This week marks the transition from the cobbled Classics of Flanders and Northern France to the hills of the Ardennes Classics, with today’s Brabantse Pijl the marking the end of the spring for some riders and the start for many others.
The 51st edition of the race again started in Leuven, in the northern Brabant part of Flanders. However the race includes 31 short hills that will give the riders a taste of what is to come in the Amstel Gold Race, La Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
The 200km route starts with a ride to the south of Brussels and then heads back to Overijse for the final 75km on a tough circuit that includes a short but painful climb to the finish.
The sun was out for the start in the centre of Leuven, with the local cycling fans out chasing autographs and photographs with the riders. Unfortunately several big-name riders from the pre-race start list did not start, including last year’s winner Sébastien Rosseler (RadioShack). Italian national champion Giovanni Visconti (Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli) also failed to start after coming down with a cold.
Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) did start, as he looked to test his legs before Sunday’s Amstel Gold Race after missing Paris-Roubaix. Oscar Freire topped a strong Rabobank squad that also included Australia’s Michael Matthews and Luis Leon Sanchez.
Brabantse Pijl often allows smaller teams to grab the spotlight and both Team Spidertech and UnitedHealthcare were at the start, along with the likes of AN Post –Sean Kelly, Team NetApp, Andalucia, Colnago-CSF Inox and Acqua & Sapone.
They will all be looking to snatch the glory from the big ProTeams and local Belgian teams.