Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne: Tom Boonen becomes first man to win race three times
Tom Boonen became the first man to win the one-day Classic Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne three times.
Last Updated: 02/03/14 6:56pm
The Omega Pharma - Quick-Step rider formed part of a ten-man breakaway group with 70km remaining and then sprinted to a narrow victory over second-placed Moreno Hofland (Belkin) and third-placed Sep Vanmarcke (Belkin).
The result followed up his wins in the 2007 and 2009 editions of the race and sounded a warning to his rivals ahead of the bigger Classics to come later in the spring.
The 197km race hinged on a key moment on the famous Oude Kwaremont climb, when Belkin blew the peloton apart by launching an attack that only Omega Pharma - Quick-Step and two other riders could respond to.
A group of ten formed - comprising of five from Omega Pharma - Quick-Step, three from Belkin, Garmin-Sharp's Johan Vansummeren and Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise's Yves Lampaert - and they quickly opened up a gap of almost a minute, catching and overtaking the day's initial breakaway in the process.
Ten break clear
Back in the peloton, Lotto Belisol and Team Sky moved to the front in a bid to ramp up the pace and close their deficit, but Belkin and Omega Pharma - Quick-Step worked together well and maintained their advantage going into the flat run-in to the finish in Kuurne.
Vansummeren and Belkin's Maarten Wynants both tried late attacks, but each time Omega Pharma - Quick-Step hunted them down as they successfully set up a bunch finish for Boonen.
The Belgian was first to launch his sprint and he then held off a late surge from Hofland to claim his fourth win of the season.
Boonen said afterwards: "I'm very happy about this victory. In the final I was a bit nervous because we could only lose this race with five of us in the front. I was expecting more attacks but there was a lot of wind and it wasn't easy to attack."
There was British success in the junior race earlier in the day, when James Shaw claimed a prestigious victory. The 17-year-old had been part of a four-man breakaway but attacked 2km from the line and rode to an impressive solo victory.
1 Tom Boonen (Bel) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step, 4:28:55
2 Moreno Hofland (Ned) Belkin, same time
3 Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Belkin, st
4 Yves Lampaert (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise, st
5 Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step, st
6 Maarten Wynants (Bel) Belkin, st
7 Guillaume van Keirsbulck (Bel) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step, st
8 Nikolas Maes (Bel) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step, st
9 Matteo Trentin (Ita) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step, st
10 Johan Vansummeren (Bel) Garmin-Sharp, st