Europcar’s Thomas Voeckler claimed an opportunistic win at the pre-Ardennes Brabantse Pijl semi-Classic. He rode solo to victory over the final 27km after catching and passing long-time leader Daniel Schorn (NetApp), taking advantage of a lack of organisation in the chasing group to win by over a minute at the finish in Overijse.
With the three Ardennes Classics – Amstel Gold, Liege-Bastogne-Liege and Fleche Wallonne – coming up over the next week and a half, Brabantse Pijl provides a useful tune-up ahead of these. Last year Philippe Gilbert showed his form here by defeating fellow Belgian Bjorn Leukemans in a two-up sprint, before going on to complete the Ardennes hat-trick.
The course is a puncheur‘s delight. Run this year over 196km, it includes 28 hellingen (hills), with all but eight occurring in the final 63km. Four hills – Hagaard (480 metres, 3% average gradient, 12% maximum), Hertstraat (725m, 3.5%, 11% max), Ijskelderlaan (450m, 7%, 11% max) and Schavei (700m, 6.2%, 12% max) – are negotiated five times each on a concluding series of loops around Overijse. There is little respite between the ascents, each of which provides opportunities for the bold to launch an attack.