Cian Uijtdebroeks demonstrates with a 50 K solo in Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne U19
Updated: Apr 9
On the 1st of March, Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, the first of the junior cobbled classics season was ridden on the Flemish roads.The lockdown for the coronacrisis saw all the following races deleted from the junior race calendar, and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne would remain the only spring classic that was ridden. A race of 128 kilometres with a few (cobbled) climbs on the way to the last flat straight of 30 K. The team Acrog-Tormans Balen BC was on for a seemingly hard task: pursuing the streak of wins they had in Kuurne, in 2018 with Remco Evenepoel and in 2019 with Casper van Uden. As can be seen on the picture underneath, they succeeded. They imposed and dominated the race with first year junior Cian Uijtdebroeks (winner after a 50 K solo) and Pepijn Reinderink (second).
The Young Peloton went to Kuurne and talked to Cian and Pepijn, the stars of the race and so far of the whole classics season for juniors. Fair enough, not all countries or riders appeared at the start, but a lot of British, Scandinavian and Dutch riders took the trip to Belgium.
Cian Uijtdebroeks (Belgium) - winner
Cian, your race ended with a powerful solo. Can you tell how your race was ridden?
Cian: "I managed to start the race on one of the front rows, so that was perfect. Then there were some crashes in the peloton (among others the Brit Oscar Nilsson-Julien got in that early crash - Ed.) and I ended up behind the peloton, so I had to ride against the wind in order to close it."
You probably already felt you had good legs then?
Cian: "Actually, no. That effort cost me some energy so not everything went to plan. Only into the first section of bergs (short Flemish climbs, Ed.), I was able to ride to the front of the peloton. Suddenly, I found myself in the first group of 12-13 riders. My teammates Pepijn Reinderink and Dries De Pooter were also in that group. Then on a next climb, the Côte de Trieu, we rode away with a group of 5 riders. Me and 2 teammates were up there, so that was brilliant."
But you decided not to wait for a sprint between the 5 of you?
Cian: "Well, some riders were starting to come back with 50 K to go. Now, I don’t like it when lots of riders come back." (smiles) "My sprint also isn’t that strong, so I decided to have a go. On a normal road with headwind, attacked. It’s my first year in the U19-category, so it didn’t really matter if I wouldn’t make it to the finish. A perfect situation for the team, as my teammates wouldn’t have to do the work in the groups behind me. My attempt lasted until the finish line, so I’m very happy."
A solo breakaway of 50 kilometres. Impressive, how did you count which speed you could and had to hold until the end?
Cian: "I can see how much power I’m producing on my wattmeter. But actually I rode with my feeling, just like I used to do as an U17 rider. I’m really careful not to go past my limits. And at the end I still had something left."
Your own teammate Pepijn didn't expect you on this rather course. You tend to excel on hilly or even mountainous terrain. You for example won the queen stage on the Grand Colombier and the GC in the Tour de l'Ain U17.
Cian: "Yeah, Kuurne isn't a race that exactly suits my characteristics. Especially the final was just flat, while I’m a climber. I started here for the experience. But apparently I’m not too bad in the Flemish classics. I’m discovering abilities I didn’t know I had."
Probably the biggest one day race for juniors is Paris-Roubaix. I found out you’re not in the selection of the Belgian national team. Why not?
Cian: "I didn’t insist on being in that selection, to be honest. Normally that wouldn’t be the type of race for me, and my team had a nice stage race in Switzerland on their programme. Now, maybe we have to look into my schedule again, but normally I won’t ride Roubaix. (Roubaix later got cancelled - Ed.)"
Is Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne your biggest win so far? You already won the Criterium des Jeunes, Chrono des Nations and the Belgian title as an U17 rider.
Cian: "Yes, I think so. It’s my first U19 victory, and that’s a different level and a different way of racing. All of my U17 races basically went the same: 60 kilometres of racing at my limit. As the junior races are longer, things get a bit more tactical."
Two years ago, Remco Evenepoel won Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne for the same Belgian team. Solo, just like you. You would be a nice successor.
Cian: "I hope so." (smiles, well, he basically smiled the whole time)
You live in the French part of Belgium, Wallonia, but you sound as a native speaker of Dutch. How is that possible?
Cian: "Well, I’m actually a fake Frenchie. I live right next to the border with Flanders and I speak Dutch at home."
What are the next races you’re riding?
Cian: "Nokere Koerse, Bernaudeau Junior, and Tour de Léman in Switzerland in the same weekend as Paris-Roubaix." (All of these races got cancelled, Ed.)
The World Championships are in Aigle, in the Swiss mountains as well.
Cian: "That’s true, but I’m not focusing on that yet."
It was quite late that you came on the team roster. When did you sign for Acrog-Tormans BC?
Cian: "In December. I got a lot of offers from different teams, but the fine programme I could ride for Acrog-Tormans BC made the difference. In Belgium, I don’t think there is a more professional junior team."
Pepijn Reinderink (Netherlands) - second
What is your story of the race?
Pepijn: "Before the start, the team had expected a windy race with echelons. But the wind wasn’t blowing much, so the bunch stayed together for a while. On the Kruisberg I attacked for the first time. Then on the Côte de Trieu, I took the lead in the peloton with Dries Depooter and Cian Uijtdebroeks, my teammates. Some riders of other teams followed, but it was a perfect situation for the team and we worked together well. At that moment there was still a British rider leading the race. Then some other riders rode back to our group."
What happened next?
Pepijn: "I attacked, but Cian followed me and attacked once again. I didn't have the legs to respond at that moment. He was really strong. So he went for it and as a teammate I didn’t have to ride anymore to catch him. I was in a small second group with two British riders, but Cian had a big gap and I had to start riding as well, so the peloton wouldn’t catch us. Then I attacked with the rider from the British selection (Jack Rootkin-Gray, Ed.). When we went into the last lap, I was confident Cian would make it, so I rode full gas for my podium spot."
Are you happy with your second spot on the podium?
Pepijn: "I would have liked to give my all for the victory, but I’m really satisfied with a 1-2 for the team. My sprint has improved, so I beat the British rider quite easily and we crossed the finish line in 2nd and 3rd."
It was quite a demonstration from your teammate Cian as well. Is he the best Belgian rider right now?
Pepijn: "In Belgium, I think so for sure. I don't know if he can keep racing at this level for the whole season, though. But one thing is certain: I rather have him on my team, than the other way round. I hadn’t expected him in a race like Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne. Everyone knows he's good in races with climbs, but here... Today he surprised us and I'm really happy for him."
Last week your team went on a heavy training camp in Spain to focus on the classics campaign. Today your team dominated the race. 1+1 = 2?
Pepijn: "Actually, we didn’t know what the impact would be on this race. I rested at home for three days on a row before Kuurne. I didn't feel exhausted at all during the race. I felt strong and I think my shape will only get better."
As a Dutchie, why did you choose to join Acrog-Tormans, a Belgian team?
Pepijn: "As an U17-rider, the only race with climbs in the Netherlands was ‘Omloop van de Maasvallei’. I won that race, so as a junior I decided to go to a Belgian team to ride more hilly races. I'm not the only Dutch rider on the team, though." (Amongst others, his brother Joris rides for 'Balen' as well - Ed.)
Your career took a turn when you tore your ligaments during a crash in a cyclocross race.
Pepijn: "That’s three years ago now, in my first year as an U17 rider, but it’s true. Before that, I was really skinny. I actually had an eating disorder at the time, because I thought I would ride faster if I ate less. But when I had that injury, I couldn’t train for six months. I did a lot of power training to improve my hamstrings, because the doctors told me to. They needed the hamstrings to make new ligaments. After that, in my second year as an U17 I won Omloop van de Maasvallei and Tour de Basse-Meuse. I think the whole process with the power training made me stronger in the end. But it was not a nice injury, not at all. And now I’m still only 66 kilograms so I’m still okay uphill."
What are your next goals?
"Now I’m focused on Paris-Roubaix U19 and Tour of Flanders U19. My goal is to win Roubaix. Last year the Netherlands finished first (Hidde van Veenendaal) and third (Lars Boven), we would like to copy that result this year."