Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) won an emotional edition of De Brabantse Pijl in Belgium on Wednesday, which started with a minute’s silence in tribute to Belgian rider Michael Goolaerts, who lost his life after suffering a cardiac arrest during Paris-Roubaix on Sunday.
Goolaerts’ Veranda’s Willems-Crelan team elected to take part in the 201.9-kilometre Belgian cobbled event in memory of the 23-year-old. Riders wore black armbands as a sign of respect.
Wellens gave a muted celebration as he crossed the line solo after launching a late attack, pointing to the sky to dedicate the victory to Goolaerts.
Italian Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) sprinted from the chase group to claim second place ahead of Wellens’ Lotto-Soudal team-mate Tiesj Benoot.
Lotto-Soudal had done much of the work in keeping the early seven-rider escape group under control. That group managed to stretch out a lead of seven minutes at its most, before the gap was whittled down prior to the first of three finishing circuits.
As the bunch edged close to the break, Tosh Van der Sande (Lotto-Soudal) attacked along with Jack Haig (Mitchelton-Scott) to bridge over. However, they soon left all of the original break behind as they built up a gap of around 40 seconds with 40km to go.
With Van der Sande part of the leading duo, Lotto-Soudal could sit back from pace-making duties, leaving the work to other teams.
Up and down the punishing cobbled climbs of the finishing circuit, Van der Sande and Haig ultimately could not fend off the chasers – and they were caught with 10km to go.
Wellens was then very active in trying to attack from the bunch, and he finally broke free with around 6km to go.
Wellens put his head down and built up a gap of 25 seconds, managing to keep out of the bunch’s clutches all the way to the line in Overijse.
Many of the riders – including Wellens – will now take part in the Amstel Gold Race in the Netherlands on Sunday, April 15.
De Brabantse Pijl – La Flèche Brabanconne, 201.9km
1. Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto-Soudal
2. Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
3. Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto-Soudal
4. Pieter Serry (Bel) Quick-Step Floors
5. Jan Tratnik (Slo) CCC Sprandi Polkowice
6. Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Wanty-Groupe Gobert
7. Dylan Teuns (Bel) BMC Racing Team
8. Huub Duijn (Ned) Veranda’s Willems-Crelan
9. Thomas Sprengers (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
10. Daryl Impey (RSA) Mitchelton-Scott