Magnus Sheffield soloed to victory at Brabantse Pijl on Wednesday, capitalising on Ineos Grenadiers' overwhelming numbers in the decisive move.
The 19-year old American attacked with just under 4km to go and powered to victory, with Benoît Cosnefroy (AG2R Citroën) finishing second for a consecutive one-day race, with Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) in third initially, but was then relegated for his sprint, meaning Warren Barguil (Arkéa Samsic) completed the podium.
Sheffield went from a leading group of seven which contained two of his teammates, Tom Pidcock and Ben Turner, and meant victory in the Belgian race went to the British team for the second year in a row.
Ineos were the most active team all day, constantly on the front, and their aggression eventually paid. Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) was also one of the leading actors of the day, with the young Belgian finishing seventh.
How it happened
A rainy day in the Belgian region of Brabant was the scene for the 62nd edition of Brabantse Pijl, in the strange position of coming after the Amstel Gold Race and before Paris-Roubaix.
2034 vertical metres might not be the most testing day out of the year, but the rate and severity of some of the climbs would really test all the riders.
The last time some of these riders were here was for the World Championship road race last year, won by Julian Alaphilippe, and Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl were hoping for a big ride from the world champion to kick start their spring.
A break of three riders, Ludovic Robeet (Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB), Aaron Van Poucke (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise), and Ander Okamika (Burgos-BH) attacked on the way out of Leuven.
The trio never looked like staying away completely, but did at times have almost four minutes on the chasing peloton. Quite early on in the race Ineos Grenadiers pulled in the peloton, showing their intent for the race they won last year with Tom Pidcock.
Ben Turner (Ineos Grenadiers), Magnus Sheffield (Ineos Grenadiers), Victor Campenaerts (Lotto Soudal), Giacomo Nizzolo (Israel - Premier Tech) and Alexander Kamp (Trek-Segafredo) attacked from the main bunch with 77km to go as the race headed to the circuit around Overijse.
They were joined by Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal), Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) and Dylan Teuns (Bahrain-Victorious), as the race really blew apart a long way from the finish.
The break was caught with 64km to go, with Robeet and Van Poucke having stayed out front for almost 150km. While the attack that caught them looked powerful, it was reigned in by the peloton, with counter moves by riders including Remi Cavagna and Julian Alaphilippe (both Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl).
There was an odd moment in this move when Evenepoel appeared to push Turner in order to get into position, with the Belgian reportedly warned by the race jury.
With 54km to go, Turner attacked again, and was joined by Evenepoel out front. This pair were joined by Wellens, Teuns, Sheffield, Campernaerts, Robert Stannard (Alpecin-Fenix), Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers), Warren Barguil (Arkéa Samsic) and Benoît Cosnefroy (AG2R Citroën).
The same riders kept appearing at the front of the race, notably Turner, Sheffield, Campenaerts and Evenepoel, showing how strong this select group was.
While this attack only had 22 seconds with 45km to go, it clearly had the firepower to stay away, and despite counter moves from the peloton, this was the crucial move of the day.
Ineos Grenadiers looked in control with three riders - Turner, Sheffield and last year's winner Pidcock - but they had to contend with the threat of the others in the move.
A flat tyre for Teuns meant the Bahrain-Victorious' rider's effort was over, and Campenaerts and Stannard ended up being dropped from the lead group.
The overwhelming numbers for Ineos meant that they could keep attacking and then jumping on a rider which tried to respond, which happened repeatedly, with all three trying a move at some point.
Meanwhile, an attack in the peloton from Matteo Trentin (UAE-Team Emirates) saw a counter-move start with Michael Matthews (BikeExchange-Jayco), Andreas Kron (Lotto Soudal), Xandro Meurisse (Alpecin-Fenix) and Teuns attempt something, but the leading bunch was simply too far away.
Sheffield looked like the strongest of the Ineos three inside the final 10km, and it was his attack with 3.8km that decided the day. The American went, and his teammates were able to disrupt the chase behind. A moment's hesitation and the race had been won.
The tactical play by Ineos saw the American grow a lead of almost 40 seconds in under 4km, and meant they won the race for the second year in a row.
The sprint for the podium was marred by Evenepoel being boxed in, a move which eventually saw Wellens relegated from third to ninth. Cosnefroy claimed second, after finishing second at the Amstel Gold Race, and Ineos had their three riders all in the top five.
Brabantse Pijl 2022: Leuven to Overijse (205.1km)
1. Magnus Sheffield (USA) Ineos Grenadiers, in 4-53-23
2. Benoît Cosnefroy (Fra) AG2R Citroën, at 37s
3. Warren Barguil (Fra) Arkéa-Samsic, at same time
4. Ben Turner (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 40s
5. Tom Pidcock (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 41s
6. Remco Evenepoel (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl
7. Michael Matthews (Aus) BikeExchange-Jayco
8. Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain-Victorious, all at same time
9. Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal, at 37s
10. Xandro Meurisse (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix, at 51s
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