Live coverage of the 2019 Brabantse Pijl, the hilly one-day race that bridges the gap between the cobbled and Ardennes Classics.
Hello there and welcome to the Cyclingnews live race centre. The cobbled Classics ended on Sunday with Paris-Roubaix, and the Ardennes only really start this coming Sunday with Amstel Gold (even if that's not technically in the Ardennes). But to plug the gap we have De Brabantse Pijl-La Flèche Brabançonne, which sort of acts as a transition.
Run by Flanders Classics, it mostly takes part in the Flanders region of northern Belgium, but packs in a huge amount of hills around the border with Wallonia and bears more in common with the races to come there over the next fortnight. There are some big names on the start list, the race is underway, and we'll bring you the action right here.
105km remaining from 196km
As we pick up the action, with 105 kilometres remaining, we have a seven-rider breakaway with a lead of three minutes over the peloton.
The breakaway riders are:
Dries De Bondt (Corendon-Circus)
Frederik Backaert (Wanty-Gobert)
Francesco Bongiorno (Neri Sottoli-Selle Italia-KTM)
Arjen Livyns (Roompot-Charles)
Edward Planckaert (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise)
Andrea Peron (Novo Nordisk)
Ludovic Robeet (Wallonie-Bruxelles)
Frederik Backaert (Wanty-Gobert)
There are some big hitters out there today. Last year's champion and perennial Ardennes aggressor Tim Wellens is racing, along with Julian Alaphilippe, the Milan-San Remo champion and the outstanding rider in the world this year. Then there's the young sensation Mathieu van der Poel, who was immense in his debut cobbled Classics campaign and is racing here and at Amstel before the spring is out.
The average speed after two hours was 40.5km/h. The breakaway riders got away early on and quickly built a lead of 4:30, but that has since been reduced after a brief surge in pace in the peloton.
A little word on the route...
The riders will soon be making their way towards the finishing circuit, which will once again define this race. They'll hit the finish line for the first time with 70km to go, and then take on three laps of the 23.3km loop, which includes five climbs: Hagaard, Hertstraat, Holstheide, Ijskelderlaan, and Schavei.
Schavei is just 700m long but averages 6.2% and it tops out just 0.2km from the line. In total there are a whopping 31 climbs on the 196km route - compared to last year that's an increase of four crammed into a parcours that's 9km shorter.
The pace is upped in the peloton. They've just climbed Hertstraat for the first time and will also do Holstheide, Ijskelderlaan and Schavei before officially entering the circuit. Anyway, it's hotting up and the gap has ducked below the two-minute mark.
84km remaining from 196km
It's Alaphilippe's Deceuninck-QuickStep team who are leading the peloton along at the moment. It's that familiar figure of Tim Declercq on the front.
I've mentioned Alaphilippe, Wellens, and Van der Poel, but there are plenty of other candidates today. Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) won the race in 2017, Alberto Bettiol (EF Education First) won the Tour of Flanders 10 days ago, Michael Matthews (Sunweb) can climb and sprint and is in form.
Dimension Data have Enrico Gasparotto and Roman Kreuziger, Mitchelton-Scott have Daryl Impey, UAE have Rui Costa, and Israel Cycling Academy have Ben Hermans.
Colbrelli's Bahrain teammates come to share the workload with QuickStep as the gap comes down to 1:20.
A little more about the race, before things get serious...
Upgraded from 1.1 to 1.HC status in 2011, De Brabantse Pijl kicked off in 1961 with a win for Sicily's Pino Cerami. A longstanding Belgian resident and Paris-Roubaix winner who died in 2014, and whose race in the Hainault region, the GP Pino Cerami, continues to thrive, Cerami is far from being the only cobbled Classics star to triumph in De Brabantse Pijl. Double Ronde Van Vlaanderen champion Edwig Van Hooydonck holds the record with four victories and Johan Museeuw won it three times. All of which highlights how De Brabantjse Pijl, held until 2010 on the Sunday before the Ronde Van Vlaanderen, acts as a transition between the Northern Classics and the Ardennes.
The name means 'The Brabant arrow', and the full name (De Brabantse Pijl - La Flèche Brabançonne) includes both the Flemish and the French translation, though everyone just calls it the former.
74km remaining from 196km
Declercq's job is done and it's down to the rest of Alaphilippe's henchmen to take us towards the first ascent of Schavei and up to the finish line.
Some news today in that Team Sky will become Team Ineos not at the Tour de Yorkshire but the Tour de Romandie, which starts two days earlier. Well, the name will change, but the new kit will wait for Yorkshire. It's all a bit complicated and strange but we've tried to explain in our story from this morning.
70km remaining from 196km
The seven leaders - De Bondt, Planckaert, Backaert, Bongiorno, Livyns, Peron, and Robeet - come into Overijse and head into the finishing straight for the first time. They cross the line to start the first of the three laps of the 23.3km circuit.
The peloton come across the line now and the gap is down to just 35 seconds.
Lotto Soudal have come to the fore and are now leading the peloton with five riders in a line.
68km remaining from 196km
The breakaway riders hit Hagaard and spring out of the saddle.
It's a 300 metre climb, with an average gradient of 10 per cent and maximum ramps of 16 per cent.
A timing error, perhaps. The peloton are now counted at 55 seconds back.
Lotto Soudal, whose leader is Wellens, sent a wildcard up the road in Tosh Van der Sande, who goes clear on Hagaard.
Alaphilippe's QuickStep see the move and decide to do the same.
It's Mikkel Honore for QuickStep, and he links up with Van der Sande.
The breakaway riders hit Hertstraat. It's 700m long, 4.5% average, 8% max. And it's cobbled.
Van der Poel accelerates!
The 24-year-old doesn't like to wait around and puts in a huge surge.
The bunch strings out to breaking point after Van der Poel's acceleration just over the top of that climb.
An interesting move from the cyclo-cross world champion who has won Dwars door Vlaanderen, finished fourth at both Flanders and Gent-Wevelgem on the road this spring. Word is this is the race he and his camp were most optimistic about...
60km remaining from 196km
Honore and Van der Sande are 27 seconds behind the break, with the peloton 20 seconds behind them.
After one of many sharp descents, the peloton has bunched back up.
The escapees now head onto Holstheide, which is 955m with an average gradient of 5.4% and maximum of 12%.
And now the peloton hit it and Van der Poel attacks!
57km remaining from 196km
This isn't just another acceleration like before. This is a full-blown attack. The Dutchman soars away from the field.
In next to no time, Van der Poel is across to Van der Sande and Honore.
Pieter Serry tried to respond to that attack but was let floundering.
Van der Poel comes straight to the front of that trio. His director Michel Cornelisse told us last month that the Dutchman's biggest strength was his ability to recover rapidly from those kind of intense efforts. Here's the full story if you're interested.
57km remaining from 196km
Van der Sande and Honore have been told not to work with Van der Poel, and so this trio is going to be caught by the peloton.
And they're back. So the peloton, which has been strung out and reduced, is now 35 seconds behind the seven-man break.
Robeet punctures and that's the end of his time in the break.
Waste of energy from Van der Poel? Perhaps, but then one of his biggest strengths is his natural aggression and his willingness to take the race on from far out. It's what is bound to make him one of the stars of world cycling in the coming years.
52km remaining from 196km
Onto Ijskelderlaan now. 450m, 7% average, 11% max.
Hermans accelerates in the peloton.
Van der Sande looks keen to go again.
The climb sees a further selection in the break. Backaert, De Bondt, Livyns, Planckaert are the only four who remain out front.
The riders wind through town and head towards the Schavei climb.
47km remaining from 196km
The four breakaway riders hit Schavei, which is 700m long, with an average gradient of 6.2% and a maximum of 12%.
The pace in the peloton has calmed somewhat.
De Bondt, Planckaert, Backaert, and Livyns cross the finish line for the second time.
36 seconds later come the peloton.
Onto Hagaard for the break. Backaert leads the way.
Attacks again in the peloton behind, and again it's Lotto Soudal. Bjorg Lambrecht accelerates for the Belgian team.
Again it's tracked by a QuickStep rider. It's Petr Vakoc.
It's not a big gap for Lambrecht but plenty of riders have been spat out of the back of the bunch.
Lambrecht and Vakoc - a former winner of this race, as it goes - are joined by a Sunweb rider. Van der Poel's Corendon-Circus team are sending someone across now.
It's Marc Hirschi for Sunweb and Gianni Vermeersch for Corendon.
Mitchelton-Scott fire a rider across now.
It's Cameron Meyer for the Australian team and he's across in no time.
41km remaining from 196km
Those five are 17 seconds behind the four breakaway men and 10 seconds or so ahead of the peloton.
Onto Hertstraat now, where they're using the smooth gutter to avoid the cobbles.
The pace picks up in the peloton on the climb and those chasers are being dragged back.
It's massively strung out over the top, with plenty of little gaps.
Bahrain have pulled that Lambrecht group back.
40km remaining from 196km
Just 14 seconds now for the four remaining breakaway riders.
Still not digested Paris-Roubaix? Here's our latest podcast in which we dissect 'The Hell of the North' and speak to a number of the key protagonists.
It's a bit chaotic in the peloton between the climbs, with plenty of accelerations stringing it out before a bit of a lull.
36km remaining from 196km
36km to go, and the gap to the break leans out to 20 seconds.
We're climbing again, and it's Holstheide, and the peloton strings out once more. No big attack for now.
As I write that, Daryl Impey attacks.
Impey draws a couple of riders out. There's no real gap, but the peloton is single file now. Over the top they go.
34km remaining from 196km
The breakaway are very close at hand now. The gap is just a handful of seconds and it's all about to come back together.
De Bondt doesn't want to five up on this and accelerates once more, just as the junction was being made.
I've thrown plenty of names out there, but there are always more. Take a look at the full start list and let me know who you're backing. Link here.
29km remaining from 196km
With the race all back together, several teams are forming into trains and driving the pace on. Bahrain are prominent, and now QuickStep move up. We've got two climbs left on the penultimate lap.
QuickStep lead onto Ijskelderlaan
Impey attacks again!
The South African has a gap this time. No big reactions in the group behind.
Impey heads over the top on his own.
QuickStep still on the front of the peloton. No one wants to try and bridge over to Impey at this point.
Impey snakes through the road that twists around the church in Overijse. He's about to take on the Schavei.
25km remaining from 196km
Impey has 15 seconds.
Impey hits the climb and springs out of the saddle. His lead is growing. 21 seconds now.
And now the moves come as the peloton hit the climb. A Neri Sottoli rider reaches out.
It's Simone Velasco and he has drawn out QuickStep's Dries Devenyns along with a rider from Vital Concept and Corendon-Circus.
23km remaining from 196km
Impey takes the bell as he crosses the finish line for the penultimate time. One lap and 23.3km to go.
And now come the peloton. That small move came to nothing. The gap is 22 seconds.
Impey his Hagaard for the final time. One really brutal stretch here on a narrow road.
Vakoc leads the way up in the peloton.
Van der Sande comes through to the front over the top of the climb.
21km remaining from 196km
21km to go now and that climb has seen Impey's lead drop to 15 seconds.
19km remaining from 196km
Vakoc, Serry, Devenyns lead the peloton, with their leader Alaphilippe a few wheels further back. The gap leans back out to 20 seconds.
17km remaining from 196km
Alaphilippe attacks on Hertstraat!
They turn onto the cobbled climb and the Milan-San Remo winner and pre-race favourite immediately surges clear.
Matthews looks to come across now.
Van der Poel rips past Matthews on his way to the selection.
That's a big move and a big moment in this race. They reach Impey.
They have a big gap already and this could be a decisive selection with 16km to go.
So, the leaders are:
Van der Poel
Colbrelli's Bahrain-Merida teammates hit the front and mount the chase.
15km remaining from 196km
The five elite leaders already have 30 seconds!
Three climbs to go - Holstheide, Ijskelderlaan, and Schavei.
Bahrain are all-in for the chase here but the leaders are working well together.
The gap comes down to 21 seconds.
This is hanging in the balance. It'c coming down to 16 seconds.
The defending champion senses the advancing peloton and rips out a big attack at the foot of Holstheide. Alaphilippe is first to respond.
11km remaining from 196km
Alaphilippe is on the wheel and Matthews and Van der Poel are also on the case. Impey, though, has been shelled.
Alaphilippe picks it up again and for a moment it looks like he'll attack but the quartet settle down now.
10km remaining from 196km
10km to go and the gap is 20 seconds. Will this group collaborate?
These riders have already invested and their best chance will be to stay away. Once one looks to sit in and conserve, though, the move can crumble.
EF hit the front of the now-25-rider peloton for Bettiol.
Still 20 seconds for the quartet with 9km to go.
The four leaders are still riding strongly and it looks like plenty of matches have been burned in the chase behind.
This could be it... the impetus drains from the chase as the riders in the main peloton - albeit a very reduced one - all look around at each other.
The peloton has in fact split in two.
7km remaining from 196km
Pieter Weening attacks from the chasing pack.
6km remaining from 196km
The four leaders are still trading turns 22 seconds in front. They're heading towards the penultimate climb of Ijskelderlaan.
Weening's attack has drawn a six-rider chase group out, but there's no collaboration, with representatives from QuickStep, Lotto Soudal and Sunweb. They'll just be marking, and Weening goes again.
4km remaining from 196km
Onto Ijskelderlaan for the leaders. Will anyone bid for freedom here?
Alaphilippe attacks over the top!
Van der Poel reacts. Gap to Wellens and Matthews
Wellens gets back on. Matthews now, too, but he looks to be suffering.
Alaphilippe and Van der Poel look cool and composed.
3km remaining from 196km
3.5km to go and these four riders are going to battle it out for victory on Schavei. They have 20 seconds over the rest.
The quartet look around but keep rolling through as they tick off the lightly downhill roads past the church and towards the foot of the climb.
Wellens attacks, sensing he needs to go from range
Matthews is straight on it and the group continues together.
Into the final 2km.
The gap is still just 20 seconds and they keep looking over their shoulders.
A brief dig from Wellens but it's short-lived.
They swing onto the cobbles now at the foot of Schavei. Here we go!
1km remaining from 196km
Under the flamme rouge and onto the climb.
Van der Poel is on the front and looks around. No big attacks just yet.
Matthews come through to the front now. And accelerates!
Van der Poel on the wheel, Alaphilippe, then Wellens.
They're all still together.
The climb continues to drag into the left-hander and the final 200 metres.
Lambrecht attacks from the chase group but it's going to be too late
Here we go then. Sprint for the win
Van der Poel launches it
And takes it!
Mathieu van der Poel wins De Brabantse Pijl
Alaphilippe was second but couldn't match the Dutchman's sprint. Wellens edges Matthews for third.
Van der Poel slumps to the ground beyond the finish line. What a ride, and what a rider. To win that against those riders, having already ripped it up with some big attacks earlier in the day....simply extraordinary. The is his first classics campaign on the road, and he has taken it by storm. A star has well and truly been born this spring, and we've still got Amstel to come this weekend.
It's just an incredible sprint. Alaphilippe, who won a bunch kick at Tirreno and then won Milan-San Remo, cannot get near him.
Matthews isn't happy. He found himself up against the barriers as Alaphilippe moved slightly right into Van der Poel's slipstream, and had to hold up to avoid crashing. He raised his arm in remonstration with the Frenchman as they crossed the line. It's difficult to ssee how Van der Poel would have been beaten but that certainly took Matthews out of the equation.
1 Mathieu van der Poel (Ned) Corendon-Circus
2 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck-QuickStep
3 Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal
4 Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb
5 Bjorg Lambrecht (Bel) Lotto Soudal
6 Alberto Bettiol (Ita) EF Education First
7 Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Dimension Data
8 Alexander Kamp (Den) Riwal Readynez Cycling Team
9 Pieter Serry (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep
10 Maurits Lammertink (Ned) Roompot-Charles
Van der Poel speaks
"I'm very happy and also proud to be there with three big names in front, and to finish it off like this is kind of like a dream," he says.
"I'm really happy and I said before this Classics season that this race suits me the best and I'm glad I could prove that."
Here's our report page
This is your finish line shot
Van der Poel's victory comes 34 years after his father, Adri, won this same race. He's also Raymond Poulidor's grandson. Some genes...
That's it from us for today. A great race. Join us again here on Sunday for live coverage of Amstel Gold Race, where Van der Poel will be out in force once again. In the meantime, keep an eye on Cyclingnews for all the news and reaction from the racing, and the build-up to the Ardennes.
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