Kasper Asgreen won the biggest race of his career on Sunday when the young Dane claimed Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne following an impressive solo effort.
Just two days into the spring classics campaign, which got under way at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday, the Deceuninck-Quick Step rider made an audacious move not too dissimilar to that of team-mate Bob Jungels who won the Belgian race in 2019.
Following a series of moves on what was an aggressive afternoon of racing, Asgreen made his move with around 30 kilometres of the 201km race remaining. Despite having worked on behalf of team-mate Fabio Jakobsen who was expected to contest a sprint finish, Asgreen still had enough in the tank to surge off the front, taking with him Roy Jans (Alpecin-Fenix) and Boris Vallée (Bingoal-Wallonie Bruxelles).
Jans and Vallée, however, were unable to hold the wheel of the time trial specialist. Having first shaken off Jans, Vallée was the next to lose the wheel of Asgreen, though with his advantage having dropped to just 15sec the move appeared doomed.
Asgreen ultimately held on all the way in what was a nailbiting finale that saw the 25-year-old hold of the speeding bunch by just 3sec. Giacomo Nizzolo (NTT) won the sprint for second ahead of Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) while Ben Swift (Ineos) was the highest-placed Briton in eighth spot.
“It’s definitely the biggest victory of my career,” Asgreen said in a team statement on Sunday evening. “Taking a classic is so important, because when I turned pro, I had the goal of developing myself into a classics-type of rider, and to win this hard but beautiful race, just two years into my pro career, means so much to me.
“Bob told me in the bus this morning to do what he did last year, when he too attacked and claimed a solo victory here, so I just followed his advice, knowing the small and narrow roads would play into my favour.
“It was really tough, my legs were screaming and I really suffered out there, but I kept going and began believing only at the 300-metre-to-go sign. The 'opening weekend' was very good for us, we showed incredible teamwork and these results cement our confidence before the next classics, when we want to be again up there.”
The race was overshadowed after Swift's team-mate Gianni Moscon was disqualified for "aggressive and unsporting conduct". The Italian who gas a chequered history appeared to throw a bike at a B&B Hotels-Vital Concept rider following a pile-up.
Moscon werpt boos andermans fiets in de beek na deze valpartij. De gevolgen zijn zwaar: diskwalificatie pic.twitter.com/QHb3L94RHk
— sporza (@sporza) March 1, 2020
In 2018 Moscon was kicked off the Tour de France for lashing out at Élie Gesbert. The previous year the talented, but volatile rider, was suspended by his employers – Team Sky – for six weeks and sent on diversity training after racially abusing Kévin Reza – who now rides for B&B Hotels-Vital Concept – at the 2017 Tour de Romandie.
In a short statement on their website, Ineos said Gabriel Rasch who working as sporting director at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, had had a meeting with the race commissaires after which he conceded the decision to disqualify Moscon was correct.
“The commissaires showed me the incident on the big screen as the TVs in the car are too small to really see it,” Rasch said in the statement. “I agree it's something that should not have happened. We will speak to Gianni about it later this evening.
“Ultimately we respect the decision made by the commissaries.”