World champion Mark Cavendish yesterday finished off a strong Team Sky performance to win Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, only FDJ-BigMat’s Yauheni Hutarovich managing to challenge the Manxman in a sprint launched 250 metres from the line. On Saturday, as the Belgian Classics season started, Garmin-Barracuda’s Sep Vanmarcke had won the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in style from Omega Pharma-Quick Step’s Tom Boonen and Team Sky’s Juan Antonio Flecha.
Cavendish, who confessed afterwards that he had been ill throughout the 195km race, was led out in the sprint by last year’s winner, CJ Sutton, following a race where Team Sky worked hard at the front of the peloton in the closing 50 kilometres to reel in a break and set up the finale for the 26-year-old to outsprint his rivals. Vacansoleil-DCM’s Kenny van Hummel finished third.
Telling Belgian TV channel Sporza how his team mates had helped shelter him from the wind on a day on which he struggled with illness and also ensured the break was brought back, Cavendish said: “Things didn’t work out so well in the Tour of Oman, and I was giving the guys quite a hard time. It would have been easy for them to come here today and say, ‘F*ck off, we don’t ride,’ but they did the opposite, they rode incredibly, I’m so, so proud.
“There’s nothing else I can do when I get delivered like that. I didn’t feel so good earlier on, I was vomiting the whole day. After we finished the cobbled climbs I spoke with CJ, I said ‘Maybe you need to be prepared to sprint, because I don’t feel too good,’ but once we took control, I settled down. I was still vomiting but I had the power there, it was nice to get the sprint.”
In one is surely one of the braver interview questions ever put to Cavendish, he was then asked: “What’s next for you? Forgive me – losing two or three pounds for San Remo?”
The Team Sky rider took it in his stride, however. “Yes, I’ve still got a little bit to go, I’m ahead of target actually, I’ll go to Tirreno [Adriatico] and lose a bit more weight there, then Milan-San Remo, it’s a big goal.
“When I won in 2009, I said two days later, ‘I want to win it now in the world championships jersey,’ so we’ll go back this year, it’s a big goal for the beginning of the year.
“Also, Gent-Wevelgem, I want to come, I’ve been close but not close enough on two occasions and this is the year we really want to go for it, and then tapering down for the birth of my little girl, he added, smiling.
Some 24 hours previously, Garmin Barracuda’s Vanmarcke got the first win of what promises to be a glittering Classics career when he beat Boonen to the line in the Omloop Het Nieusblad.
Describing his win as “a dream come true,” it was an attack from the 23-year-old Belgian that left just he, Flecha and Boonen to contest the finale. The Team Sky man was never going to be favourite for the sprint, and most people would have backed Boonen for the win.
The former world champion went early, but Vanmarcke proved stronger as he powered past him to clinch his first pro win and confirm the promise he showed while finishing second in Gent-Wevelgem with Topsport Vlaanderen in 2010 and fourth in the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen with Garmin-Cervelo last year.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.