Blog: Thought Provoking Classics Weekend


Paul Burgoine travels to Belgium for a taste of the classics and doesn’t quite get what he expected on a freezing weekend where cycling is king

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Het Nieuwsblad – Kuurne Brussels Kuurne

Paul writes ... Well what can I say! The long awaited trip to the first semi-classics of the season in Belgium didn’t really turn out as I had anticipated; firstly due to an overly long ferry crossing, I missed the start of both the women’s and men’s Het Nieuwsblad, that awkwardly for some reason started in different locations.

Why not just send the women off first and divert their race so there is no overlap with the men. This seems like an simple and obvious way to promote the women’s race.

The weather in Gent was to say the least cold. In fact, it was freezing with a biting wind and I doubt very much that any of the cyclists were looking forward to four or five hours in the saddle.

As per usual, it was virtually impossible to find any information regarding the women’s race. All you knew was that they were out there somewhere. There were a few sketchy reports from people who had been out on the course but that was it. It’s a wonder any of these women’s teams get sponsorship at all given the coverage they receive.



A frozen Lucy Garner 

What I don’t understand is why bother putting on a race alongside the men’s then give it no attention or coverage especially when you have got all the logistics in place already. For instance, why is it not possible to have a press conference for the winner – surely that cannot be too difficult. It would have been particularly beneficial on this day because it was so cold none of the riders wanted to hang around for interviews.

During the race, how hard would it have been to just have a motor bike relaying the numbers and time gaps of women in the break etc. There were some updates from around the 25K to go marker which was helpful but by this time the men’s race was on the big screen diverting people’s attention.

The race itself saw a decisive break of thirteen women escape, unfortunately none of which were British. As they got nearer to Gent, two women escaped from the other eleven, Tiffany Cromwell (Orica –AIS) and Megan Guarnier (Rabo-Women Cycling Team) with Cromwell coming out on top quite convincingly in the end. Last year’s winner Emma Johansson (Orica-AIS) wrapped up a good day for the Orica-AIS team by winning the sprint from the remaining of the break.

Lizzie Armitstead (Boels Dolmans-Cycling Team) was the first British rider home over four and a half minutes down on the winner, she was frozen solid unable to even put a warm top on. She said “It was so cold out there I couldn’t even breathe”.

Lucy Garner (Team Argos-Shimano) came in around ten minutes down on the leader and was so cold she couldn’t even speak… I didn’t see any of Rene Groot’s Breast Cancer Care Team but I imagine this was a real baptism of fire for them but also a good learning experience.



An Aussie winner in a freezing Belgium

One of the major differences between men and women in this race was the prize money, a massive difference. The UCI. still have a long way to go as regards equality in cycling and maybe running women’s racing cycling alongside men’s racing isn’t the best way forward because the women’s race runs the risk of being swamped and overlooked.

The men looked equally as freezing in their race, none more so than Sylvain Chavanel (Omega-Pharma Quickstep who rather than wanting to win the race, seemed like he just wanted to get home as fast as possible. Tactically, the race was a bit dull but it was nice to see Geraint Thomas (Sky Procycling) in the break and riding strong even after a fall with 70k to go and narrowly missing out in the sprint for third place.

To sum the race up, a super strong and powerful Belgium Stijn Vandenbergh (Omega-Pharma Quickstep) attacked hard on some flat pave and a clever little Italian Luca Paolini (Katusha) saw the move and sat in behind Vandenburg occasionally taking a few turns on the front then letting the huge Belgian wear himself out allowing Paolini an easy win in the lethargic sprint for the line.

I think experience won the day for Paolini. Thomas narrowly missed out on the third place as I said to Sven Vandousselaere (Topsport Vlaanderen-Saloise) and again I failed in my attempt to get any reaction from the riders because understandably all they wanted to do was to get in the warm.

The press conference was yet another disaster for me as Paolini doesn’t speak any English but I have recorded it all so if anyone fancy’s a translating job then give me a call.

The forecast for Saturday evening was for snow to fall in the Kuurne region overnight and 80 percent chance on the day of the Kuurne Brussels Kuurne race. I spent Saturday evening sitting in a bar in Gent where you have to give the barman your shoe as a deposit for certain glasses of beer.

I sat drinking Cecemel which in fairness is probably the best chocolate milk in the world whilst everyone else was enjoying the many alcoholic delights offered in this bar of which there are so many there is a menu.

Sunday morning, I opened the curtain to see the inevitable snow – damn! After checking the twitter feed, it was announced that a decision would be made at 11.15 on whether the race would go ahead. This was Belgium for god sake – I thought a little bit of snow wouldn’t stop the race.

Driving down to the start, the roads didn’t seem too bad. No ice, just a dusting of light snow and slush, but these were main roads. It was a different story on the back roads Patrick Lefervre (Omega-Pharma Quickstep manager) had driven down and tweeted pictures from. A full covering of snow.

After getting lost on a number of occasions and once thinking I had made it to the start to find out it was a market, I was sent round in a number of circles before finally making it to the start area. On arrival, Wilfred Peters was just going into a meeting with the race organisers to make a decision.

As we know now, it was to call the race off. At first, I thought this was a rash decision but the weather got progressively worse. And even now while I write this, we are being bombarded with sleet, rain and snow. Oh and I forgot the wind. This has been an unproductive but thought provoking freezing cold weekend in Belgium!



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