Bob Jungels (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) attacked from a five-man lead group with 17 kilometers to go and time trialed his way to an impressive victory in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, Sunday. Owain Doull (Team Sky) won the sprint for second, and Niki Terpstra (Direct Energie) took third.
The Luxembourg champion benefited from disruptive tactics from his teammates in the peloton behind to snatch victory by only 12 seconds, making it two wins from two for Deceuninck-Quick-Step in the opening classics weekend after Zdenek Stybar took Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Saturday.
“To win the second race I’ve done on the cobbles is quite extraordinary,” said Jungels. “We’ve won twice this weekend and the boss will be happy too.”
After a fast start to the 200km race, which features a number of notable climbs and cobbled sections in the earlier stages of the course, a breakaway went away and took up to seven minutes. However, their lead soon tumbled and they were swallowed up by the peloton as the race approached the Oude Kwaremont with 85km to go.
As crosswinds whipped across the peloton on the approach to the Kwaremont, Deceuninck-Quick-Step took control, and Yves Lampaert and Zdenek Stybar split the bunch, with riders from Jumbo-Visma and Quick-Step notably present in the front groups. The Belgian team looked particularly keen to dominate the race, looking to take their second win in as many days after Stybar’s Omloop success.
After the climb of the iconic Oude Kwaremont, a powerful front group of over 20 riders formed, including Jungels, Stybar, Lampaert, Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott), Davide Ballerini, Magnus Cort (both Astana), Ian Stannard, Owain Doull (both Team Sky), Sebastian Langeveld (EF-Education First), and Oliver Naesen (AG2R-La Mondiale).
Quick-Step continued to dominate the race, with their strength in numbers in the front group enabling them to pile on the pressure. It was Jungels that created the definitive split on 60km to go, riding hard on the front, with only Cort, Ballerini, Naesen and Langeveld capable of following.
Though there were only five men at the front of the race, they worked well and quickly built a gap, commanding over 30 seconds advantage as the day entered the flat final quarter of the race. Jungels looked strong and put in a huge majority of the work on the front, looking powerful and confident.
In the peloton, Jumbo-Visma pushed the pace for last year’s winner Dylan Groenewegen, hopeful of an eventual bunch sprint.
A crash in the bunch took out pre-race contender Trentin, leaving him on his own and burning matches he would have liked to conserve for the potential sprint. Shortly after re-joining the peloton, he mounted the pavement, a move that later had him taken out of the race by the officials.
Out front, Jungels launched his race-winning move with 17km to go, powering away from his breakaway companions and soon gaining nearly 20 seconds on the quartet. Back in the bunch, Quick-Step disrupted Jumbo-Visma’s chase, giving their solo teammate up the road every chance of lasting possible. With 10km to go, the remaining breakaway men succumbed to the fatigue and fell back into the peloton.
As the race entered the final kilometers, Jungels’ continued rolling a huge gear, bringing his time trial chops to play. The peloton inched agonizingly close to the Luxemburger in the final run to the line, but he was able to sit up and celebrate with 100m to go, taking Quick-Step’s second win of the weekend.
Doull jumped out of the bunch to nab second place, crossing the line 12 seconds behind Jungels, while Terpstra took third.
“On the cobblestones of the Varent I wanted to thin the group and the five of us got away,” said Jungels, discussing how he forced the pace to create the initial breakaway.
“I saw that I was the strongest and a 15km time trial is something I can do,” Jungels continued of his race-winning move.