Brabantse Pijl defending champion Petr Vakoc will have Tour of Flanders champion Philippe Gilbert by his side in the Quick-Step Floors team for the transitional race between the cobbled and Ardennes Classics on Wednesday.
Gilbert sat out Paris-Roubaix in order to refocus on the Ardennes Classics, but didn't have too much time to celebrate his Monument. "I'll have more time to reflect on my Ronde van Vlaanderen win once I bring down the curtain over the Classics campaign at the end of the month, but at the moment my mind is set on the Ardennes. I'm feeling good after training in the past days, I know the condition is there and I am keen on showing this," Gilbert said.
The team will be without Julian Alaphilippe, its perennial podium finisher, due to a knee injury. "It's a pity Julian won't be here and I hope he'll get over this injury and return even stronger," Gilbert said.
Last year Vakoc soloed away from a five man move that also included Alaphilippe to take the most important one-day victory of his career.
Quick-Step Floors for Brabantse Pijl: Rémi Cavagna, Laurens De Plus, Tim Declercq, Dries Devenyns, Philippe Gilbert, Enric Mas, Petr Vakoc, and Martin Velits.
Gerrans leads Orica-Scott in Brabantise Pijl
Former Liège-Bastogne-Liège winner Simon Gerrans is gearing up for his Ardennes campaign with a run at the Brabantse Pijl with his Orica-Scott teammates. Team director Laurenzo Lapage is expecting an aggressive day of racing, and has added Daryl Impey – winner of a stage in Catalunya – and Jens Keukeleire, fresh off the Gent-Wevelgem podium, as other options for the race.
"Simon Gerrans is our leader for Wednesday's race," Lapage said. "However we have a squad that boasts a lot of strength in depth and we are fortunate to have the likes of Daryl and Jens, both in form and waiting in the wings.
"Last year the team missed the winning move and were forced to chase, but never quite made the catch. Their sprinter Michael Matthews won the bunch kick for fifth. This year, they don't want to make the same mistake," Lapage said.
"It will be very important to race aggressively, especially in the late final so we are not forced into a position where we have to work to bring the race back together."
Orica-Scott for Brabantse Pijl; Simon Gerrans, Jack Haig, Michael Hepburn, Daryl Impe, Chris Juul Jensen, Jens Keukeleire, Robert Power, and Svein Tuft.
De Bie carries Lotto Soudal's hopes in Leuven
Sean De Bie is hoping his string of good performances at the Vuelta al País Vasco will bode well for his campaign in the Ardennes Classics. The 25-year-old will start by leading the team in the Brabantse Pijl, a race he knows well.
It's a change for De Bie, who has in the past done the usual Belgian menu of cobbled one-day Classics and short stage races like Driedaagse De Panne. This year he opted for the Volta a Catalunya and Basque Tour as a lead in to his Ardennes experiment.
"The past seasons I always rode the Flemish spring races and I felt like the time had come to get a taste of the Ardennes Classics," De Bie said. "I am still young and I want to see if those races suit me. I really peaked towards this period to get a realistic idea of my possibilities in these races. I am very grateful to the team that I get this opportunity. And the fact that I get their trust, encourages me. I often train in the Ardennes, so I know many roads and hills. About six weeks ago I did a recon of the Amstel. That will come in handy with all those twists and turns."
De Bie's exit from the Basque Tour was planned to allow him more time to rest for the upcoming races. He expects a select bunch sprint, and says Sunweb's Michael Matthews will be the one to watch. "He was riding very strong in the Vuelta al País Vasco. He is the man to beat."
Lotto Soudal for Brabantse Pijl: Tiesj Benoot, Sean De Bie, Thomas De Gendt, Tomasz Marczynski, Rémy Mertz, Tosh Van der Sande, Jelle Vanendert and Tim Wellens.
Haas to lead Dimension Data in Brabantse Pijl
Australian Nathan Haas will be a rider to watch in Wednesday's Brabantse Pijl. The Dimension Data rider had a strong start to the season, finishing third in the national championships, fourth overall in the Tour Down Under and 10th in the Tour of Oman before taking a short break.
Jacques Janse van Rensburg, who will give the team another option in the race, is hoping to help end the squad's recent dry spell.
"This is a very nice race, which I have come to enjoy the last two years. The finishing circuit is great with some short steep hills as well as some technical sections. Personally, I came out of Volta a Catalunya feeling good so now I'm looking forward to seeing what I can do in the Ardennes races. We have a good team with Nathan [Haas] and Kristian [Sbaragli] who have done well here before. We are really motivated to achieve a victory together," he said.
Dimension Data for Brabantse Pijl: Nathan Haas Kristian Sbaragli, Youcef Reguigui, Ryan Gibbons, Jaco Venter, Ben O'Connor, Jacques Janse van Rensburg and Daniel Teklehaimanot