Stannard and Durbridge in the fight at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne

Sun 1 Mar 2020

Youngster Rob Stannard narrowly missed out on a top-10 finish after mixing it in the sprint for second place at a hectic edition of Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.

Australian time trial champion Luke Durbridge was also in the fight throughout the day as he followed numerous attacks and regularly made it into the right side of various splits before marshalling his younger teammate into the finale.

Nervous Start
It was a fast and nervous start to the day with several crashes and breakaway attempts coming and going before a five rider move eventually went clear of the peloton after 25 kilometres of racing.

The gap went out to over six minutes until the race reached the halfway mark and the bunch began to up the tempo over the numerous bergs littered throughout the middle of the course.

An untimely mechanical for Alex Edmondson cost the Australian as the race began to come alive with 65 kilometres remaining and the first big move came over the famous Oude Kwaremont, with a select group driving clear over the cobbled berg, opening up a small advantage.

Chase, Chase, Chase
Durbridge initially missed the move but chased hard to get back on over the top, and it then wasn’t long before another split occurred. This time Durbridge was to the fore and the 28-year-old helped to drive the attack clear by 30-seconds before a larger chasing pack shut it down.

The remains of the breakaway were eventually swept up with 30 kilometres remaining and as they were, a counter attack was launched by Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck – Quick-Step). A stall in the bunch saw the gap grow to over 45 seconds as a host of riders, including Stannard, made it back on to the back of the pack.

Asgreen went solo inside the final 10 kilometres as the chase group got within 15 seconds, but with no team willing to lead the chase the Dane held on to take the victory. Behind, Stannard teed himself up for the sprint for second, eventually getting up for 14th.

Rob Stannard:
“It was a better race for the team today in respect to yesterday, although there’s certainly still some work to do before the next Classics up here.”

“After it split over the top of Cote de Trieu, I burned a lot of energy trying to get back to the front at the bottom of the Kwaremont. It split again there into multiple groups, and I just had to surf the chase groups and keep moving forward, only managing to get back when we entered the final circuits.”

“It felt great to be there in the final and actually be in a position to sprint, as I learned last year it is one thing to be in the group in the final, but it’s another thing to actually have the legs to compete. It gives me confidence of my form going in to the next few races.”

Luke Durbridge:
"Today the guys rode really well in the first part of the race with positioning, we were all up at the front and we made a bit of a difference from yesterday." 

"Then on the Oude Kwaremont I was a little bit gapped at the start of the climb and had to move up. I made it back up to the front group and then made another split of about 19 riders and we tried to make that stick but there were just too many sprinters in the group behind and they pulled it back together."

"In the final we tried to look after Rob for a sprint, so I just moved him up when I could and he had a sprint for a top 20 finish. My legs were much better than yesterday, so that’s a good sign. I think we’ve had good signs from some of the young guys here, they’ve really made a step up." 

"In the end we didn’t really come out with anything from opening weekend, but I think there’s some good signs. That’s the reason why we’re here, we’re testing equipment and showing how to work as a team in these races. I think there’s some good signs for the next classics to come."  

Laurenzo Laupage (Sports Director):
“Yesterday the guys made some mistakes and they all knew it, but the reaction from them today was great. We had some bad luck with Edmo who had a mechanical at the wrong moment and without that he would have also made the front group.”

“We said to Durbo to go for an early break when the race was splitting, but the thing is the race wasn’t really opening up earlier so the race wasn’t really hard ‘hard’. When he was in the first split, we said to him ‘keep your eyes open’ ahead of the last cobblestone section, and he tried.”

“But then we saw it would likely come down to a reduced bunch sprint and from that moment one we said to Luke to have a look for Rob and let’s give him a chance.”

Kuure-Brussels-Kuurne 2020 Results:
1. Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) 4:47:18
2. Giacomo Nizzolo (NTT Pro Cycling) +0:03
3. Alexander Kristoff (UAE-Team Emirates) ST
14. Rob Stannard (Mitchetlon-SOTT) ST

Photos courtesy of Getty Images.