Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) kick-started his Classics campaign in style by winning Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne to claim a record-breaking third victory.
Tornado Tom, who will bid to replicate his 2012 clean sweep of the four cobbled Classics, outsprinted Belkin duo Moreno Hofland and Sep Vanmarcke to claim victory.
Replicating the form they showed in the deserts of Qatar, Omega Pharma-QuickStep controlled the race alongside Belkin to ensure Boonen had four team-mates alongside him in the decisive ten-man break as it went clear in the final 70 kilometres.
Stijn Vandenbergh, Matteo Trentin, Nikolas Maes and Guillaume van Keirsbulck all finished in the top ten and though the lead-out did not go quite to plan, Boonen had enough to hold on for victory at the front.
The victory saw him, and the team, bounce back from a disappointing Omloop Het-Nieuwsblad and the delighted Belgian said afterwards: “I’m very happy about this victory especially if I think about yesterday’s race [Omloop].
“I felt good the entire day, I was completely recovered and this was a good sign. We did our race, we controlled the other teams and then on the Oude Kwaremont we accelerated.
“To be honest it wasn’t something programmed. Stijn Vandenbergh did a good tempo and at the top, after the false flat, we realized that we were all in the front. So we upped the pace and we went.
“To me it was better to arrive in a small group instead of facing a bunch sprint, so we made the race hard. In the final I was a bit nervous because we could only lose this race with five of us in the front.
“I have to thank the whole team. We showed once again that we are a good group. After the winter I understood that I was ok, that I was ready for a good season. I won at Tour of Qatar but of course this race in my home country has a special taste, even if it doesn’t change a lot.
“As usual we will check the the balance of my first part of the season after Roubaix, but of course this weekend makes me confident for the upcoming weeks.”
Earlier in the day, Vladimir Isaichev (Katusha), Silvan Dillier (BMC Racing), Gert Jõeäär (Cofidis) and Michael Vingerling (Team 3M) went clear.
Omega Pharma-QuickStep controlled the pace in the bunch throughout and though the gap reached four minutes, the Belgian team remained in full control, while Lotto-Belisol also pulled hard at the front.
After climbing the Cote de Trieux with the race back together, Belkin accelerated on the descent, fracturing the brunch. Another injection of pace by Belkin and Omega Pharma-QuickStep after the Oude Kwaremont then saw ten riders go clear off the front.
The Omega Pharma-QuickStep quintet had Hofland, Vanmarcke and Maarten Wynants (Belkin) for company, while Yves Lampaert (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise) and 2011 Paris-Roubaix champion Johan van Summeren (Garmon-Sharp) also made the split.
Keen to press home their advantage, the Belkin-Quickstep axis continued to work hard together with Lotto-Belisol and Team Sky – buoyed by Ian Stannard’s Omloop victory – leading the chase.
Katusha also put numbers on the front of the chasing group, but the leading group remained a minute clear on the first lap of the finishing circuit and it became increasingly apparent there would be no bunch sprint as had been anticipated ahead of the race.
With five Omega Pharma-QuickStep riders in the break, it was clear they had the advantage, prompting Wynants to attack early.
And while the Belgian’s attack briefly disrupted the Omega Pharma-QuickStep train, with Trentin having to counter the move, Boonen held off Hofland in a tight sprint to record his record-breaking victory.
Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne 2014 – result
1) Tom Boonen (BEL) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep – 4:28:50
2) Moreno Hofland (NED) – Belkin Pro Cycling – ST
3) Sep Vanmarcke (BEL) – Belkin Pro Cycling
4) Yves Lampaert (BEL) – Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise
5) Stijn Vandenbergh (BEL) Omega Pharma-Quickstep
6) Maarten Wynants (BEL) Belkin Pro Cycling
7) Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (BEL) Omega Pharma-Quickstep +2”
8) Nikolas Maes (BEL) Omega Pharma-Quickstep
9) Matteo Trentin (ITA) Omega Pharma-Quickstep +4”
10) Johan Van Summeren (BEL) Garmin-Sharp