Philippe Gilbert (BMC) kicked off his Ardennes Classics campaign in style when he won the Brabantse Pijl earlier today. Gilbert took the win in a real strongman’s sprint when he managed to pip Michael Matthews (Orica GreenEdge) and Tony Gallopin (Lotto Belisol) to the line.
As expected, the real racing of the day commenced as the riders entered the 24km finishing circuit that had to be completed 3 times. There was a break of 6 riders that lead the race for most of the day and they hit the circuit with a 3’30” lead over the peloton. The pace of the peloton went up considerably on entering the circuit though as Omega Pharma QuickStep and Lotto Belisol put the rest of the peloton under pressure. This would cause a number of splits and then regroupings of the peloton, all the while whittling the number of riders down to only the strongest.
In the end it was a group of just under 50 riders that came to the final finishing climb with 2.5km to go. Orica GreenEdge did their best to try and control the group up the climb as they tried to set up Matthews. Kristian Sbaragli from Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung hit the climb in around 10th position. Sbaragli had to take responsibility after the team leader Linus Gerdemann suffered from an untimely puncture. Our young Italian sprinter held on as long as he could to eventually finish 20th.
Directeur Sportif – Jens Zemke
Unfortunately Linus got a puncture just as the action started. It took a lot out of him to try and come back to the peloton that was splintered all over the road. Jay crashed at just the wrong moment as well. Kristian did a good ride to finish in 20th against these big names and it was also good to see Dennis finishing this tough race.
Rider – Kristian Sbaragli
This race was really hard, just like the Ardennes Classics are. I felt good today though so i tried for the best result possible. I just ran out of legs in the final 300m though. I really like this race and i definitely want to come back here because it is a race i feel i can win.
Brabantse Pijl (Belgium) – (16 April/UCI 1.HC) Team Lineup
Staff: Jens Zemke (Directeur Sportif), Yvonne Houweling (Soigneur), Nico Beyens (Soigneur), Jim Bryan (Mechanic), Daniele Nieri (Mechanic), Stevie Christaens (Mechanic)