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Eeckhout delivers star turn at Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne

Posted 26 February 2012

Niko Eeckhout (An Post Sean Kelly), pictured right as Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Phama Quickstep) leads the break.

Cillian Kelly reports,

Veteran An Post Sean Kelly rider, Nico Eeckhout, delivered the performance of the day at Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne spending over 120 kilometres in two separate breakaways before Mark Cavendish took victory in a sprint finish.

Cavendish chalked up a comfortable second win in the Belgian semi-classic when he finished ahead of Yauheni Hutarovich (FDJ-BigMat) and Kenny van Hummel (Vacansoleil-DCM).

Ronan McLaughlin (An Post Sean Kelly) was the sole Irish rider among the 196 starters and he made a huge sacrifice during the race by giving Gediminas Bagdonas his bike after the Lithuanina suffered a mechanical at a key point in the closing stages.

The Donegal man's teamwork meant that we was unable to finish the race after losing contact with the main field but his efforts paid off as Bagdonas became the best placed rider on the team by completing the race in 35th place.

Eeeckhout’s performance was the talking point of the 198 kilometre race and the grit and determination he displayed over a serious of sapping climbs and cobbled sections defied his vintage.

After an hour and a half of racing, the 41 year old Belgian made it into the first break of the day with six other riders for company including last year's winner of Paris-Tours, Greg van Avermaet (BMC Racing).

With 82km of the race remaining van Avermaet attacked and got a gap, but Eeckhout was straight on his wheel and the two worked together to distance themselves. They remained out front for 10 kilometre before they were eventually reeled in by the peloton.

As the counter attacks came thick and fast Eeckhout, incredibly, found it within himself to join another move with a second group of seven riders going clear with 42 kilometres remaining.

Eeckhout’s efforts were relentless and the huge contribution that he made helped the group to create and maintain a gap of almost one minute.

But with Team Sky forcing the pace to setup their leader Cavendish, the break was living on borrowed time. 

But just as the juncture was being made, in a last gasp act of defiance, the man they call Rambo had enough energy left to attack one last time inside the final 7 kilometres.

His final foray took him all the way to the five kilometre to go marker before the Team Sky lead out train swept him up as the worked to deliver Cavendish to the finish with text book timing.

Cavendish made light of the sprint as he crossed the line to  become only the first World Champion to win Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne since Johan Museeuw in 1997.

The display of strength and determination exhibited by Eeckhout will be an inspiration to his younger An Post-Sean Kelly teammates at they turn their attention to Wednesday’s Le Samyn.

The plucky Belgian animated this cobbled semi-classic from start to finish in dreary weather conditions and his teammates will not need reminding that they have a tough act to follow come Wednesday.


Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, 198 kilometres

1.  Mark Cavendish (GBr) Sky Procycling    
2.  Yauheni Hutarovich (Blr) FDJ-Big Mat    
3.  Kenny Robert Van Hummel (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM    
4.  Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat    
5.  Alexander Serebryakov (Rus) Team Type 1-Sanofi    
6.  Tom Veelers (Ned) Project 1t4i    
7.  Sébastien Chavanel (Fra) Team Europcar    
8.  Stefan Van Dijck (Ned) Accent Jobs - Willems Veranda's    
9.  Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha    
10.  André Greipel (Ger) Lotto-Belisol

An Post Sean Kelly Team

45. Gediminas Bagdonas (Ltu)
56. Niels Wytinck (Bel)
58. Pieter Ghyllebert (Bel)
79. Stijn Ennekens (Bel)
120. Niko Eeckhout (Bel) - at 40 seconds
DNF Ronan McLaughlin (Irl) 






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