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No Oude Kwaremont in 2022 Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne as race seeks new climbs

Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne will bypass the Oude Kwaremont in 2022 as it heads to the Hainaut Ardennes for three new climbs.

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The Oude Kwaremont has been axed for the 2022 Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne.

The Belgian one-day classic unveiled the 2022 race route Tuesday, just over a month before the peloton is set to hit the cobbles in the “opening weekend” at the end of February.

A total of 13 hellingen will be climbed during the 195.1km race, but it will omit the Oude Kwaremont as organizers try to highlight lesser-known ascents. The famous Oude Kwaremont features in many of the major cobbled classics over the spring.

“There are many races that go over the Oude Kwaremont, but on the other side of our region, there are also slopes on which the race can explode. We want to be something innovative,” organizer Jos Callens told Belgian broadcaster Sporza.

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Despite the change-up, there will still be some more familiar climbs along the route.

The Tiegemberg, Katteberg, Boembeek, Bossenaarstraat, and Berg Tenhoutte will all feature early on before the race heads toward Pay de Collines in the north-west corner of Wallonia.

In the area known as the Hainaut Ardennes, the riders will first tackle the well-known La Houppe and then two new climbs. The first is Hameau des Papins, a 1,200m ascent that averages 6.6 percent and maxes out at 16.2 percent.

Next up is the 1,300m Le Bourliquet, which averages 6.8 percent and hits an upper gradient of 15.3 percent. Finishing the Ardennes loop is Mont Saint-Laurent, which was a new climb in 2019 and is the toughest of the loop at 1,300m averaging 7.8 percent and topping out at 17 percent.

After the loop around the Hainaut Ardennes, the riders will return to more familiar territory with the Kruisberg, Hotond, Côte de Trieu, and Kluisberg. The traditional local laps around Kuurne will complete the day’s racing.

Mads Pedersen won last year’s race from a bunch sprint after a four-rider escape, which included Mathieu van der Poel, was caught with 1.6km to go.

In addition to announcing the race route, the organizer also confirmed that 17 of the 18 WorldTour teams will be competing with just Astana missing from the start line. Alpecin-Fenix, Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise, Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB, Arkéa-Samsic, Uno-X, TotalEnergies, B&B Hotels, and U.S. squad Human Powered Health will also be racing.

Uncertainty still remains as to whether spectators will be allowed on certain sections of the course, including the new Wallonia loop, due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions. According to Sporza, there will be no VIP tents, but organizers are looking at other options.

With figures surrounding the Omicron outbreak across Europe changing regularly, the race organizers are preparing for various different eventualities.

“I don’t think they will decide before the end of February. We’ll see,” Callens said. “Organizing without an audience is especially difficult emotionally, but not for the rest. We already have some experience.

“Financially there is no problem. There are also alternatives. If the catering industry remains open, we can go there with our VIPs. They can also sit there with four at a table… It’s a bit of a puzzle, but it works… If we know a week in advance, that’s enough for us.”