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46th Brabantse Pijl - 1.1

Belgium, March 26, 2006

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Commentary by Jeff Jones

Live report

Live coverage starts: 14:30 CEST
Estimated finish: 17:00 CEST

14:35 CEST   
Welcome back to Sunny Belgium(tm) for the second of this weekend's semi-classics. Today marks the 46th edition of Brabantse Pijl, which takes place in Vlaamse-Brabant, near Brussels. Today's race is 190 km long, with 19 climbs. First there is a 110 km loop between Zaventem and Alsemberg, then five laps of a 16 km circuit with three climbs per lap: Alsemberg, Lindenberg, and Bruineput. The finish is up a 1.2 km climb, and although a sprinter like Oscar Freire can win it, you don't usually get a bunch sprint.

14:45 CEST   
Team CSC is anticipating today's race, after Marcus Ljungqvist finished sixth yesterday. "We had Allan Johansen and Marcus Ljungqvist in the pursuing group," said sports director Scott Sunderland on the team's website after the race. "They were both strong and we chose to spare Marcus a bit as he's an especially strong finisher in races like these, and he did end up winning the sprint for the sixth place."

Team CSC's Fabian Cancellara, was in the early break but saw his chances of a top finish ruined by a broken chain. "Fabian had mechanical problems and had to change bike at a time where the peloton was split in four groups and the pace was really fast. When he finally got a new bike he was very far behind, but he still managed to move up again on his own and finish among the top 40, which is actually pretty impressive considering," added Sunderland, who is now anticipating today's Brabantse Pijl.

"We have spared Karsten Kroon and Kurt-Asle Arvesen for this race, and all our riders are strong at the moment, so I hope we'll be able to stay up front and put up a good fight for the podium spots." But CSC will have to start with seven riders today, as Christian Müller is injured.

14:58 CEST   
The weather today is similar to yesterday: after a wet morning, the wind blew the rain away and there are patches of blue sky to be seen (from a good vantage point with the right tilt of the head). It's about 15 degrees, which is fine for racing in provided it doesn't rain.

15:17 CEST    100km/90km to go
The current race situation: we're just over the halfway mark, approaching the finishing circuits. Eight riders have a three minute gap over the bunch, including Quick.Step's Addy Engels.

15:24 CEST    112km/78km to go
Early abandons today include Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) and Fabian Cancellara (CSC). The eight leaders have reached the finishing circuits with diminishing advantage of two minutes.

15:29 CEST    122km/68km to go
The full group: Addy Engels (Quick.Step), Didier Rous (Bouygues), Tomas Vaitkus (AG2R), Martin Wijnants (Chocolade Jacques), Claudio Corioni (Lampre-Fondital), Felix Oderbrecht (Wiesenhof Akud), Norbert Poels (Fondas-P3Transfer Team), Daniele Colli (Liquigas-Bianchi). They have 43 seconds on the first lap of the circuit. Oderbrecht is sitting on the back, suffering.

15:29 CEST    123km/67km to go
Davitamon-Lotto is doing the chasing work, for team captain Bjorn Leukemans. Bart Dockx is leading.

15:32 CEST    125km/65km to go
Staf Scheirlinckx (Cofidis) is another one of the early abandons, along with Paolini (2004 winner), Baldato and Petito (Tenax), Pieri, Konyshev (LPR), Scheuneman (Rabobank). It's not a race to do with sore legs.

The gap is just 25 seconds, with Davitamon having the situation well in hand. No doubt we'll have counter attacks soon.

15:33 CEST    126km/64km to go
The break reaches the Alsemberg for the end of the first lap, but only has 20 seconds of its advantage intact. They're still riding hard - Oderbrecht is goooone.

15:36 CEST    126km/64km to go
Fred Rodriguez is now working for Davitamon, which has most of its team on the front.

The leaders climb up to the finish with their lead melting all the time. Vaitkus is also dropped.

15:37 CEST    128km/62km to go
Dockx and Rodriguez continue to set tempo, closing to within 15 seconds of the leading six.

Jukka Vastaranta (Rabobank) crashed and was taken to hospital with a suspected broken arm. Also Roberto Traficante crashed and was taken to hospital.

15:40 CEST    130km/60km to go
It's all over with 60 km to go for the breakaways. But the race will (figuratively) explode again. Wijnants tries to keep things going as the peloton closes the gap.

15:42 CEST    132km/58km to go
Oscar Freire, last year's winner, follows an attack on the Bruineput. Leukemans counters, but not too hard. It stretches the peloton, but doesn't break it. A Gerolsteiner rider follows Leukemans with an energy gel dangling from his mouth. Not a good time. Vasseur in third wheel.

Verstrepen is dropped with Andy Capelle. Verstrepen crashed earlier, and it shows.

15:43 CEST   
Auge and Righetto are shelled with a couple of other riders on the Bruineput. Lights out for them.

15:46 CEST    135km/55km to go
At the bottom of the descent, Van de Walle pushes the pace for Quick.Step. Then a Rabobank rider drives through with a Skil-Shimano for company. The peloton is in two parts.

The attacks continue in front as Tankink follows a few others. A dozen are trying to get clear, and it's all strung out behind them.

15:47 CEST    136km/54km to go
Tankink puts his head down and keeps driving, opening up a gap now. He has chasers, two of them. Then a group just ahead of the peloton.

15:48 CEST    137km/53km to go
It's three Dutchmen: Bram de Groot (Rabobank), Bram Tankink (Quick.Step), and Stef Clement (Bouygues). Enrico Franzoi (Lampre-Fondital) is chasing them alone.

15:50 CEST    138km/52km to go
Franzoi tacks on on the bottom of the Lindenberg. Almost...ouch...he needs another 20 metres. They don't wait, and Franzoi explodes (figuratively).

Scanlon has abandoned as a counter starts behind.

15:51 CEST    139km/51km to go
Van Summeren catches Franzoi and the Italian takes his wheel as he tries to get up to the four leaders. A CSC rider joins the party, then the rest of the peloton. The three in front have 5 seconds max.

15:55 CEST    141km/49km to go
It's a Dutch trio still, with Clement, De Groot and Tankink nearing the foot of the Alsemberg for the end of lap 2. They have opened up their advantage a little bit.

Coenen flats at the foot of the climb, no-one to give him a wheel yet. He's really pissed. Where is the Shimano neutral service?

Van Huffel leads the peloton on the climb, 18 seconds behind the break.

15:56 CEST    142km/48km to go
Three laps to go, and the break has 13 seconds on the Wim Van Huffel led peloton, which is still largish.

15:59 CEST    145km/45km to go
The leaders open up more of a gap as Arvesen gets to the front of the bunch with a Milram rider, trying to get clear of the bunch.

16:02 CEST    147km/43km to go
The break takes a shorter route over a bike path as it reaches the Bruineput. 19 seconds as Erwin Thijs (Unibet) powers away with another Shimano rider. Nuyens and Freire are close to each other in the peloton.

16:03 CEST    148km/42km to go
Dmitriy Muravyev counters on the Bruineput, taking Nuyens, Leukemans, and Vansummeren with him. This has hurt the peloton. Baguet is also coming up. Interesting mix.

16:04 CEST    149km/41km to go
Leukemans, Vansummeren, Muravyev, Nuyens and Baguet - most of the favourites in this race, are chasing the three leaders over the top of the Bruineput. They easily hit 80 km/h on the descent.

16:08 CEST    151km/39km to go
We now have a group of 20 or so, with Bram de Groot, Flecha (Rabobank), Stef Clement (Bouygues), Vansummeren, Dockx, Leukemans (Davitamon), Baguet, Nuyens, Tankink (Quick Step), Arvesen (CSC).

Dockx is the next to attack, with Tankink and De Groot (again) catching him.

16:09 CEST    152km/38km to go
Arvesen bridges up to the trio, with Talabardon also trying to bring a few riders up. The racing is flat out now.

16:11 CEST    153km/37km to go
Five join the four in front, with the peloton tacking on at the foot of the Lindenberg. All back together.

16:12 CEST    154km/36km to go
Yes, the attacks continue. Vasseur goes away with four others, including Abakoumov. But the bunch is on their heels over the top. In bits and pieces, anyway.

16:13 CEST   
A Milram rider goes next - Martin Muller- with Baguet the Quick.Step rider in tow. Leukemans leads the bunch behind.

16:15 CEST    156km/34km to go
Muller and Baguet are joined by a Lampre rider. They are near the end of the third lap.

16:15 CEST   
The Lampre rider is Carrara, but the Milram is Christian Knees. Several more riders are closing the gap to them.

16:17 CEST    158km/32km to go
It's now Baguet (Quick.Step), Carrara (Lampre), Flecha (Rabobank), Kroon (CSC), Knees (Milram), Bodrogi (Credit Agricole), and Monfort (Cofidis). Kroon looks good as he opens up a gap on the Alsemberg. Flecha closes the gap, slowly. Knees and Monfort are in trouble.

16:18 CEST    158km/32km to go
No Davitamons in the break, but plenty of Quick.Steps on the front of the peloton, slowing things down.

The break crosses the line with a 10 second gap to Monfort, then 37 seconds to the Vansummeren led peloton.

16:19 CEST    159km/31km to go
This is an interesting looking break, with Flecha, Kroon and Baguet all strong riders. Carrara, Knees and Bodrogi are contributing, while Monfort will have a tough chase to get them now.

16:21 CEST    161km/29km to go
The gap goes up to 42 seconds as Monfort is absorbed by the bunch, led by Davitamon.

16:22 CEST   
The bunch is strung out in pursuit of the six leaders, but not making an impression. Still 41 seconds. That's quite dangerous, at this point of the race. But the situation can change so quickly in Brabantse Pijl.

16:23 CEST    163km/27km to go
Baguet tries to sit on for a bit, but Flecha isn't having any of it. He waves the Belgian champion through. They hit the Bruineput again with 38 seconds.

Gerolsteiner, Unibet and Davitamon are chasing.

16:25 CEST    164km/26km to go
Gerolsteiner and Unibet lead the charge on the Unibet, knocking 10 seconds off the gap. Nuyens is in second wheel and attacks, but has Abakoumov for company. But he can't get away alone, so he sits up. That was dangerous for Baguet in front. The leaders are over the top.

Freire now moves up in the bunch to slow things down. Abakoumov goes again, cutting it to 12 seconds.

16:27 CEST    165km/25km to go
Abakoumov looks around and sees no-one is helping, so he sits up. But it's only 13 seconds to the six leaders. The bunch flies down the descent, still 50-60 riders strong. Sijmens tries to close the gap on his own. Nope.

16:28 CEST    166km/24km to go
Sijmens does a long turn, then looks back. No-one comes through and the pace drops off again. Now an attack from Marichal (Cofidis), which ups the tempo again. 20 seconds to the leaders.

16:30 CEST    167km/23km to go
Mondory (3rd in Dwars door Vlaanderen) tries an attack, but it doesn't go anywhere. Freire is up there blocking, looking good too. He could definitely win again today.

Dockx gets back on the front with a teammate in tow -Van Huffel. He works hard to close the gap. 10 seconds and closing fast.

16:30 CEST    168km/22km to go
Dockx and Van Huffel close the gap to the break with 22 km to go. All together again.

16:33 CEST    169km/21km to go
Now the attacks will be harder, as there aren't many climbs left. They pass through the feed zone, with the leaders grabbing bidons. Flecha hits a Wiesenhof rider on the helmet because he couldn't get his bidon.

It's clouded over again, but the roads are still dry.

Vierhouten - third yesterday - attacks on the Lindenberg.

16:34 CEST    170km/20km to go
Dockx is dropped, not surprisingly. Van Summeren leads the peloton, where Sijmens attacks in pursuit of Vierhouten. He looks awkward, with both knees bandaged.

Vierhouten takes the corner at the top with about 5 seconds. He's looking back a lot though.

16:35 CEST    171km/19km to go
The pace increases and Vierhouten is caught by a small group of six or seven. The peloton is right on their wheels though. All together again.

16:37 CEST   
A Wiesenhof rider is trying to keep the pace up as the peloton strings out again. Van de Walle obliges with a sharp turn. They're in the streets of Alsemberg, ready for the climb up to the finish again. Maccanti (LPR) attacks, but has the peloton for company. He sits up.

16:38 CEST   
Fredrik Willems - European continental tour winner - hammers on the Alsemberg with De Groot (!) on his wheel for Rabobank. Then Kroon and Vasseur. Then a gap.

16:39 CEST    174km/16km to go
Five leaders, with Willems, De Groot, Kroon, Vasseur and Leukemans. And Nuyens is on his way too.

16:40 CEST    175km/15km to go
Arvesen and Ten Dam get up to the leaders but then Ten Dam explodes. Freire is next to bridge up, and looks good.

16:40 CEST   
The leaders: Willems (Chocolade Jacques), De Groot, Freire (Rabobank), Arvesen, Kroon (CSC), Vasseur, Nuyens (Quick.Step), Leukemans (Davitamon).

16:42 CEST    176km/14km to go
This is a good group now, with three pairs of two and two individuals. All the main teams are up here. Willems nearly takes out De Groot as he looks behind. The cooperation isn't good yet.

16:42 CEST   
Another Unibet rider is trying to get up: Johan Coenen. So he must have got a wheel in the end.

16:43 CEST    177km/13km to go
Coenen has the peloton about 5 seconds behind him, with the break another 10 seconds up the road. There's plenty of horsepower here.

Two Gerolsteiners are working in the bunch, with Van de Walle in third wheel. Coenen is caught.

16:44 CEST    178km/12km to go
The break descends now, with everyone trying to do as little as possible. They are in danger of getting caught by the Gerolsteiner chase.

16:46 CEST    179km/11km to go
The Bruineput starts with the peloton right behind the break. De Groot hammers on the front. Nope - all together again.

Not for long, as Duque (Cofidis) attacks. Flecha, Leukemans, Nuyens, Kroon, Willems are all there. And Baguet...

16:47 CEST    180km/10km to go
It's not really a break yet. Leukemans attacks over the top then Nuyens counters hard. That hurts. Leukemans can respond, with Kroon and Willems on his wheel. Arvesen there too. Freire is there, and Baguet. Now Baguet accelerates on the descent, forcing Kroon to chase.

16:49 CEST    182km/8km to go
About 20 riders are left at the bottom of the descent. Baguet goes again with Freire and a Gerolsteiner rider. Arvesen closes, with a few others. Carrara too. They look back. Seven leaders.

16:50 CEST    183km/7km to go
Van Summeren now closes the gap to the leaders with the bunch on his wheel. All together with 7.7 km to go. Freire, Arvesen, Kopp and Baguet attack. Freire attacks again and is alone. But not by much. Nuyens chases with a few others.

16:51 CEST    183.5km/6.5km to go
It's Freire leading Nuyens, Flecha, Kroon, Duque in the lead, opening up a handy gap with 6.7 km to go. Two Rabobanks!

16:53 CEST    185km/5km to go
They hit the Lindenberg for the last time, all working together. Duque drives, then Flecha. Freire is in the boxed seat again. Luis Pasamontes (Unibet) is trying to close the gap, but slowly exploding. 17 seconds behind, then the bunch is further back. This looks like the winning move.

16:54 CEST    186km/4km to go
Freire does a turn with Nuyens on his wheel. Then Nuyens attacks! Very hard. Kroon reacts and closes the gap. Flecha, Freire and Duque are dropped!

16:55 CEST    186km/4km to go
Nuyens and Kroon have flown the coop. Flecha is trying to limit the gap. Nuyens chats to Kroon - all stops out now with 4 km to go.

16:56 CEST    187km/3km to go
Freire does a massive turn and almost bridges the gap. Flecha does. Now four left, as Duque is dropped. Freire counters with Nuyens having to close. Ouch. Freire is great today.

16:57 CEST    188km/2km to go
Flecha and Kroon come through for turns, and Freire lets a gap go for Nuyens to close. They're nearly at the finish. Flecha drives it for Freire now. What a weekend he's had. Duque is in fifth, alone.

16:58 CEST    188.5km/1.5km to go
The four will reach the foot of the Alsemberg together. Freire in last wheel, tightening his straps, drinking for the last time and tossing his bidon away. Flecha continues in first wheel, emptying the tank for his team captain.

But don't underestimate Kroon and Nuyens. Kroon now drops back to last wheel.

16:59 CEST    189km/1km to go
Kroon must attack to get rid of the rest, but it's Flecha still driving on the base of the Alsemberg. Nuyens attacks, but can't gap the rest. He sits up.

16:59 CEST   
Nuyens slows in front, Freire waits, as does Kroon. Flecha hasn't given up either - he attacks as he reaches them, keeping the tempo high. Nuyens takes his wheel, Freire and Kroon next.

17:01 CEST    190km/0km to go
Flecha performs the final lead out and there's no way that Freire will let him down. Nuyens and Kroon accelerate but it's Freire with a big gap to win Brabantse Pijl for the second time. Kroon second ahead of Nuyens and Flecha. Then Duque is swamped by the peloton for fifth. Marcus Ljungqvist takes that place.

17:09 CEST   
And there you have it. Triple world champion Oscar Freire wins again on the Alsemberg, just as world champion Tom Boonen did in the E3 Prijs yesterday. Kroon congratulates his former teammate on the podium, wondering what might have happened if he'd ridden with Nick Nuyens when the pair were clear. Or maybe, Oscar was just too strong today.

Until the Ronde van Vlaanderen next week, goodbye!


1 Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank             4.20.51
2 Karsten Kroon (Ned) CSC
3 Nick Nuyens (Bel) Quick.Step
4 Juan Antonio Flecha (Spa) Rabobank
5 Marcus Ljungqvist (Swe) CSC
6 Igor Abakoumov (Bel) Jartazi
7 Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Nor) CSC
8 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Milram
9 Matteo Carrara (Ita) Lampre-Fondital
10 Sebastien Hinault (Fra) Credit Agricole