Philippe Gilbert showed he is still a threat for the Ardennes Classics. He won the Brabantse Pijl one-day classic today east of Brussels in Overijse.
“This is big for my morale,” Gilbert said, “and helps ahead of the Ardennes Classics.”
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The Belgian from Wallonia won the sprint finish ahead of Aussie Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge). Frenchman Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Belisol) placed third.
“He’s got that edge,” Matthews said. “For me, though, second is important. It shows I’m ready for the Amstel Gold Race on Sunday.”
Gilbert’s edge was not softened by his attack earlier in the race. He shot ahead solo in his red and black BMC Racing kit for 10 kilometres. He bridged to the lead group with Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) at 12.4 kilometres to race but soon after, the main group caught them.
BMC, however, took control on the climbs around Overijse. Gilbert had told his team-mates, “I’m good. Let’s do the sprint.”
Gilbert’s sprint win gave him his first 2014 victory in his palmarès. It came at a perfect time, too. The 203-kilometre classic marked his first race on home soil this season. The mid-week race also leads cycling’s peloton to the Ardennes Classics – Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
The 31-year-old and former world champion won Brabantse Pijl in 2011. He went on to become only the second rider in history to win three Ardennes Classics in one year, following Davide Rebellin in 2004.
Last year, Peter Sagan won Brabantse Pijl ahead of Gilbert in second. After racing Paris-Roubaix, Sagan took a break. This year’s Brabantse Pijl, though, failed to attract the best riders in cycling and to offer a proper test for the Ardennes Classics.
“The most important thing today was that I saw that my condition is good but it’s not that if I win here that I’ll automatically win an Ardennes classic,” Gilbert said.
“We will have to wait until Liège-Bastogne-Liège to make our conclusions. If I win today and not in the upcoming three races, it’s not a good classics season.”
Steve Cummings (BMC) was the only British finisher and came home in 82nd spot, 5-19 down on team-mate Gilbert.
Brabantse Pijl 2014, 203.1km
1. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing in 4-54-26
2. Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge
3. Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto-Belisol
4. Simon Geschke (Ger) Giant-Shimano
5. Bjorn Leukemans (Bel) Wanty-Groupe Gobert
6. Nathan Haas (Aus) Garmin-Sharp
7. Davide Rebellin (Ita) CCC Polsat
8. Julien Vermote (Bel) Omega Pharma-QuickStep
9. Sebastien Reichenbach (Swi) IAM Cycling
10. Alexey Tsatevich (Rus) Katusha all same time