By Gregor Brown
Belgian Sébastien Rosseler's win at the Brabantse Pijl today in Overijse, Belgium, gave hope to the men who try to win from long: The escape artists.
Rosseler told Cycling Weekly simply; "I had to try something today."
He tried and succeeded, wiping away the bad luck that dogged him this classics season. It was good timing two, the 28-year-old of team RadioShack will take a break now and then come back to build for the Tour de France in July.
Rosseler started the 200.5 kilometre Belgian classic with some confidence because he had pulled off a similar escape and win in the Volta ao Algarve two months ago. But, after being away from kilometre 32 and seeing the escape group's numbers drop from nine to three riders, he started to have his doubts.
"Three laps before the finish I began to believe in third maybe, but not in the victory."
"I did not believe in it at the start," RadioShack's sports director, Dirk Demol, admitted to Cycling Weekly.
Brabantse Pijl changed its parcours for the first time in many years. It made for decidedly harder finishing circuit, which included four climbs and cobble sectors. Suited to the escape artists?
"I knew the favourites came to see the course yesterday, so they knew what it was going to be like. Maybe they waited too long to start the attacks and lack the organisation to chase," Demol continued.
"When we arrived on the circuit [with 63.5 kilometres to race] we had six minutes and then I started to think it was possible. There were less and less riders in the peloton, and the leaders did not have team-mates."
Rosseler was not the oldest, but the wisest today. It appeared as his legs weakened in the final 12.7-kilometre circuit, but it was all a game of poker as he sprinted ahead of fellow Belgians Thomas De Gendt (Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator) and Jurgen Van de Walle (Quick Step) for the win.
"You have to play poker. I told him to do that because only the win counts and no one remembers second and third. I told him, especially in the last two kilometres, not to pull anymore. I knew Jurgen was tired, but I was worried about De Gendt.
"The win is a gift after all the bad luck he had this year."
The win was also a gift for Belgian cycling, which risked closing out the Flemish classics season without a win for the first time in post-World War II era.
1. Sébastien Rosseler (Bel) RadioShack
2. Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator
3. Jurgen Van de Walle (Bel) Quick Step
4. Paul Martens (Ned) Rabobank at 43"
5. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
6. Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom at same time
7. Björn Leukemans (Bel) Vacansoleil at 46"
8. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto at 57"
9. Oscar Freire (Esp) Rabobank
10. Daniel Moreno (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
Rosseler wins for RadioShack at the end of a long.
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