Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) sprinted to victory at the Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne today, taking the win ahead of Arnaud Demare (FDJ) and Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida). Julien Vermote came agonizingly close to stealing the victory from the sprinters though, being caught with just 100m to go and ending 9th.
Once again it was another icy cold day in Belgium as the peloton began the 200km Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne this morning. After Scott Thwaites 13th at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad our African Team was hoping to break into the top 10 today, Thwaites and Vermote our protected riders once again.
An early break of 7 riders went clear but they weren’t able to open much of a lead before the peloton started to increase the pace ahead of the Oude Kwaremont climb. Vermote was well prepared for the lead into the Kwaremont, positioned right near the head of the pack. A crash just before the climb began caused a big split in the race with 21 riders going clear, the rest of the peloton left chasing in smaller groups.
Vermote and Thwaites were our only two riders to get through the major hold up okay, and formed part of the chasing peloton which was led by LottoNL-Jumbo initially before Astana took over the chase. Vermote and Thwaites, outnumbered in the peloton, had to bide their time and let the other teams pull back the lead group.
Fortunately, this catch took place with 40km to go, bringing all 90-odd riders remaining in the race back into contention. Daniel Oss (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) then had a go but when Oss punctured, it was inevitable that it would all come back together again for the final local laps in Kuurne.
Just when everyone thought it would be a standard group sprint, Julien Duval (AG2R La Mondiale) attacked and Vermote countered, riding across to the Frenchman with 9km to go. The duo was then joined by Loic Vliegen (BMC Racing) and the trio went full tilt for the finish-line.
With a gap of just 10 seconds, Vermote put in some massive pulls on the front to hold that advantage into the final kilometer, eventually riding the other two off his wheel. Our Belgian gave absolutely everything but unfortunately Groenewegen came sprinting past him just 100m before the line. Vermote hung on for an incredibly gutsy 9th place.
Julien Vermote – Rider
I felt quite good today. Yesterday I was a bit off, I missed some important information at crucial points and that cost me some energy. It was disappointing. I am always motivated to race my bike but today, the finish was just 2km from my house. I took my chance in the final, I had nothing to lose but believed I could do something. I got 12 to 13 seconds with the other 2 guys but on these wide roads, with a big bunch chasing, it’s difficult. When I saw dropped them, and they were shouting in the radio for me to go, I kept pushing. It’s such a pity to come so close like that, it would have been great to win but we take the positives from today. I proved I can be good in the final and I’m really happy that the team also gives me the confidence for this. We have planned to be good for the classics, actually to be even better a little later in the season, and I had a really good camp in Calpe last week with our coach, so these are good signs. I can take a lot of confidence from my condition going forward and I am happy to be doing so with Team Dimension Data.