Artyom Zakharov on the attack at Kuurne – Brussels – Kuurne
Artyom Zakharov continued Astana – Premier Tech’s presence in the breakaway at Opening Weekend with an aggressive performance at Kuurne – Brussels – Kuurne where the Kazakh led the race for almost the whole day.
Zakharov was one of the first riders to attack after ten kilometres of racing and was joined by three riders. With the peloton sitting up behind, two more riders jumped clear to form a six-rider breakaway which gained a six-minute advantage.
“There were attacks from the start and I was up there in front, waiting for the right moment to jump away. There was a small hill and I decided to attack right there, and a rider from Bora – Hansgrohe joined me. Together, we opened a gap and later a few more riders joined us, so we went away. We had a good group, I felt good, and I worked on the same level with the others, but at the same time I tried to save some energy for the final part,” said Artyom Zakharov
The peloton slowly brought the breakaway’s advantage down as the race ticked off the cobbled sectors But it was an attack from Mathieu van der Poel and Jhonatan Narvaez that lit the race up with 80 kilometres remaining. The duo bridged to Zakharov’s breakaway on the Oude Kwaremont while behind, the peloton split into pieces two-minutes behind.
Zakharov showed strong form in the leading group and after losing contact when van der Poel attacked again, managed to dig deep and fight his way back to the race lead approaching the final 50 kilometres.
The five-rider lead group held their advantage with the first chase group of favourites sitting 40 seconds behind with 30 kilometres to go. As they crossed the finish line for the final 15-kilometre circuit, Zakharov’s group held a slim 15-second advantage but strong cooperation and determination saw the quintet hold their advantage as the kilometres ticked over.
It was a nail-biting finish which saw Zakharov’s group caught inside the final two kilometres to set the stage for a bunch sprint in Kuurne with the Belgian Mads Pederson taking the win. After a huge effort at the front of the race, Zakharov crossed the line in 26th place to round out the first group.
“After the Oude Kwaremont, Mathieu van der Poel came across to our group and we continued working hard to try to hold our gap. I tried to recover a bit and for some time stayed just on the wheel, but when our advantage began to come down, I also did my turns and helped our group. I was hoping we could go until the finish and as I had good legs, I wanted to try to fight for the podium. However, at the end of the day the group caught us and I could not do more in the bunch sprint. But I am happy with this race, I enjoyed it,” added Zakharov.
Kuurne – Brussels – Kuurne (197km)
Top 3: 1. Mads Pederson (Trek – Segafredo), 2. Anthony Turgis (Team Total Direct Energie), 3. Tom Pidcock (INEOS Grenadiers)
Astana – Premier Tech top 3: 26. Artyom Zakharov, 50. Alex Aranburu, 52. Gorka Izagirre
Photo: Getty Images