2013 winner begins Ardnennes campagin
Last year Philippe Gilbert (BMC) and Peter Sagan (Cannondale) duelled for victory at De Brabantse Pijl - La Flèche Brabançonne. In 2014 the Slovakian road race champion is forgoing the defence of his win. Without the presence of Sagan, Gilbert will be the only past winner of the race on the start line in Leuven.
Gilbert won the race in 2011 ahead of Björn Leukemans and then went on to clean sweep the three big Ardennes classics - Amstel Gold Race, La Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
As a warm up for the big three, De Brabantse Pijl is an indicator for who is in form and who are the riders to watch over the coming week. Since becoming just the second rider to win all three of the Ardennes classics, Gilbert's best finishing position during the Ardennes week is third at the 2012 La Flèche Wallonne. The 31-year-old also won the 2010 edition of Amstel Gold and will be looking to use Brabantse Pijl as a final tune up before the 251km Dutch race on April 20.
Gilbert will be backed by a strong team as BMC and the rest of the peloton makes the transition from the cobbles to the cotes. Having ridden Paris-Roubaix on Sunday, Swiss road champion Michael Schär turns his attention to helping out Gilbert while the overall winner of Tour Méditerranéen earlier this year, Stephen Cummings, will also be a key domestique throughout the 203km race.
BMC Racing Team for Brabantse Pijl: Stephen Cummings, Yannick Eijssen, Philippe Gilbert, Martin Kohler, Amaël Moinard, Michael Schär, Peter Stetina and Larry Warbasse.
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