Julian Alaphilippe takes his first win as world champion at the second time of asking, but he almost lost out in a photo-finish yet again as Mathieu van der Poel left it very late to sprint for the line.
Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) and Van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) were by far the strongest riders on the day, going clear as a duo multiple times with only Benoît Cosnefroy (Ag2r La Mondiale) able to get across after the penultimate climb.
Van der Poel was boxed in at the sprint with Cosnefroy leading out, and was blocked by Alaphilippe so could only open up his sprint with 40 metres to go.
How it happened
The riders started the day in Leuven (where the 2021 World Championships will finish), then travelling 197km to Overijse.
A six man break went up the road, including Juraj Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), Andrea Perron (Novo Nordisk), Thomas Sprengers (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise), Michael Storer (Team Sunweb), Clément Chevrier (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Matthias Skjelmose (Trek-Segafredo).
But the race was being controlled by Deceuninck – Quick-Step and Alpecin-Fenix behind and with 60km to go it was Deceuninck who upped the pace setting up a move for Julian Alaphilippe up the cobbled climb of the Hertstraat which dragged out Michał Kwiatkowski and Luke Rowe (Ineos Grenadiers), among others, but it didn’t last.
More counters went off as the break was brought back with 45km to go, this move included Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale), but again was brought back.
The peloton then hit the hardest climb of the race which is only taken on two time, the cobbled Moskesstraat and Zdenek Stybar (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) led Alaphilippe out with Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) being the only man able to follow.
Stybar was unable to stay with them as Omar Fraile (Astana), Benoît Cosnefroy (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-McLaren) chased.
But, behind Rowe was dragging Kwiatkowski back across and he put an attack in to bridge and he did just that.
CCC Team were now the only team able to work in the main bunch with one man supporting Matteo Trentin and the gap was not growing as Mitchelton-Scott joined the chase for Luka Mezgec.
The lead group grew with Jelle Vanendert (Bingoal-Wallonie Bruxelles), Warren Barguil (Arkéa-Samsic), Tosh Van der Sande (Lotto-Soudal), Dries Devenyns (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) and Alessandro Covi (UAE Team Emirates) joining.
But the last ascent of the Hertstraat and it left two riders in the lead once again, Alaphilippe and Van der Poel pushed clear with 15km to go.
It was Kwiatkowski who brought it all back again but the final ascent of the Moskesstraat saw yet another attack from Alaphilippe with, once again, Van der Poel stuck to his wheel with 11km to go.
Cosnefroy was the only man who was able to get back to the leaders with Covi and Colbrelli chasing back after Devenyns and Kwiatkowski properly dropped.
The chase became a group of nine and was lead by Dylan Teuns (Bahrain-McLaren) who was trying to drag former winner Colbrelli back up to the leaders.
Up front Alaphilippe took the final ascent of the Schavei climb and the last kilometre from the front with Van der Poel on the wheel with Cosnefroy on the back.
Cosnefroy opened up his sprint first, the fastest rider on paper was Van der Poel but he was boxed by the two French riders and could only really get going with around 40 metres to go.
Alaphilippe will be very pleased to get the monkey off his back after missing out on the line to Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) and then getting relegated to fifth at Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
Brabantse Pijl 2020: Leuven to Overijse (197km)
1. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck – Quick-Step
2. Mathieu van der Poel (Ned) Alpecin-Fenix
3. Benoît Cosnefroy (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale, all same time
4. Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-McLaren
5. Warren Barguil (Fra) Arkéa-Samsic
6. Michał Kwiatkowski (Pol) Ineos Grenadiers
7. Andrea Bagioli (Ita) Deceuninck – Quick-Step
8. Anthony Turgis (Fra) Total Direct Energie
9. Alessandro Covi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
10. Dries Devenyns (Bel) Deceuninck – Quick-Step