Hello and welcome to the Cyclingnews live coverage of the De Brabantse Pijl - La Fleche Brabanconne. The riders have swapped the cobbles for Belgian hills for the start of the Ardennes races.
- De Brabantse Pijl start list
- Gilbert joins defending champ Vakoc in Brabantse Pijl
- Gerrans leads Orica-Scott, Haas heads up Dimension Data
- Alaphilippe to miss the Ardennes Classics
As we join the action, the race has just kicked off, with six riders going on the attack to form the early break of the day.
The six are Van Rensburg (Dimension Data), Blythe (Aqua Blue Sport), Rota (Bardiani), Dempster (Israel Cycling Academy), Prémont (Verandas Willems) and Masson (LA Vera Classic).
Today's 197km race is paced with nasty Ardennes hills or cotes, with a strong of four climbs covered three times on a tough finishing circuit near Overijse, south-east of Brussels.
The first hills hurts the break, with Prémont distanced.
The peloton is also reacting to the attack, with two riders trying to go across the 15-second gap.
De Bondt was one of the riders trying to go across but the peloton has eased. The break leads by 1:10 and seems to have been the freedom to go clear.
The break has extended its lead to 5:00 now. They've got the freedom of the road.
Dries De Bondt (Vérandas Willems-Crelan) is the lone chaser but he's 1:20 down on the break now. He faces a tough task in no-man's land.
170km remaining from 197km
After a fast start, the break has extended its lead to 6:45. The peloton will wait for the climbs on the finishing circuit to bring the gap down.
De Bonte is making a Chasse Patate. He has little chance of catching the break now.
All eyes will naturally be on Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors) today. After winning the Tour of Flanders he took a brief break and is targeting the Ardennes Classics.
Of course Gilbert is wearing number 2 today, as teammate and 2016 winner Petr Vakoc rightly wears number 1.
De Bondt has given up the chase and is drifting back to the peloton.
The race route is cutting southwest, to the right side of Brussels for s brief visit near the river Halle, before returning on the same roads to the finishing circuit around Overijse.
The first hour was covered at 38km/h with the Quick-Step Floors and Sunweb teams leading the chase for Gilbert and Matthews respectively.
The Irish Aqua Blue team is in the thick of the action with British national champion Adam Blythe in the break.
Martin Irvine is also racing and in the peloton after a break.
After 55km of racing, the gap has fallen slightly to 5:50. It unlikely to go any higher as the peloton continues the chase.
The Rue de Hal climb at Braine-le-Château is tackled after 57km of racing. It is 1.2 km long and features an average incline of 4.9%.
@AquaBlueSport Wed, 12th Apr 2017 12:08:51
The five are taking regular turns on the front to keep the speed high but the peloton is also setting a high pace.
@quickstepteam Wed, 12th Apr 2017 12:37:17
120km remaining from 197km
The bunch have responded and cut the leaders' advantage to 4:23.
If you've just woken up or switched over from an episode of Doctors, the big news today is that Mark Cavendish has been diagnosed with Epstein-Barr Virus. It means the former World Champion will take a leave of absence from racing as he rests up. The Tour de Romandie and the Tour of California are most certainly out of the question, while everyone waits to see if he can recover in time for the Tour de France.
Back to the action here, and the break are holding their own against the bunch, with the gap at 4'20 with 117km to go.
Away from the Classics, and we've rated the Tour de France contenders by form and pedigree. Here's the top 10 for April.
115km remaining from 197km
Crash in the bunch and Cofidis and Noro Nordisk have riders on the ground. Meanwhile, the peloton snatch another minute off the break's lead. It's down to 3'30.
92km remaining from 197km
The five leaders are currently climbing an uncategorized ascent. 92km to go.
@Lotto_Soudal Wed, 12th Apr 2017 13:23:49
88km remaining from 197km
88km to go and the bunch have the break at 2'42. The catch is happening, just very, very slowly.
82km remaining from 197km
The leaders are on a gentle climb, the Holstheide, but don't even get out of the big chainring for it.
Behind our leaders, the peloton are starting to line out as they reach the Holstheide with Lotto Soudal at the helm - gap is down to 2:00 and falling.
80km remaining from 197km
The pace is starting to hurt some of the riders at the back of the peloton, Fabio Calabria (Novo Nordisk) is fighting hard to stay in contact.
@AquaBlueSport Wed, 12th Apr 2017 13:36:48
The peloton is closing down the break early. They may ease up otherwise we are in for an explosive finale.
The races hits the IJskelderlaan now, the tenth cote of the race.
Some riders are jumping on the footpath but race officials are telling them to stick to the road.
The climb means several riders are distanced from the fast moving peloton.
Lotto Soudal are still leading the chase. They know they need a win today to get their spring back on track.
The descents are as testing as the climbs, with some riders struggling to hold a good line.
The peloton lines out like a piece of string.
The race will cover the IJskelderlaan climb another three times before the finish in Overijse.
The five-rider break goes through the finish, with three laps remaining. They have been out front for three hours but the gap is less than a minute now.
The gap is 55 seconds and the Shimano neutral service car has been sent up ahead.
65km remaining from 197km
The speed stays high over the top of the climb, with Bahrain and LottoNL also moving to the front.
As expected, the break splits on a cobbled climb, with Zak Demptster hit by mechanical problem. He seemed to hit a hole in the road and lost his chain.
He's chasing but is likely to be caught very soon putting an end to his day.
@OricaScott Wed, 12th Apr 2017 14:01:41
62km remaining from 197km
Riders are moving up to the front via the footpaths. Positioning is vital now.
Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors) is also near the front and vigilant.
The three 23km circuits include five cotes: Hagaard, Hertstraat, Holstheide, IJskelderlaan and Schavei.
That's a roller coaster finale and a real test for the Ardennes riders.
The race is on the Holstheide, as Lotto kick up the speed again.
Senni of BMC suffers a mechanical. The young Italian has impressed this spring but will have to chase hard to get back to the front.
The peloton is almost onto the break now. The gap is down to 25 seconds.
The road is straight and so makes it easy for the peloton to see their prey.
It's almost time for the IJskelderlaan climb again and so the speed kicks up as riders fight for position.
Andy Fenn leads the peloton for Aqua Blue Sport.
Crash! Two riders go down and so the speed increases again.
Now its back onto the snaking descent. There's no respite in the racing.
A counter attack of a dozen riders is about to catch the break as they approach Cote 16 of the 26 on today's menu.
The peloton is just behind and chasing.
Blythe sits up but three others from the break push on. We're seeing a real change in things as they come through the finish again with two laps of hilly racing remain.
The counter attack includes Gasparotto and Quick-Step's Laurens De Plus, who has been doing a lot of the work on the front to drag the dozen clear.
@Ride_Argyle Wed, 12th Apr 2017 14:30:16
The move also includes Juul Jensen of Orica-Scott and Stijn Devolder.
This could be dangerous.
38km remaining from 197km
Bahrain, BMC and Quick Step have two riders in the move and so are doing much of the work.
Direct Energie are leading the chase for Bryan Coquard but the gap is up to 30 seconds.
@BMCProTeam Wed, 12th Apr 2017 14:39:09
@Lotto_Soudal Wed, 12th Apr 2017 14:39:36
@TeamDEN_fr Wed, 12th Apr 2017 14:42:25
Direct Energie have four riders leading the chase.
@quickstepteam Wed, 12th Apr 2017 14:45:16
@AquaBlueSport Wed, 12th Apr 2017 14:52:03
28km remaining from 197km
The gap remains at 30 seconds but Direct Energie is not getting much help with the chase.
Upfront Colbrelli surges away and other riders have followed him and kicked clear.
Skujns has been dropped, as have others.
@quickstepteam Wed, 12th Apr 2017 14:54:04
The break reforms with just eight riders left up front as Van Rensberg is also caught by the peloton after a big day out in the break.
25km remaining from 197km
This race is finely balanced. It could go either way.
Dimension Data is no on the front, trying to bring the race back together for Nathan Haas.
Dries Devenyns is doing the work for his QS Floors teammate Laurens De Plus.
But the peloton is on their case on the climb up to the finish with one lap to race.
All the big-name favourites are up front ready to dive in the attacks on the final lap.
The gap is down to 18 seconds.
@LottoJumbo_road Wed, 12th Apr 2017 15:03:33
Lideman is caught on the short but steep Hagaard climb.
The break is getting smaller and smaller as rides are spat out the back.
There are still 4 cotes to climb in the final 20km of racing.
Jensen does a a turn in the break but has done little work and could be the strongest in the finale.
Colbrelli is keen for the move to stay away and shouts at his fellow attackers to work together.
Colbrelli tries to split the attack on the cobbled climb of Hertstraat as the bunch also reacts.
Coquard lead the peloton and seems strong.
The peloton has split as the break is hunted down.
A select group is closing down on the break.
Haas leads the move but the break is fighting to stay away.
14km remaining from 197km
The gap stays at 15 seconds but the peloton can see the attackers now.
This is going to be close.
@BMCProTeam Wed, 12th Apr 2017 15:12:54
There are nine riders in the attack but they are not working smoothly.
@AquaBlueSport Wed, 12th Apr 2017 15:13:49
Cannondale are massing at the front.
@Ride_Argyle Wed, 12th Apr 2017 15:16:01
Colbrelli keeps trying to increase the speed in the attack.
The Quick-Step riders seem happy to wait for the bunch so that Gilbert can play his cards.
It's time for the Holstheide climb. It's now or never for the chasers.
The gap is back up to 25 seconds.
@TeamSunweb Wed, 12th Apr 2017 15:19:57
Only the strongest remain in the break, with two riders from Bahrain, Quick-Step, LottoNL.
Benoot is also there for Lotto Soudal. He needs this win after the Belgian team's poor spring.
@MeridaProRoad Wed, 12th Apr 2017 15:21:59
The IJskelderlaan climb starts with 4.3km to go. It will decide the race today.
Bole and Colbrelli are going to deep to make this work but will the Italian have something left for the finish?
Bole seems to be giving everything he has before the IJskelderlaan cote.
After the right turn, Bole cracks and sits up.
It's up to Colbrelli now. If the break stays away.
Here come the attacks from behind.
Van der Sande is there, Haas too.
Behind Wellens also goes on the attack, trying to go across to the attack.
He blows the peloton apart.
There is just the Schavei cote up to the finish now.
2km remaining from 197km
The gap is only 10 seconds as they dive down the fast descent.
2016 winner Vakoc is with Wellens.
The Quick-Step riders up front and Benoot have stopped working up front.
1km remaining from 197km
What a finale!
Vakoc and Wellens make the catch!
Vakoc kicks straight away, with Wellens on his wheel.
The others are with them.
It's a kick to the last corner of the climb and then a sprint to the line.
@BMCProTeam Wed, 12th Apr 2017 15:31:46
@Bahrain_Merida Wed, 12th Apr 2017 15:31:59
Here they come!
Quick-Step lead it out but Colbrelli is far too strong.
He uses his sprint to go clear and wins with time to celebrate.
Colbrelli celebrates with teammate Enrico Gasparotto. He's happy with that after shouting at his fellow breakaway riders to work hard.
Vakoc tried to keep Colbrelli pinned against the barriers but when he opened his sprint, Colbrelli surged passed him with apparent ease.
Vakoc held on for second, with Tim Wellens third.
The break stayed away, with the peloton coming in just behind them.
Colbrelli won by several bike lengths.
That impressive ride makes him a favourite for Sunday's Amstel Gold Race.
We stand corrected on third place. It was actually Tiesj Benoot who finished one place ahead of Lotto Soudal teammate Tim Wellens.
This is the provisional top ten.
1 Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
2 Petr Vakoc (Cze) Quick-Step Floors
3 Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal
4 Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal
5 Bert-Jan Lindeman (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo
6 Christopher Juul Jensen (Den) Orica-Scott
7 Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quick-Step Floors
8 Silvan Dillier (Swi) BMC Racing Team
9 Victor Campenaerts (Bel) Team LottoNl-Jumbo
10 Laurens De Plus (Bel) Quick-Step Floors
Colbrelli was naturally happy to have won so well.
"This is a great win for me. I really wanted this after such an aggressive race. I'm really happy," he said.
Colbrelli added: "I was worried that I'd lost it because Vakoc squeezed me into the barriers but when I found the space, I managed to come through and win."
"Now it's time to think of the Amstel Gold Race on Sunday."
We have the first images of Colbrelli's powerful sprint finish and his celebrations as he hit the finishline.
He was happy to celebrate after crossing the line.
For a full race report, results and photo gallery of all the action from today's race click here.
Thanks for joining us for our live coverage today.
We'll be back at the weekend for more live coverage from the Amstel Gold Race.
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