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Hello and welcome to the Cyclingnews live coverage of the 2021 men's De Brabantse Pijl - La Flèche Brabançonne.

As the Cyclingnews blimp takes height, the riders are gathering for the start in Leuven, to the east of Brussels. 

The 201.7km race heads south to below the Belgian capital before return north to Overijse for the hilly finishing circuit.

The 61st edition of De Brabantse Pijl will be the final event of this year’s Flanders Classics spring races, with a return to its traditional calendar spot after last year’s reshuffling to October for the coronavirus pandemic.

The defending champion Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) is not racing today as he  saves his legs for the true Ardennes Classics that begin on Sunday with the Amstel Gold Race.  

Last year’s runner-up Mathieu van der Poel will also not be on the start line afrter ending his spring road race campaign but his Alpecin-Fenix team will bring 2016 winner Petr Vakoč.

In their absence Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), making his debut appearance in the race, is the rider to watch. He has enjoyed a week of recovery and training since the Tour of Flanders and will also ride the Amstel Gold race before enjoying a well-deserved break. 

As the bells ring out in Leuven, the riders roll out. 

The riders face a 4.5km neutralised sector  before the official race start in Heverlee.

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This is the map of the race.

The map of the 2021 Brabantse Pijl

(Image credit: Flanders Classics)

As the map shows, the race includes 27 climbs or cotes. The key Moskesstraat climb is covered four times and is also cobbled. 

14 of the 27 come on the finishing circuit around Overijse.   

According to reports in Belgium the finish line is not over the top of the Schavei cote this year,  due to road works. 

The finish is now  after the S-Bochtt climb near the Brusselsesteenweg.

The riders have left Leuven and the race is in!  

While we await the first attacks, it is important to remember that this year's Brabantse Pijl is a kind of test event for the World Road Race championships in Belgium. 

Leuven and Antwerp host the road races, with the elite men's race travelling from Antwerp to Leuven and with different circuits around Overijse and Leuven before the finish in Leuven.

The race has covered 5km but the peloton is still all together. 

This was the roll out from Leuven.  

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The women's Brabantse Pijl is also underway. We will have a full race report, photo gallery, results and news post-race.   

It's a busy day of racing with stage 4 of the Tour of Turkey also underway, while in Spain the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana begins, with Caleb Ewan and Arnaud Demare the big-name sprinters in action. 

The riders have covered the first climb, the Smeysberg but the early break has still to form.

The 22km final circuit in Overijse includes Hertstraat, Moskesstraat, Holstheide, S-Bocht and Hagaard climbs. Many of the climbs are covered in the so-called Flandrien Circuit during the World Championships. 

Fortunately today the weather is dry but cold, with temperatures at about 8C. 

We've had brief attacks from groups of eight, six and four riders but nothing has stuck for now as the race heads south via the outskirts of Overijse. 

They will not ride on the finishing circuit because the women are currently fighting it out on the climbs and twisting roads. 

The high speed for the opening 30km is likely to mean  the break will not form for a while, perhaps until the next cotes after 60km, when they  climb the Rue du Hel and then five other climbs in quick succession.

Nathan Haas' season was supposed to have the Ardennes Classics as its centrepiece but a double whammy of COVID-19 and pneumonia has forced the Australian to the sidelines for the majority of his spring ambitions and he will now refocus on goals later in the season.

However the 32-year-old returns to racing at Brabantse Pijl but after almost a month away from competition, the Belgian race will be a test before his next races are decided.

Haas was competing in Tirreno-Adriatico in mid-March when he realised that something was wrong. He began to show signs of illness, was cleared of COVID-19 at the time and allowed to race.

"I did two days and then on stage 3, which was my birthday, we had to do over 200 kilometres in crosswinds and rain. From the moment that I woke up that day I knew that there was something very, very wrong with me," Haas explained. 

"I made it about 140 kilometres into the race and then just got dropped, real hard. I spent a few days in an airport hotel in Rome because I didn't want to travel while I was sick, and at that point, I had a negative COVID test."

"Then when I got home, what we thought was just a case of bronchitis was actually pneumonia. And then I was tested for antibodies, and it showed that I had them. So I'd had the virus but was no longer contagious."

"I was hit with a left and then a right hook. It was pretty hardcore. I didn't go to the hospital but there was one night when I was lying in bed and I thought to myself that if it was this bad for another 10 minutes then I'm going in because it really felt like I had a car on my chest. I was scared I wasn't getting enough breath into my lungs."

The medication that Haas was prescribed for pneumonia, meant that his recovery from COVID took even longer, but he was impressed with how Cofidis stood by him. The team were in daily contact with the rider and ensured that he came back at the right time and at the right pace.

Click below to read the full Haas interview. 

Haas: 'It felt like I had a car on my chest' after COVID-19 and pneumonia

BIELSKOBIALA POLAND AUGUST 07 Nathan Haas of Australia and Team Cofidis Solutions Crdits during the 77th Tour of Poland 2020 Stage 3 a 2031km stage from Wadowice to BielskoBiaa 433m TourdePologne tdp20 on August 07 2020 in BielskoBiala Poland Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

We spoke too soon. We have a break.

Up there are:

Bryan Coquard (B&B), Andreas Leknessund (DSM), Jordi Meeus (Bora-Hansgrohe), Julian Mertens (Sport Flanders-Baloise), Ludovic Robeet (Bingoal-Wallonie Bruxelles), Anders Skaarseth (Uno-X), Brent Van Moer (Lotto-Soudal)

There are two chasers: Emmanuel Morin (Cofidis) and Kevin Van Melsen (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert).

The peloton has let them go and the gap is up to 2:00.

Now we have 9. The two chasers have caught the 7 up front to create a solid early break after 40km of racing.

These are the nine attackers:

Bryan Coquard (B&B), Andreas Leknessund (DSM), Jordi Meeus (Bora-Hansgrohe), Julian Mertens (Sport Flanders-Baloise), Ludovic Robeet (Bingoal-Wallonie Bruxelles), Anders Skaarseth (Uno-X), Brent Van Moer (Lotto-Soudal), Emmanuel Morin (Cofidis) and Kevin Van Melsen (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert).

If you want to see who won the fourth stage of the Tour of Turkey head to our homepage for the full report ands photo gallery. 

https://www.cyclingnews.com/ 

The peloton has let the break open a lead of 4:00 after a fast opening hour of racing. 

The average speed was 47.4km/h. 

Van Aert is the favourite today but he will face major competition from a number of other riders, some looking to make up for a disappointing Classics campaign. 

Michael Matthews is one of them. 

Matthews was sixth at Milan-San Remo and fifth at Gent-Wevelgem after the Australian-based team were instrumental in the crucial split but cramps stymied the final sprint. 

Then, at the Tour of Flanders Matthews slipped back, well out of the fight for victory in 21st place, after he and his teammates were caught up in crashes and left out of position when the crucial attacks came.

Now attention turns toward De Brabantse Pijl, where the team will be looking to turn those earlier near misses into a hit, rather than stray further from the target like they did at the Tour of Flanders. 

VALDEBLORE LA COLMIANE FRANCE MARCH 13 Arrival Michael Matthews of Australia and Team BikeExchange during the 79th Paris Nice 2021 Stage 7 a 119km stage from Le Broc to Valdeblore La Colmiane 1501m Stage itinerary redesigned due to COVID19 lockdown imposed in the city of Nice ParisNice on March 13 2021 in Valdeblore La Colmiane France Photo by Bas CzerwinskiGetty Images

(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

“It [Brabantse Pijl] is a race Matthews really likes and one he really enjoys racing and his results show that, so of course we will go all in with him but there’s stiff competition out there,” said Team BikeExchange sport director Mat Hayman.

“We will be backing him fully, as we have been in the Classics and we want to set things straight after a disappointing Flanders.”

It is interesting to see Bryan Coquard out front in the break. 

He had some  early-season placing, including 4 top-tens at Paris-Nice but he is still looking for his first win of 2021.

The race is about to hit the Alsemberg climb on a loop near Halle, south of Brussels. 

They will then head back to  Overijse.  

The gap for the break is up to 5:30 as Jumbo-Visma take responsibility for the chase.

The Deceuninck-QuickStep team will be under pressure to land a result today in the absence of  Alaphilippe. 

Yves Lampaert has still to strike, while the rest of the team come from their Ardennes squad. 

They include Mikkel Honoré and the USA's Ian Garrison and Florian Sénéchal.

We've just seen a thrilling women's Brabantse Pijl, with the hilly circuit around Overijse inspiring lots of attacks.

If you want to know more, check out our home page to find the race report and photos.

Cyclingnews.com

Back to the men's race and the 9 attackers have pushed out their lead to 6:00.

We suspect that's the maximum gap they will get. 

The riders are on the Krabosstraat cote now. 

It's feed time in the peloton.

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115km to go

The race is heading back to Overijse for the hilly finishing circuits. 

With the break established, the average speed for the 2nd hour has fallen slightly but was still 44.5 km/h. That will mean there will be some tired legs when they hit the climbs later in the race. 

This is the early break at Brabantse Pijl.

The early break at Brabantse Pijl

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The 9 riders are: 

Bryan Coquard (B&B), Andreas Leknessund (DSM), Jordi Meeus (Bora-Hansgrohe), Julian Mertens (Sport Flanders-Baloise), Ludovic Robeet (Bingoal-Wallonie Bruxelles), Anders Skaarseth (Uno-X), Brent Van Moer (Lotto-Soudal), Emmanuel Morin (Cofidis) and Kevin Van Melsen (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert).

The Brabantse Pijl is all about the hills or Cotes in the Belgian hills east of Brussels. 

The ares is close to the Ardennes but still officially part of Flanders.

Brabantse Pijl is all about the hills

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The Brabantse Pijl peloton was lined out early on due to the high speed.

The Brabantse Pijl peloton was lined out

(Image credit: Getty Images)

It's good to US national champion Alex Howes in action as part of the EF team. 

US national champion Alex Howes

(Image credit: Getty Images)

100km to go

As the Flemish say: we hebben de helft van de taart al opgepeuzeld. 

The rider have eaten half of the cake.

There are 100km left to race of the 201.7km race. 

The riders will soon reach Overijse and so start the near 4 laps of the 22km circuit. 

The face 20 climbs in the final 90km. 

There's a crash in the peloton, with Julius van den Berg (EF) going down. 

The peloton continues to chase at around 5:50, perhaps confident the break will suffer on the many climbs still to come.

In other news, Vincenzo Nibali’s Giro d’Italia hopes are up in the air after the Italian crashed in training on Wednesday. 

The rider has been diagnosed with a broken radius in his right wrist and will undergo surgery on Thursday, in Switzerland. 

His Trek-Segafredo team has not confirmed whether he will still ride the Giro d'Italia, which starts next month, opting to make a call post-surgery.

Click below for the full story

Vincenzo Nibali’s Giro d'Italia challenge in doubt after training crash

Trek-Segafredo's Vincenzo Nibali on stage 20 of the 2020 Giro d’Italia

(Image credit: Bettini Photo)

After the feed zone it is time for the climbs!

They're on the Moskesstraat. The climb has been in the headlines today.

The climb used to be rough with deep ruts in the cobbles. They have recently ripped up the cobbles and put them down again, taking out the troughs and bumps to lay down the cobbles with care. 

Some riders and fans have said the climb is easier and faster, so not so decisive.     

This is the new look of the cobbles.

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75km to go

The pace is up now and so the gap to the break has already fallen to 3:30. 

The peloton is on the Moskesstraat, throwing up the dust on the new cobbles.

The peloton is lined out with some riders already suffering. 

Rob Stannard and Sven Erik Bystrom have edged off the front of the peloton. 

It seems like a move to make the peloton and perhaps Jumbo-Visma suffer. Some teams want to try to isolate Wout Van Aert.

Indeed, Finn Fisher-Black is trying to get back on. 

There is just 1 Jumbo-Visma rider on the front now. 

The peloton passes through Huldenberg with other riders on the move.

The break is on the final climb before the finish area, with 67km to go. 

They lead by 3:00 now.   

Rear wheel flat for Senechal of Deceuninck. 

He opts for a rear wheel change and the mechanic is quick, using a power tool to take out the axel.  

With 60km to go, the big-name riders are at the front. 

They know the Moskesstraat climb is coming up again very soon.

We have 4 chasers off the front of the peloton.

They are Cavagna, Stannard, Skujins and Bystrom and are just 1:00 behind the break and 35 ahead of the peloton. 

This was the action the last time up the Moskesstraat cobbled climb. 

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This is the second of four times up the Moskesstraat. 

The break has exploded with Coquard one of several dropped.

Cavagna drags the chasers over the top, while the peloton rides steady. 

This is interesting. Has the winning move gone? 

We also have a G3 of four chasers. 

They are 25 seconds down on  Cavagna, Skujins, Stannard and Bystrom.

We're seeing  a significant reshuffle at the head of the race.

Here we go! 

Eddie Dunbar attacks from the peloton and Van Aert is also on the move.

The attacks are controlled but the peloton is lined out. 

Van Aert has Nathan Van Hooydonck with him in the peloton to help the chase and finale.  

Another Jumbo riders joins the chase. Deceuninck, Trek and Bike Exchange all riders in the attack, so it is up to Jumbo and perhaps UAE to chase. 

Crash! A Cofidis riders goes down but the medics are with him.

The break is about to be caught by the chasers but Andreas Leknessund (DSM) ups the speed again. 

They're near the finish line with two laps and 44km to go.  

The chasers are at 20 seconds, with the peloton at 1:10.

The peloton could have missed it today.

Teuns, Cavagna, Cosnefroy, Bystrom, Stannard, Riesebeek and Skujins are in the chase group. 

One of them could be the winner today.

However Ineos also missed the attack and so are chasing to get back into the action.

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Ineos are helping Jumbo with the chase but remain at 1:00. They have five riders at the front, including  Carapaz and Pidcock. 

Big crash in the peloton! 

Pidcock attacks! 

They are on the Hertstraat climb and Trentin goes with him. Van Aert goes deep to get across.

Behind several riders are slowly getting up after the crash.

Senechal and Serry went down after a EF rider crashed first. They were travelling at close to 60km/h and so lots of other riders crashed too. 

It has taken out a chunk of the peloton.

35km to go

The race is coming together up front. 

Robeet, Van Moer, Leknessund, Meeus and Skaarseth are still out front.

Teuns, Cavagna, Cosnefroy, Bystrom, Stannard, Riesebeek and Skujins are at about to get on.

Pidcock, Trentin and Van Aert are at  just 10 seconds.

The peloton is at 35 seconds.

The riders are on the Moskesstraat again. 

Is Pidcock suffering? 

30km to go

The front group starts working together over the top of the Moskesstraat climb. 

The 17-rider peloton is 25 seconds. 

Cosnefroy tries to shake out the attack and then Van Aert ups the pace.  

The surges has spat out five of the attackers.

Pidcock makes it back on and tries to sit on the wheels a moment. 

There are ten riders in the attack now: Van Aert, Trentin, Pidcock, Cavagna, Teuns, Cosnefroy, Skujins, Stannard, Riesebeek and Leknessund. 

Trentin has opened a 100m gap. He's gone into TT mode, now it is up to the others to get organised and chase him.   

Everyone in the race appears tired after the aggression on the climbs. 

Trentin is pushing steady on the S-Bocht Overijse cote that leads up to the finish. 

With one lap to go, Trentin leads the Van Aert and Pidcock group by 15 seconds.

Schelling is trying to across, while the remnants of the early break are at 40 seconds.

Peloton is at 1:00.

20km to go

The bell has rung to signal the final lap. 

There still 5 climbs to go on the final lap. 

Teuns leads the chase but some seem to be waiting to make a late counter-attack on a late climb to go across to Trentin.

Watch for Van Aert and/or Pidcock. 

Meanwhile, the Jumbo team have confirmed that Gijs Leemreize has been disqualified for an illegal riding position.

Trentin leads by 25 seconds with 17km to go. 

Trentin wisely does not go into a supertuck but puts his hands on the tops of the bars.

He has done his aero research but is respecting the new rules. 

Van Aert, Teuns, Pidcock, Cosnefroy, Skujins, Stannard, Schelling, Cavagna, Riesebeek and Leknessund are in the group behind Trentin. 

On the Hertstraat climb, Pidcock and Van Aert go away again and start to chase Trentin.  

Stannard, Cosnefroy and Skujins are trying to chase the pair. 

Trentin is waiting for Pidcock and Van Aert.

But will he then wait for the sprint or try to attack them on the final climbs? 

Trentin, Pidcock and Van Aert join forces to hold off the chasers, who are at 15 seconds. 

Next up is the Moskesstraat cobbled climb.  

Get ready for attacks. 

Trentin, Pidcock and Van Aert ride shoulder to shoulder on the cobbles.

The chasers are at 12 seconds over the top. 

Teuns is trying to close the gap. 

The peloton is only 40 seconds back. 

Teuns and Cosnefroy trying to go across the gap. Pidcock suffered a little on the climb but is still there. 

8km to go

The different groups can all see each other but are out of reach. 

They're on the Holstheide climb. 

Teuns and Cosnefroy are almost up to Pidcock, Trentin and Van Aert.

Skujins and Leknessund kick from the chase group too. 

This could go a number of ways.

The chasers come back together and are at 20 seconds. 

Has their chance gone? 

5km to go

The final climb up to the finish will reveal who is the strongest.  

The S-Bocht Overijse climb ends on the finishing straight of the race.

Whoever is first to the top and has a gap should win the race.

However a sprint over the top will really hurt snd expose who is the strongest.

The trio enter the final litter zone and so throw away their bidons and trash. 

No fines or DQ's this time. 

The trio slow their speed as the mind games begin.

Pidcock tightens his shoes.  

The road winds up ands then steepens near the top. 

Pidcock is on the front. 

Last KM! 

Who will jump first? 

This is like a track sprint. 

The chasers are coming up to them! 

Here we go! 

sprint!

Van Aert goes long. 

But he fades and Pidcock goes past him to win!! 

Wow. Pidcock slayed Van Aert.  

Pidcock seems shocked to win.

Van Aert opted to lead it out from about 200m to go. Pidcock got on his wheel and then surged past him to win. 

Van Aert was perhaps pushing far too big a gear. Pidcock was far more agile and used his cadence to go past and win 

Pidcock won it by several bike lengths. 

Pidcock is a talented cross rider and has won the Junior and U23 Paris-Roubaix plus the U23 Giro last year. However this is his first win for Ineos Grenadiers after turning professional on February 1.

Asked if he was surprised to beat Van Aert, Pidcock showed his pride by refusing to accept that idea. 

"I know that sprinting at the end of races like that is not like sprinting for a town sign," he said. 

"I always go into a sprint with confidence. Wout was pulling super hard every time we got away. I was doing the same watts to get on his wheel. He was pulling super hard, but maybe too hard in the end."

Pidcock talked about his sprint.

"I was getting nervous, they were coming from behind. I waited and waited. Wout went, I kind of got a little boxed in and then rushed to Wout and came past him.

"I knew I was going well into this race, I had a good week's training with no interruptions. I knew I was going to be good and it's nice to actually be good until the finish."

This is the top ten result:

Results
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Thomas Pidcock (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers
2Wout Van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma
3Matteo Trentin (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
4Ide Schelling (Ned) Bora-Hansgrohe
5Robert Stannard (Aus) Team BikeExchange
6Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain Victorious
7Benoit Cosnefroy (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team
8Toms Skujins (Lat) Trek-Segafredo
9Oscar Riesebeek (Ned) Alpecin-Fenix
10Andreas Leknessund (Nor) Team DSM

Here's the first shot of Pidcock's victory. 

OVERIJSE BELGIUM APRIL 14 Arrival Wout Van Aert of Belgium and Team Jumbo Visma Thomas Pidcock of United Kingdom and Team INEOS Grenadiers Celebration during the 61st De Brabantse Pijl La Flche Brabanonne 2021 Mens Elite a 2017km race from Leuven to Overijse 106m BP21 FlandersClassic on April 14 2021 in Overijse Belgium Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

(Image credit: Getty Images)

This is the sprint finish and how Pidcock won it.

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Matteo Trentin sportingly congratulated Pidcock on his win and admitted the best rider won the race. 

He finished third after making a solo attacking in the finale. 

"We showed we were the three strongest riders in the race - it's a deserved win," the Italian said.

"After I passed over the finish line (alone), they started really looking at each other. My tempo was pretty good. The moment I took - I don't know which berg it was - I knew that Wout and Tom would try to come across. I just tried to ride the best I could. 

"When I saw they were coming close, I decided to ease up and to save some energy because I knew we'd most likely go to the finish with a group of three.At the end, I took the lead with 350m to go - it didn't make any difference. I didn't have the legs.Not really - today was a really hard race. At the end, he was the guy who brought us up the Moskestraat." 

Trentin was reminded the climbs of Brasbantse Pijl will be covered in the world championships.

"It's going to be hard but the Worlds is going to be different," he said. 

"We do some laps here and some laps there. It's going to be super technical and in the end of September it can be wet. That's going to be a really hard race."

This shot shows the contrast in emotions at the finish.

Brabantse Pijl 2021

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Here's Pidcock as he opened up the race on the climb. 

He struggled in places but was the smartest and fastest in the sprint.

Brabantse Pijl 2021

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Pidcock takes centre stage on the podium. Van Aert does not seem so happy to have lost the race. 

This was the break of the day and the final podium.  

Brabantse Pijl 2021

(Image credit: Getty Images)

In other news from the race, Jumbo-Visma rider Gijs Leemreize has become the first rider to fall foul of the UCI's newly introduced regulations on illegal riding positions at Brabantse Pijl.

The Dutch rider was disqualified from the WorldTour one-day Classic after utilising a now-banned riding position – either the 'super-tuck' or the 'time trial' position – during the race. His team confirmed the news via Twitter, simply stating: "DQ Gijs Leemreize for riding position."

Click below to read the full story.

Gijs Leemreize disqualified for illegal riding position at Brabantse Pijl

OVERIJSE BELGIUM APRIL 14 Gijs Leemreize of Netherlands and Team Jumbo Visma during the 61st De Brabantse Pijl La Flche Brabanonne 2021 Mens Elite a 2017km race from Leuven to Overijse 106m BP21 FlandersClassic on April 14 2021 in Overijse Belgium Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

To read our full race report from Brabantse Pijl and see our growing photo gallery and full results, click below.

Tom Pidcock sprints to win at De Brabantse Pijl

Brabantse Pijl

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Check Cyclingnews for all the other race results and news, including that of Vincenzo Nibali's wrist fracture and the latest on the UCI's rules against riders throwing bidons to roadside fans. 

We'll be back at the weekend with full liver coverage of the men's and the women's Amstel Gold Race. 

As Brabantse Pijl showed, it's time for the Ardennes Classics.

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