By Jonny Long
Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon-Circus) continued his fine form in the spring Classics with a victory at De Brabantse Pijl, winning the sprint from a select group that went clear late on in the race.
Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) attacked with 17km to go, taking Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal), Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) and Van der Poel with him.
Heading into the finish, each rider tried to get a jump on his rivals, but Van der Poel led into the final corner and held the others off in the finishing straight, as the bunch closed in behind.
Julian Alaphilippe finished second, with Tim Wellens third and Michael Matthews the last over the line from the lead group.
Van der Poel adds De Brabantse Pijl to his victory in Dwars door Vlaanderen earlier this month, as well as to- five finishes in both the Tour of Flanders and Ghent-Wevelgem.
His father, Adrie van der Poel, won De Brabantse Pijl in 1985, 34 years before his son did.
With all four of Van der Poel, Alaphilippe, Matthews and Wellens taking the start line at the Amstel Gold Race on Sunday, their performances today can only breed confidence for future success in the Ardennes Classics.
How it happened
The mid-week Belgian Classic of De Brabantse Pijl saw a mix of cobbled Classics riders and Ardennes Classics riders come together to fight for victory over a hilly 196.2km course.
The breakaway of the day formed after 20km of racing, and contained Frederik Backaert (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Dries De Bondt (Corendon-Circus), Francesco Bongiorno (Neri Sottoli-Selle Italia-KTM), Arjen Livyns (Roompot-Charles), Edward Planckaert (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise), Andrea Peron (Novo-Nordisk), and Ludovic Robeet (Wallonie Bruxelles). The largest gap they achieved over the course of the day was around the five minute mark.
Van der Poel tested the waters when he launched an early attack from 58km out, and was quickly closed down by the peloton. This acceleration whittled down the breakaway, leaving Backaert, De Bondt, Livyns and Planckaert up front whilst other groups tried but failed to attack the peloton on the Hagaard climb.
Daryl Impey then kicked off the proceedings, attacking at 34km and reeling in the breakaway that had been out in front all day, bringing the race all back together. Impey went again at 28km, opening up a 20-second gap by the time he heard the bell ring as crossed the finish line to start the last lap.
Julian Alaphilippe was the next contender to animate the race, launching his attack at 17km, with Wellens, Matthews and Van der Poel following and the group quickly joining Impey at the front of the race.
Tim Wellens then tried his hand at 11km, with Alaphilippe scrambling to catch his wheel, with the pace proving too much for Impey, who was dropped from the group.
The bunch gave up the chase with 5km to go, with a small counter-attack led by Pieter Weening (Roompot-Charles) attempting to get across.
Soon after, Alaphilippe attacked again with 4.5km remaining, this was followed by an attack from Wellens at the 2km mark. Matthews found himself leading the group up the long drag towards the finish, before van der Poel took the front in the final 150m round the last corner, beginning his sprint and holding off Alaphilippe, Wellens and Matthews to take the win.
De Brabantse Pijl 2019: Leuven to Overijse (196.2km)
1 Mathieu van der Poel (Ned) Corendon-Circus, in 4-35-11
2 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck – Quick-Step
3 Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto-Soudal
4 Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb, all same time
5 Bjorg Lambrecht (Bel) (Lotto-Soudal), at 11 seconds
6 Alberto Bettiol (Ita) EF Education First, at 12 seconds
7 Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Dimension Data
8 Alexander Kamp (Den), Riwal-Readynez
9 Pieter Serry (Bel) Deceuninck – Quick-Step
10 Maurits Lammertink (Ned), all same time
Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races.
Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).
I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.
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