The sun might have been out and the skies blue, but it was a biting cold wind that ripped through the peloton at the traditional opening salvos of the Belgian season this weekend.
You can’t always see the challenge that the wind presents in still images of cycle racing, but it’s presence is all too evident in Chris Auld’s collection of images from Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday and down the road in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne the following day.
From whatever level you look at it, seeking shelter seemed to be the name of the game – whether that was hiding one’s face behind a buff to keep the chill of the chops, or one’s body behind another in an echelon to keep powder dry for later in the race. Only the brave bared legs, while spectators huddled against walls – and under ear flaps.
It was great for flag-flying though. And there were of course riders who did stick their noses out in the wind. Sep Vanmarcke launched a blistering attack on the Muur in Het Nieuwsblad only to hit a more fearsome wall of block-head once away on his own over the top.
Dimension Data’s Julien Vermote, was another. The former Quickstep rider who’s made a name for himself riding in the wind on the front of the bunch all day for the benefit of sprinters, nearly seized his own moment of glory at their expense in Kuurne.
But, the final survivor from a late three man breakaway, he was passed in the home straight as the fastmen burst forth from the shelter of bunch with Dylan Groenewegen taking the honours.
It was left then to Astana’s Michael Valgren to find good blowing in the ill wind. With the protection of two team mates in the break with him, once the Dane had opened a gap in the closing kilometres at Het Nieuwsblad, it was too much of a commitment for any his rivals to move to chase him down.