Tiesj Benoot has won Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne after some incomparable team play to complete a Team Jumbo-Visma domination of the Flemish Opening Weekend. The Belgian of Team Jumbo-Visma seized the perfect moment to ride away from the leading group in a thrilling final. Nathan Van Hooydonck completed the yellow-and-black formation’s celebration by finishing second.
On the Flemish climbs, Team Jumbo-Visma attempted to split up the peloton. The attempt was grandly successful. After an acceleration by Jan Tratnik, a group of five with Van Hooydonck and Benoot rode away from the peloton on Le Bourliquet and quickly gained a 1.5-minute lead.
Behind the leading group, the sprinters’ teams began their pursuit. Christophe Laporte, Van Baarle and Tratnik followed in their wheel. Slowly some of the lead was nibbled away, but the riders in the breakaway worked well together. The peloton could no longer close the gap, and the five at the front went on to battle for the win. Van Hooydonck was the first to attack, and Matej Mohoric put in a lot of effort to catch him. In the last kilometre, Benoot launched himself at the perfect moment, and Van Hooydonck thwarted attempts to reel him in. Laporte won the bunch sprint and finished sixth.
“Two out of two is incredible”, stammered Benoot. “The team delivered yet another outstanding performance. We wanted to attack early, and it worked perfectly on Le Bourliquet. I dedicate this victory to my girlfriend and my little daughter. I am at this level in part because of them. It’s brilliant to win after a difficult period”, Benoot referred to his long absence.
The 28-year-old Benoot knew he couldn’t let it come down to the sprint. “Nathan and I wanted to play the game. I had the impression that Wellens and Mohoric were gambling on the sprint. Three kilometres from the finish, Nathan launched a powerful attack, and Mohoric found it difficult to close the gap. Then, in the last kilometre, I seized my moment. I knew I had to push hard to exhaust the rest for the sprint so Nathan could be the fastest. We executed our plan perfectly.”
Runner-up Van Hooydonck felt great as well. “We utilised our chance to the fullest. I put a lot of effort into the beginning of the season, and this is a dream start. I also had the opportunity to win this race. We anticipated an early breakaway as the focus of this race is not on the final. We had made a plan, and we were fully committed to it. Christophe is also very fast, but we knew some guys could be faster on this finish. Then you have to try to create a different situation. It’s amazing to be racing in this team.”