Returning to racing after his podium result at the Tour of Flanders, Peter Sagan (Cannondale) has won De Brabantse Pijl-La Flèche Brabançonne in a two-man sprint against world champion and 2011 Brabantse Pijl winner Philippe Gilbert (BMC). Björn Leukemans (Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team), part of the three-man group which emerged from an 11-rider break on the day's final climb in the closing kilometre, had nothing left to sprint with and crossed the line for third place at four seconds.
The race-winning 11-man break came together midway through the final 23.4km finishing circuit as a six-man lead group containing Kenny Dehaes (Lotto Belisol), Nikolas Maes (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), Stijn Devolder (RadioShack Leopard), Björn Leukemans (Vacansoleil-DCM), Davide Malacarne (Team Europcar) and Paul Voss (Team NetApp-Endura) was joined by a five-rider chase group comprised of Sagan, Gilbert, Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) and Simon Geschke (Team Argos-Shimano).
The finishing circuit's fifth and final climb, the Schavei, inside the last kilometre, would be the launch pad from which Sagan, Gilbert and Leukemans would emerge at the fore to contest the sprint. Van Avermaet and Maes had attacked the lead group prior to the ascent and held a slim advantage as the climb started, but Sagan led the chase and had the strength to launch an attack of his own as he caught and passed both Maes and then Van Avermaet.
Gilbert and Leukemans were able to mark Sagan's surge, but the Slovakian champion had enough left in the tank to dispatch of his rivals in the kick to the finish line in Overijse.
"The final was the most difficult part of the race" said Sagan. "I was in a minority situation compared to Omega Pharma-QuickStep and BMC, and all the riders left to me the responsibility to stop the attacks. I found a good chance on the last climb. I let it rip to close the gap on Van Avermaet and to leave behind as many riders as possible. It was a big effort.
"In the final straight we were against the wind and Gilbert was just behind me. I thought to do a short sprint but his attack anticipated my plan. At that point I had only to follow him and try to pass: I'm really happy to have done it."
Gilbert kept close tabs on Sagan in the finale and with the benefit of a teammate in Van Avermaet he had assistance in putting Sagan under duress, but Sagan proved too strong, denying Gilbert his first win of the 2013 season.
"I was confident for the sprint because I was already on his wheel the last five kilometres and I was very focused," Gilbert said. "It was so close.
"It is always better to win, but we did a great race and we played our cards in the final. It also gives a lot of confidence to the team and to myself as well. But it's always better to win, for sure."
An early break and animated finishing circuits
Dehaes and Maes were also part of the day's early break, formed at just 46km in. They were away with Ben Hermans (RadioShack Leopard), Youcef Reguigui (MTN-Qhubeka), Jan Ghyselinck (Cofidis) and Philip Deignan (UnitedHealthcare). The six-man group reached a maximum advantage in excess of four minutes, but stabilised at approximately 3:30.
The break made it onto the 23.4km finishing circuit, to be negotiated three times, and on the first lap of the circuit Reguigui was the first casualty of the break, dropped and absorbed by the peloton which trailed by just one minute.
With 50km to go Stijn Devolder (RadioShack Leopard) jumped away from the peloton and after a spirited 7km pursuit he made contact with the leaders. While Devolder was chasing solo, three more riders attacked the peloton, Björn Leukemans (Vacansoleil-DCM), Davide Malacarne (Team Europcar) and Paul Voss (Team NetApp-Endura), and this trio, too, managed to cross the gap to the break.
On the penultimate finishing circuit, with 41km remaining, 2011 De Brabantse Pijl champion Philippe Gilbert (BMC) had a rear flat and a slow change, first attempted by a teammate and then completed by a team mechanic. Gilbert didn't have any teammates to assist in his chase back, but the world champion surfed through the caravan and eventually regained contact, just as pre-race favourite Peter Sagan (Cannondale) experienced his own mechanical difficulties and had to stop for a bike change.
Near the end of the penultimate finishing circuit the break was reduced to just six riders - Maes, Dehaes, Leukemans, Devolder, Voss and Malacarne - as Devolder pushed the pace.
Entering the final 23.4km circuit the six leaders led the peloton by 41 seconds and soon afterwards Team Argos-Shimano came to the front of the field in force with five riders to try to cut into the break's advantage. Despite the show of force, the six leaders continued to hold the peloton at approximately 35-40 seconds.
The race's decisive action kicked off on the final ascent of the Hertstraat, the second of five hellingen on the finishing circuit, as Greg Van Avermaet attacked the peloton with teammate Philippe Gilbert in tow. Sensing danger, Peter Sagan immediately marked the escape and the trio were soon joined by Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) and Simon Geschke (Team Argos-Shimano) to form a five-rider chase group).
With 12km remaining, the five chasers made contact with the six leaders to form an 11-rider front group.
Defending champion Thomas Voeckler (Team Europcar) attacked and splintered the peloton in an attempt to bridge to the leaders, but with 9km remaining his chase group was absorbed by a re-grouped peloton and trailed the 11 leaders by 25 seconds. The deficit to the 11 leaders would steadily inch up in the closing kilometres and it became clear that the 2013 De Brabantse Pijl champion would come from that group.
Two kilometres from the finish Van Avermaet and Maes jumped away from the lead group and held a slim advantage onto the circuit's final climb, the Schavei, with Sagan leading the chase.
Van Avermaet dropped Maes on the climb, but Sagan continued his charge, passing first Maes and then Van Avermaet in the push to the finish line. Gilbert and Leukemans were the only riders to respond and soon after making contact Gilbert led out the sprint. Leukemans had nothing left and didn't respond, while Sagan came around Gilbert in the closing metres to add De Brabantse Pijl to his ever-increasing palmares.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale Pro Cycling||4:45:05|
|2||Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing Team|
|3||Bjorn Leukemans (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team||0:00:04|
|4||Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quick-Step Cycling Team||0:00:09|
|5||Simon Geschke (Ger) Team Argos-Shimano|
|6||Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team||0:00:11|
|7||Davide Malacarne (Ita) Team Europcar||0:00:17|
|8||Stijn Devolder (Bel) RadioShack Leopard||0:00:19|
|9||Paul Voss (Ger) Team NetApp-Endura||0:00:22|
|10||Kenny Dehaes (Bel) Lotto Belisol||0:00:25|
|11||Nikolas Maes (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick-Step Cycling Team||0:00:28|
|12||Sergey Lagutin (Uzb) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team||0:00:54|
|13||Tony Gallopin (Fra) RadioShack Leopard||0:00:57|
|14||Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Team Europcar|
|15||Danilo Wyss (Swi) BMC Racing Team|
|16||Michel Kreder (Ned) Garmin-Sharp|
|17||Pieter Serry (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick-Step Cycling Team|
|18||Romain Zingle (Bel) Cofidis, Solutions Credits|
|19||Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Belisol|
|20||Nicolas Edet (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits|
|21||Maxime Vantomme (Bel) Crelan-Euphony|
|22||Vincent Jerome (Fra) Team Europcar|
|23||Thomas Dekker (Ned) Garmin-Sharp|
|24||Nicki Sörensen (Den) Team Saxo-Tinkoff|
|25||Francois Parisien (Can) Team Argos-Shimano|
|26||Scott Thwaites (GBr) Team NetApp-Endura|
|27||Matthias Brandle (Aut) IAM Cycling|
|28||Karsten Kroon (Ned) Team Saxo-Tinkoff|
|29||Alessandro Bazzana (Ita) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team||0:01:03|
|30||Kévin Reza (Fra) Team Europcar|
|31||Daniel Schorn (Aut) Team NetApp-Endura|
|32||Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quick-Step Cycling Team|
|33||Thierry Hupond (Fra) Team Argos-Shimano|
|34||Jurgen Van Goolen (Bel) Accent Jobs-Wanty||0:01:06|
|35||Kevin De Weert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick-Step Cycling Team|
|36||David De La Cruz Melgarejo (Spa) Team NetApp-Endura|
|37||Laurens De Vreese (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|38||Yukiya Arashiro (Jpn) Team Europcar|
|39||Reinier Honig (Ned) Crelan-Euphony|
|40||Sébastien Delfosse (Bel) Crelan-Euphony|
|41||Tosh Van Der Sande (Bel) Lotto Belisol|
|42||Sander Armee (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|43||Marco Marcato (Ita) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team|
|44||Xavier Florencio Cabre (Spa) Katusha|
|45||Pier Paolo De Negri (Ita) Vini Fantini-Selle Italia|
|46||Simon Spilak (Slo) Katusha|
|47||Martin Velits (Svk) Omega Pharma-Quick-Step Cycling Team|
|48||Wouter Poels (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team||0:01:14|
|49||Reto Hollenstein (Swi) IAM Cycling||0:01:16|
|50||Pieter Jacobs (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|51||Kristof Vandewalle (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick-Step Cycling Team|
|52||Damiano Caruso (Ita) Cannondale Pro Cycling|
|53||Moreno Moser (Ita) Cannondale Pro Cycling|
|54||Lukasz Owsian (Pol) CCC Polsat Polkowice|
|55||Julien Vermote (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick-Step Cycling Team|
|56||Jan Bakelants (Bel) RadioShack Leopard|
|57||Gerald Ciolek (Ger) MTN-Qhubeka|
|58||Benjamin King (USA) RadioShack Leopard|
|59||Fabio Taborre (Ita) Vini Fantini-Selle Italia||0:01:31|
|60||Johannes Fröhlinger (Ger) Team Argos-Shimano||0:02:17|
|61||Jay Mccarthy (Aus) Team Saxo-Tinkoff|
|62||Nico Sijmens (Bel) Cofidis, Solutions Credits||0:02:29|
|63||Preben Van Hecke (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|64||Jonathan Fumeaux (Swi) IAM Cycling||0:04:22|
|65||Pirmin Lang (Swi) IAM Cycling|
|66||Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) MTN-Qhubeka||0:05:06|
|67||Sander Helven (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise||0:05:09|
|68||Rob Ruijgh (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team||0:05:18|
|69||Klaas Lodewyck (Bel) BMC Racing Team|
|70||Martin Kohler (Swi) BMC Racing Team|
|71||Patrick Schelling (Swi) IAM Cycling|
|72||Sergey Klimov (Rus) RusVelo||0:05:26|
|73||Olivier Kaisen (Bel) Lotto Belisol|
|74||Ryota Nishizono (Jpn) Champion System Pro Cycling Team|
|75||Pim Ligthart (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team|
|76||Adrian Honkisz (Pol) CCC Polsat Polkowice|
|77||Gaetan Bille (Bel) Lotto Belisol|
|78||Arthur Vanoverberghe (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|79||Arnaud Labbe (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits|
|80||Andrei Solomennikov (Rus) RusVelo|
|81||Sergei Chernetski (Rus) Katusha|
|82||Alexandr Pliuschin (Mda) IAM Cycling|
|83||Bartlomiej Matysiak (Pol) CCC Polsat Polkowice|
|84||Will Routley (Can) Accent Jobs-Wanty|
|85||Christopher Jones (USA) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team|
|86||Alexander Rybakov (Rus) RusVelo|
|87||Lucas Euser (USA) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team|
|88||Jurgen Van De Walle (Bel) Lotto Belisol|
|89||Stefano Borchi (Ita) Vini Fantini-Selle Italia|
|90||Pavel Brutt (Rus) Katusha|
|91||Albert Timmer (Ned) Team Argos-Shimano|
|92||Kevin Hulsmans (Bel) Vini Fantini-Selle Italia|
|93||Kristof Goddaert (Bel) IAM Cycling||0:08:13|
|94||Gilles Devillers (Bel) Crelan-Euphony|
|95||Dirk Bellemakers (Ned) Lotto Belisol|
|96||Nathan Haas (Aus) Garmin-Sharp|
|97||Marcel Aregger (Swi) IAM Cycling|
|98||Stefano Agostini (Ita) Cannondale Pro Cycling|
|99||Tiziano Dall'Antonia (Ita) Cannondale Pro Cycling|
|100||Lucas Sebastian Haedo (Arg) Cannondale Pro Cycling|
|101||Edward King (USA) Cannondale Pro Cycling|
|102||Davide Rebellin (Ita) CCC Polsat Polkowice|
|103||Chad Beyer (USA) Champion System Pro Cycling Team|
|104||Jarl Salomein (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|105||Christophe Prémont (Bel) Crelan-Euphony|
|106||Ben Hermans (Bel) RadioShack Leopard|
|107||Klaas Sys (Bel) Crelan-Euphony|
|108||Jonathan Mcevoy (GBr) Team NetApp-Endura|
|109||Nicolas Vogondy (Fra) Accent Jobs-Wanty|
|110||Roman Maikin (Rus) RusVelo|
|111||Angelo Tulik (Fra) Team Europcar|
|112||Jan Ghyselinck (Bel) Cofidis, Solutions Credits||0:08:29|
|113||Jaroslaw Marycz (Pol) CCC Polsat Polkowice||0:11:49|
|114||Mateusz Taciak (Pol) CCC Polsat Polkowice|
|115||Ryan Roth (Can) Champion System Pro Cycling Team|