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45th Brabantse Pijl - 1.1
Belgium, March 27, 2005
Classy Freire shows his colours
By Jeff Jones
World Champion Oscar Freire (Rabobank) continued his excellent start to the season, winning the 45th Brabantse Pijl in a three man sprint against Marc Lotz (Quick.Step) and Axel Merckx (Davitamon-Lotto). Freire was the strongest rider in the final selection of 15, attacking alone with 20 km to go before being joined by Lotz and Merckx with 9 km left. The other two had to do everything to catch the Rabobank man, and did not have the strength to attack him before the final climb of the Alsemberg, where Freire jumped from last wheel at 200m to go to take a comfortable win.
"This wasn't revenge for Milan-San Remo," said Freire afterwards. "There I just rode a bad sprint. But that defeat wasn't in my mind here. I rode to win. My attack from a long way out, even though I was probably the fastest in the lead group, was not planned. But our group was too big, so that there was a big chance that the others would attack before me."
How it unfolded
The peloton started in slightly damp conditions, but that didn't stop the riders averaging 45 km/h in the first hour. There were plenty of punctures on the wet roads, with Lance Armstrong being a victim with around 80 km to go. He was easily able to regain the bunch on the Bruineput and resumed his position near the front, keeping an eye on the race which marked his comeback after pulling out of Paris-Nice.
The Brabantse Pijl is like many Belgian one day races in that the face of the race is often changing, with breakaways forming and reforming at the front as riders join and drop off. Thus, after a trio containing Frederik Willems (Chocolade Jacques) , Jan Kuyckx (Davitamon-Lotto) and Niels Scheuneman (Rabobank) was caught by the peloton with 75 km to go, a group of 18 riders split off the front of the peloton on the Bruineput, containing Oscar Freire, Maarten den Bakker, Thorwald Veneberg, Erik Dekker (Rabobank, Wilfried Cretskens and Rik Verbrugghe (Quick.Step), Wim Van Huffel (Davitamon-Lotto), Simon Gerrans (Ag2r) and George Hincapie (Discovery). Many of these riders were present in the final breakaway which formed over the next 20 km. Nick Nuyens (Quick.Step) was back in the third group after flatting, but managed to regain the lead group after a hard chase.
At 61 km to go, eight riders held a half minute lead over the diminishing bunch: Hincapie, Van Huffel, Kroon (Rabobank), De Weert and Lotz (Quick.Step), Gussev (CSC), Pieter Mertens (Chocolade Jacques), and Joly (Credit Agricole). 10 km later, a counter attacking group set off after them containing Freire and Löwik (Rabobank), Gerrans (Ag2r), Merckx, Vansummeren (Davitamon-Lotto), Capelle (Landbouwkrediet) and Nuyens (Quick.Step). Once the two groups made contact at 46 km to go, the final 15 man move had been created. Rabobank, Quick.Step and Davitamon-Lotto had three men apiece in front, meaning that the peloton no longer had the firepower to chase.
On the Bruineput with 28 km to go, Van Summeren led Lotz and Kroon away in what started the shake out for the final selection. The break started to regroup on the descent, but Nick Nuyens again had mechanical problems and was stranded when Freire, Merckx, Hincapie, Gussev and Joly bridged the gap to the three leaders. Nuyens had to spend valuable energy in pursuit, even though he did manage to get back up to the growing front group, as did Gerrans, Van Huffel, Löwik and Capelle.
With 20 km to go, Oscar Freire put in a strong move on a descent, and quickly opened up a 10+ second gap. Wim Van Huffel tried to close the gap on his own, but failed, and Freire held a slender lead on the penultimate climb of the Alsemberg. The World Champ crossed the summit with one 16 km lap to go with a small gap over a strong looking Merckx, Lotz and Kroon. Gussev, Hincapie, Nuyens, Joly, Vansummeren and Gerrans managed rejoin the Merckx group on the descent, but Oscar still had 10 seconds and was looking good.
Freire held his lead over the Bruineput for the last time with 10 km to go, with Merckx trying hard to close the gap. He finally succeeded after Marc Lotz bridged up to the lead with 8 km to go, and the final three man selection was made. The trio represented the three strongest teams, which effectively killed the chase, despite the best efforts of Hincapie, Gussev and Gerrans. The gap quickly grew to over half a minute and the front three worked perfectly together until the final climb of the Alsemberg.
Freire was still looking the strongest, and the other two didn't try to surprise him on the climb. Merckx led for most of the way at a steady tempo, as Lotz swung off second wheel and let Freire take his spot. The Dutchman led out the sprint with just over 200m to go, but it wasn't long before Freire came round on his left and powered across the line with a bike length lead to celebrate his seventh win of the season. Lotz held onto second with Merckx having to be content with third.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by DCP/Bert Geerts
1 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank 4.31.16 2 Marc Lotz (Ned) Quickstep 3 Axel Merckx (Bel) Davitamon - Lotto 4 Wim Van Huffel (Bel) Davitamon - Lotto 0.41 5 Karsten Kroon (Ned) Rabobank 0.42 6 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel 7 Nick Nuyens (Bel) Quickstep 8 Simon Gerrans (Aus) AG2r Prévoyance 9 Vladimir Gussev (Rus) Team CSC 10 Sébastien Joly (Fra) Crédit Agricole 11 Jochen Summer (Aut) Elk Haus - Simplon 12 Ludovic Capelle (Bel) Landbouwkrediet - Colnago 1.05 13 Kevin De Weert (Bel) Quickstep 14 Gerben Löwik (Ned) Rabobank 15 Pieter Mertens (Bel) Chocolade Jacques - T Interim 2.09 16 Viatcheslav Ekimov (Rus) Discovery Channel 3.38 17 Ruggero Marzoli (Ita) Acqua & Sapone - Adria Mobil 18 Maarten Den Bakker (Ned) Rabobank 19 Igor Abakoumov (Bel) Jartazi Granville Team 20 Dmitriy Muravyev (Kaz) Crédit Agricole 21 Rory Sutherland (Aus) Rabobank 22 Frédéric Amorison (Bel) Davitamon - Lotto 23 Elia Rigotto (Ita) Domina Vacanze 3.43 24 Johan Coenen (Bel) MrBookmaker.com - SportsTech 25 Nico Sijmens (Bel) Landbouwkrediet - Colnago 26 Unai Yus Kerejeta (Spa) Bouygues Telecom 27 Jan Kuyckx (Bel) Davitamon - Lotto 28 Matti Breschel (Den) Team CSC 29 Kurt Hovelynck (Bel) Chocolade Jacques - T Interim 30 Bert Roesems (Bel) Davitamon - Lotto 31 Kristof De Zutter (Bel) Bodysol- Win for Life - Jong Vlaanderen 32 Eric Leblacher (Fra) Crédit Agricole 33 Erwin Thijs (Bel) MrBookmaker.com - SportsTech 34 Heath Blackgrove (NZl) Jartazi Granville Team 35 Maarten Wijnants (Bel) Chocolade Jacques - T Interim 36 Angel Castresana Del Val (Spa) MrBookmaker.com - SportsTech 37 Vladimir Efimkin (Rus) Barloworld - Valsir 38 Kristjan Fajt (Slo) Tenax 39 Geert Verheyen (Bel) Landbouwkrediet - Colnago 40 Dominique Cornu (Bel) Bodysol- Win for Life - Jong Vlaanderen 41 Laurent Lefevre (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 42 Mirco Lorenzetto (Ita) Domina Vacanze 43 Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel 44 Bart Voskamp (Ned) Skil Moser 45 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole 46 Saul Raisin (USA) Crédit Agricole 47 Gabriele Bosisio (Ita) Tenax 3.48 48 Francis De Greef (Bel) Bodysol- Win for Life - Jong Vlaanderen 3.54 49 Thorwald Veneberg (Ned) Rabobank 3.59 50 Wilfried Cretskens (Bel) Quickstep 51 Stefan Wijnands (Bel) Jartazi Granville Team 52 Francesco Bellotti (Ita) Crédit Agricole 53 Steven Kleynen (Bel) Chocolade Jacques - T Interim 54 Nick Gates (Aus) Davitamon - Lotto 55 Henk Vogels (Aus) Davitamon - Lotto 56 Christophe Stevens (Bel) Skil Moser 57 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Discovery Channel 58 Alex Coutts (GBr) Flanders 59 Jef Peeters (Bel) Chocolade Jacques - T Interim 4.22 60 Sam Van Rooy (Bel) Bodysol- Win for Life - Jong Vlaanderen 61 Benny De Schrooder (Bel) Chocolade Jacques - T Interim 62 Jan Van Velzen (Ned) Skil Moser 63 Cristiano Frattini (Ita) Tenax 64 Frederik Willems (Bel) Chocolade Jacques - T Interim 65 Ronald Mustaars (Ned) 66 Mads Christensen (Den) Quickstep 67 Jan Boven (Ned) Rabobank 68 Frederik Veuchelen (Bel) Chocolade Jacques - T Interim 69 Bram Tankink (Ned) Quickstep 4.47 70 Rik Verbrugghe (Bel) Quickstep 71 Erik Dekker (Ned) Rabobank 72 Allan Johansen (Den) Team CSC 73 Andy De Smet (Bel) Skil Moser 74 Matthé Pronk (Ned) MrBookmaker.com - SportsTech 75 Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Bodysol- Win for Life - Jong Vlaanderen 6.04
2004 Luca Paolini (Ita) Quick Step-Davitamon 197 kms in 4.30.00 (43.77 km/h) 2003 Michael Boogerd (Ned) Rabobank 197 kms in 4.31.00 (43.61 km/h) 2002 Fabian De Waele (Bel) Mapei-Quick Step 198 kms in 4.30.10 (43.97 km/h) 2001 Michael Boogerd (Ned) Rabobank 194 kms in 4.31.10 (42.93 km/h) 2000 Johan Museeuw (Bel) Mapei-Bricobi 195 kms in 4.33.43 (42.675 km/h) 1999 Michele Bartoli (Ita) Mapei-Quick Step 193 kms in 4.43.15 (40.882 km/h) 1998 Johan Museeuw (Bel) Mapei-Bricobi 193 kms in 4.15.50 (45.263 km/h) 1997 Gianluca Pianegonda (Ita) 1996 Johan Museeuw (Bel) 1995 Edwig Van Hooydonck (Bel) 1994 Michele Bartoli (Ita) 1993 Edwig Van Hooydonck (Bel) 1992 Johan Capiot (Bel) 1991 Edwig Van Hooydonck (Bel) 1990 Frans Maassen (Ned) 1989 Johan Capiot (Bel) 1988 Johan Capiot (Bel) 1987 Edwig Van Hooydonck (Bel) 1986 Johan Van de Velde (Ned) 1985 Adri Van der Poel (Ned) 1984 Ronny Van Holen (Bel) 1983 Eddy Planckaert (Bel) 1982 Claude Criquielion (Bel) 1981 Roger De Vlaeminck (Bel) 1980 Michel Pollentier (Bel) 1979 Daniel Willems (Bel) 1978 Marcel Laurens (Bel) 1977 Frans Verbeeck (Bel) 1976 Freddy Maertens (Bel) 1975 Willem Peters (Bel) 1974 Herman Vanspringel (Bel) 1973 Johan De Muynck (Bel) 1972 Eddy Merckx (Bel) 1971 Joseph Spruyt (Bel) 1970 Herman Vanspringel (Bel) 1969 Willy In'T'Ven (Bel) 1968 Victor Van Schil (Bel) 1967 Roger Rosiers (Bel) 1966 Jan Janssen (Ned) 1965 Willy Bocklant (Bel) 1964 Arnaldo Pambianco (Ita) 1963 Joseph Wouters (Bel) 1962 Marcel Janssens (Bel) 1961 Pino Cerami (Bel) Past winners by Mario Stiehl, www.world-of-cycling.com