Racing in Kuurne is therefore special to me. In 2010 my grandfather died and when I started as junior world champion a few months later, I wanted to win at all costs. It didn't work out then, but I knew at the time that one day I would come back and win.
During my first few years as a pro, the team decided not to compete in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. So I had no other option than to push internally for participation. I personally and repeatedly pleaded with the team management to be able to ride the opening weekend in Belgium. After all, for a Belgian cyclist nothing beats opening the season in the Omloop and Kuurne.
In 2016, the time had come and I was finally at the start of Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, with a small lump in my throat and the sky-high ambition to deliver a banging performance there. The day before, in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, I was able to demonstrate how good I was. But unfortunately I crashed in a bend, so it was a bit of a gamble how well I would perform the next day.
Thank God, the crash the day before didn't impact me at all. I had slept well and was not bothered by the wounds to my elbow and knee. More than that, I felt super strong all day, and when I saw my chance and broke away from the group at more than 17 kilometres from the finish, I had wings. I rode the time trial of my life, and when I finally crossed the line alone, it was obvious for me that I should dedicate this victory to my grandfather.
At the end of this season, Iljo Keisse will end his active cycling career at the age of 40. A career that, on the road, took place in the shadow of...