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KUURNE’23: Jumbo-Visma Domination as Benoot Crushes Kuurne

Race Report: The Jumbo-Visma team dominated the Flemish opening weekend. Tiesj Benoot won the 75th edition of Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne on Sunday. The Belgian was part of an escape group of five riders and the Dutch team managed to play the one-two in the last kilometre. Nathan van Hooydonck finished second, Matej Mohorič was third.

The last 20K

Jumbo-Visma domination of the opening weekend – Tiesj Benoot takes Kuurne

After Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday, won by Dylan van Baarle, the opening weekend continued with Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne on Sunday. This cobbles race had to cross the Pays des Collines in the Ardennes. In addition to La Houppe, Hameau des Papins (1.2km at 6.6%, max. 16.2%), Le Bourliquet (1.3km at 6.8%, max. 15.3%) and Mont Saint-Laurent (1.3km at 7.8%, max. 17%). The 75th edition contained a total of four cobblestone sections and thirteen climbs. The Tiegemberg was the first, the Kluisberg the last.

Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne 2023 profile

Saturday’s Omloop winner – Dylan Van Baarle at the start in Kuurne

Soon after official start of Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne there was a crash involving Jan Tratnik (Jumbo-Visma), Guy Sagiv (Israel Premier Tech), Matteo Malucelli (Bingoal WB) and Filippo Baronchini (Trek-Segafredo). Tratnik, who was very strong on Saturday in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Malucelli and Sagiv could continue, but Baronchini came out worst. The young Italian of Trek-Segafredo, the U23 World champion in Leuven, had to abandon.

The second Classic of the season ‘proper’ gets under way

The start of a windy day

The first climb of the day, the Tiegemberg, Gilles de Wilde (Team Flanders-Baloise), Lluís Mas (Movistar), Daniel Oss (TotalEnergies) and Taco van der Hoorn (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty) jumped away. These four took a nice lead and were joined by Guillaume van Keirsbulck (Bingoal WB) and Matthew Gibson (Human Powered Health), soon after. The peloton let them go and the lead rose to 7 minutes.

The break of the day

The peloton hits the cobbles

The presence of Van der Hoorn was something for the other teams to keep an eye on. Last year, after a day in the early break, the Dutch attacker was only caught in the final kilometre in Kuurne, after he had been away with Christophe Laporte and Jhonathan Narváez. Slightly under 100 kilometres from the line, there was another crash. The main victim was Jasper Philipsen. The fast Belgian of Alpecin-Deceuninck was one of the favourites before the start, but had to chase back.

Still looks like winter in Belgium

The chase was on behind

Philipsen had the bad luck that the speed lifted in the peloton, led by Lotto Dstny and Jumbo-Visma. As a result, the lead of the six, Gibson had been dropped, went below 3 minutes. Due to the crash, there were several splits in the peloton and several top riders were behind with Philipsen, Alexander Kristoff and Yves Lampaert. Jumbo-Visma did not intend to slow down. The Dutch team didn’t want a sprint finish.

Jumbo-Visma were working hard – Was it for Christophe Laporte?

Bad crash for Rajovic Dusan

On the Le Bourliquet (1.3km at 6.8%, max. 15.3%), the Dutch team put the hammer down. Tratnik, Tiesj Benoot and Nathan Van Hooydonck rode away from the peloton, across to the early break with Taco van der Hoorn, Daniel Oss and the others. A few non-Jumbo-Visma riders were able to go with Matej Mohorič, Tim Wellens and the surprisingly strong Peter Sagan. This development put Arnaud de Lie and Fabio Jakobsen in trouble.

Jumbo-Visma were very much in control

Tim Wellens set up the break

The first group, containing the Jumbo-Visma men, Wellens and Sagan, kept it going on the Mont Saint-Laurent (1.3km at 7.8%, max. 17%). Wellens clearly felt good, took Moordič, Benoot, Van Hooydonck and Van der Hoorn (again) in a very dangerous split. After the Mont Saint-Laurent, these five riders had a 30 second lead on the second group. In that chase group there was top favourites De Lie and Jakobsen, but also other rapid men such as Sagan, Christophe Laporte and Jonathan Milan.

Strong men off the front, but 60 kilometres to go…

Jumbo-Visma had two men in the break: Nathan Van Hooydonck and Tiesj Benoot

After the climb of Mont Saint-Laurent, the roads towards Kuurne were a bit flatter and this gave the group the chance to organise a good chase. Lotto Dstny took responsibility in the pursuit for their sprinter De Lie, but the break was getting further away. Half a minute became a minute, a minute became a minute and a half. As the race went on, it looked better for Benoot, Van Hooydonck, Van der Hoorn, Wellens and Mohorič.

Matej Mohorič also made it into the break

Due to the work of Lotto Dstny, Soudal Quick-Step and Cofidis, the difference to the leading group closed down a little, but the leading five had 1 minute lead as they started the local lap of 12.6 kilometres through Kortrijk and Kuurne. It looked safe for the break, but the race was still open. Van der Hoorn, Mohorič, Wellens, Benoot and Van Hooydonck were still looking strong and managed to stay out of the grip of the chasing peloton. The winner would come from the the break

Peter Sagan was still in the peloton

Jumbo-Visma had the luxury of two men and used it to the max. With just under 5 kilometres to go, Van Hooydonck tried to ride away twice, but Mohorič, Wellens and Van der Hoorn were on to his moves. Then it was up to Benoot to try, but the Belgian couldn’t get a gap. A subsequent attack by Mohorič was stronger, but Van Hooydonck closed the breach and then went again. Mohorič had to pull out all the stops to follow, but didn’t crack.

The winning beak

Van der Hoorn watched it all from the back of the group and closed the gaps again and again. The rider of Intermarché-Circus-Wanty seemed to be gambling on the sprint, but Benoot had other plans. The Belgian had a final jump in the final kilometre and this turned out to be the right move. Wellens could no longer close the gap, neither could Van der Hoorn and Mohorič. Benoot crossed the line first ahead of his teammate, Hooydonck and Mohorič. Christophe Laporte won the bunch sprint for 6th place.

A jumbo 1-2… and 6th

Race winner, Tiesj Benoot (Jumbo-Visma): “It is great to be able to win like this after a difficult period. In the last five kilometres, Nathan and I took turns to lure the rest out of their room. Tim Wellens and Matej Mohorič gambled on the sprint. We were still in the front group with two people and you want to play that. Nathan was already very strong at three kilometres from the line and Mohorič had a lot of trouble closing that gap. I went after the last corner, 800 meters from the finish, and managed to take a small gap. I knew I had to continue. If they still take me back, Nathan can still win the sprint. It is really wonderful to win like that. I want to dedicate this victory to my girlfriend Fien, my daughter and my parents. They were there in Livigno after my accident. The first few weeks after my fall I was not the most pleasant at home. They also played an important role during my rehabilitation. It is very nice to win. It may not be a WorldTour race, it is a beautiful and large one-day Classic. I have made a big goal for all races to Liège-Bastogne-Liège. To win now, after an absence of seven months… it’s great.”

Kuurne’23 podium: Nathan Van Hooydonck (Jumbo-Visma), Tiesj Benoot (Jumbo-Visma) and Matej Mohorič (Bahrain Victorious)

# All the news from the opening weekend in EUROTRASH Monday. #

Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne Result:
1. Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Jumbo-Visma in 4:32:24
2. Nathan Van Hooydonck (Bel) Jumbo-Visma at 0:01
3. Matej Mohorič (Slo) Bahrain – Victorious
4. Taco van der Hoorn (Ned) Intermarché-Circus-Wanty
5. Tim Wellens (Bel) UAE Team Emirates
6. Christophe Laporte (Fra) Jumbo-Visma at 0:43
7. Arnaud De Lie (Bel) Lotto Dstny
8. Jordi Meeus (Bel) BORA-hansgrohe
9. Fabio Jakobsen (Ned) Soudal Quick-Step
10. Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo.

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