clear of the huge peloton.

That bar up there isn’t for amateur drinkers. We finish our beer and wait for the juniors but it’s compatto again – ah well, it can’t all be excitement. Next up we head for the top of the Cote de Trieu – KBK is a difficult race for followers. Whilst the Omloop twists, turns and uses the same sections of road up to three times, the KBK’s ‘flattened loop’ makes it difficult to get back in front of it once it passes. Cote de Trieu, the one the late lamented Dave Duffield never tired of telling us was ‘Phil’s Hill’ where Aussie Great, Phil Anderson used to do his interval training. It’s a nasty one with a 90 degree right at the top into a flat, fast straight along the ridge where the ‘Bigs’ invariably fire up their boosters.

At the end of the flat there’s a shrine where Jesus waits patiently in the quiet, rural idyll for the mayhem to unfold before him.

The break appears with little warning, six or seven riders, ex-Belgian Elite Champion Jurgen Roelandts is in there with a lead of some four-and-a-half minutes over a GVA driven peloton.

Big strong, 2016 Katusha revelation, Nils Politt is pulling some desperate faces – he knows that team leader Alex Kristoff will need him in the final if he’s to better last year’s second place.

Then it all gets crazy as all the spectators and support staff make a mad dash down a tiny road to the top of the legendary Oude Kwaremont: team cars, pedestrians, scooters – it’s not a good mix.

We just complete the horrible forced march to it in time to see Roelandts drag the break over the final, savage cobbles at the top of the climb – but their lead is halved and the peloton has exploded on the Kwaremont with riders spread all over the hill.

Stybar is well to the fore; is it going to be a Quick-Step day?

But Sagan is looking very comfortable on the hellish cobbles and it’s apparent he’ll not be far away, today.

If it’s a big bunch today then Dan McLay could well be in the mix – he doesn’t look ‘burst.’

From now on it’s tough to race watch ‘live’ and a bar with a large TV is required, but not before we pay homage to some Ronde Greats.

Our favorite KBK watching bar in Ronse is L’Escale, the football is switched off – to the disgust of some of those playing pool – and cheese and salami accompanies our pils. This is living!

We watch the break get caught by the lead group – and for a while it looks as if the lead group will be caught by the peloton. But then last year’s winner, Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) goes clear; Sagan covers with Trentin (Quick-Step) in his back pocket: Benoot (Lotto soudal) sees the danger and zooms across, then Rowe does the same for Sky. Five strong men up front – they take the bell with one lap of the finish circuit to ride. At the line it’s all about Sagan but ‘respect’ to Stuyven for a robust defense. Rowe was fourth in last year’s Het Nieuwsblad and on the podium today – very promising. And Benoot’s progress continues with another strong result in a cobbled classic.

Le Samyn on Wednesday, such a pity about that plane home tomorrow. . .

It was November 2005 when Ed Hood first penned a piece for PEZ, on US legend Mike Neel. Since then he’s covered all of the Grand Tours and Monuments for PEZ and has an article count in excess of 1,400 in the archive. He was a Scottish champion cyclist himself – many years and kilograms ago – and still owns a Klein Attitude, Dura Ace carbon Giant and a Fixie. He and fellow Scot and PEZ contributor Martin Williamson run the Scottish site www.veloveritas.co.uk where more of his musings on our sport can be found.

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