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On the start line: Brabantse Pijl

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A UnitedHealthcare rider gets a pre-race rub

A UnitedHealthcare rider gets a pre-race rub
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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The riders leave the spectacular square in Leuven

The riders leave the spectacular square in Leuven
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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The smaller teams get a chance to shine today

The smaller teams get a chance to shine today
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Farnese Vini were without leader Giovanni Visconti

Farnese Vini were without leader Giovanni Visconti
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Team Spidertech continued their Euro campaign at Brabantse Pijl

Team Spidertech continued their Euro campaign at Brabantse Pijl
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Vacansoleil are hoping Devolder can get a result today

Vacansoleil are hoping Devolder can get a result today
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Dan Lloyd was back in action with Garmin-Cervelo

Dan Lloyd was back in action with Garmin-Cervelo
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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The view from the back of the pack

The view from the back of the pack
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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BMC on the podium

BMC on the podium
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Yukiya Arashiro was in the Europcar line-up

Yukiya Arashiro was in the Europcar line-up
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Sanchez and Freire talk pre-race

Sanchez and Freire talk pre-race
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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The riders gather on the start line

The riders gather on the start line
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Spidertech riders gather in the shadow of the Leuven cathedral

Spidertech riders gather in the shadow of the Leuven cathedral
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Stijn Devolder (Vacansoleil)

Stijn Devolder (Vacansoleil)
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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The HTC-Highroad team on the start podium

The HTC-Highroad team on the start podium
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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The back of the Willems Veranda bus

The back of the Willems Veranda bus
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Irish national champion Matt Brammeier (HTC-Highroad)

Irish national champion Matt Brammeier (HTC-Highroad)
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Belgian champion Stijn Devolder (Vacansoleil) between several RadioShack riders.

Belgian champion Stijn Devolder (Vacansoleil) between several RadioShack riders.
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)

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.