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48th Brabantse Pijl - 1.1
Belgium, March 30, 2008
In repeat mode, Chavanel captures win
Freire's streak ends
By Brecht Decaluwé
Four days after his solo victory in Dwars door Vlaanderen Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) repeated that impressive performance in similar wet weather conditions near Brussels by attacking the gathered opposition in the 48th Brabantse Pijl. "Mimosa", as the French 28 year-old is nicknamed, attacked on the ascent of the Bruineput with 28km to go, and stayed clear until the finish line in Beersel.
There were more similarities to last Wednesday's race; it was the winner's first participation in the race, and again he was the first French rider on the race's palamarès. With this victory Sylvain Chavanel ended Oscar Freire's domination of this race for riders with some climbing talent in the legs. The triple world champion had won on the Alsemberg three times in a row since 2005, but wasn't able to follow the winning move in 2008.
"Just like Wednesday I didn't know this course, as these are all races in which I've never competed, but apparently they suit me quite well. I've got a great week behind me and I hope that I'll be able to extend this form until the Tour of Flanders next week. Do note that I'm not the top favourite although I won Dwars door Vlaanderen and the Brabantse Pijl, as the Tour of Flanders is much more difficult and much longer," Chavanel said when talking to Sporza TV after the race.
When congratulated with his "grand numéro" Chavanel remained modest. "I can't help that I can stand the poor weather conditions pretty well. It rained all day and it was stone-cold, but if you win then that is easily forgotten."
Local hero Philippe Gilbert explained he was ready to answer Chavanel's acceleration but his dreams were shattered as Carlos Barredo crashed right in front of him, taking Gilbert along, too. The Belgian quickly crawled back up, but his rear wheel needed replacement. Eventually Gilbert started the chase on the peloton and bridged back up soon after. Eight kilometres after the attack from Chavanel, it was Gilbert who jumped away. He got back to within 15" but couldn't get any closer. The 25 year-old Belgian dropped back to a group with Frederik Willems, Giovanni Visconti and Juan Antonio Flecha, and then left them on the final ascent of the Alsemberg to claim a well-deserved second place. Flecha sprinted to a good third place
"I sat on Barredo's wheel when his chain snapped. He crashed and I couldn't avoid him," Gilbert explained. "I was just starting my sprint to join Chavanel in the attack. After a while I managed to take my spot back in the peloton but Chavanel was gone by then, and I couldn't bring him back. If I wouldn't have crashed I had a good chance on the victory today. My form is great and that makes me hopeful for the Tour of Flanders," Gilbert looked forward to the big race of next Sunday.
How it unfolded
Despite the frightening weather forecast all 194 riders started the 48th Brabantse Pijl in Leuven, where the race started for the first time in its history. At 12:41 the riders started for the first 110km towards the local circuit which they had to complete five times. The local circuit consisted of three main climbs: Bruineput, then the Lindenberg and finally the Alsemberg towards the finish line in Beersel.
The rain was pouring down on the riders and some of them quickly decided they had had enough. Among them were Allan Johansson and Olivier Bonnaire. The first attacks were launched by Markus Eichler, Kenny Lisabeth, Reinier Honig, Kasper Klostergaard and Gregory Habeaux, but none of them could create a good gap on the soaked peloton.
With 158km to go the breakaway with Wouter Mol, Raymond Smith and Ermanno Capelli had more luck and the three riders quickly gathered a lead over the rest of the field. As the riders entered Waterloo, known for the famous battle that brought Napoleon Bonaparte down in 1815, the three unknown riders had 2'30" on the peloton with 154km to go.
When the three leaders had more than six minutes, a counter-attack was launched in the peloton by Daan De Jonge (Josan), with 122km to go. It was a rather late decision, and there wasn't much of a chance the Belgian would manage to bridge up with the trio in front.
As the riders started to pass the finish line on top of the Alsemberg for the first time, the race situation was as follows: the three leaders had 5'16" on De Jonge and nine minutes on the peloton. Meanwhile a lot of riders abandoned the race as, possibly helped by the view of the warm team bus near the finish line. Among them were Igor Abakoumov, Sergey Ivanov, Hugo Sabido and Carlo Scognamiglio and four riders of Landbouwkrediet.
After the first lap Alessandro Ballan decided he had enough of the Belgian rain as well and the 2007 winner of the Tour of Flanders abandoned. Raul Alarcón (Saunier Duval) had different sensations and he attacked the peloton when they crossed the finish line. The 21 year-old Spaniard was quickly joined by Mark Cassidy, Berik Kupeshov and Kenny Van Der Schueren. The four riders quickly caught Daan De Jong and left him behind, while the three leaders noticed their once huge lead was quickly dropping back, at this stage it was still six minutes with 60km to go.
A few kilometres further Frederik Veuchelen and Geert Steurs joined the four chasers, and a little later Tom Stubbe bridged up as well while Mark Cassidy got dropped. In the peloton Kevin De Weert started pulling for his team leaders. The lead from Mol, Smith and Capelli was down to 2'30" and meanwhile Maarten Wynants tried to bridge up as well. The talented Belgian was joined by experienced Markus Zberg and they joined the chasing group at 50km from the finish.
Wynants' acceleration on the Bruineput with three laps to go resulted in the loss of ballast, in the form of Alarcón and Steurs. The gap with the leaders was now only about half a minute with a bit more than two laps to go, with the peloton being within a minute of the leaders as well. On the Alsemberg the three were caught and the man from South-Africa Raymond Smith was immediately dropped, while Mol and Capelli gave all they had to stay on the wheels of the new leaders. In the peloton triple winner Oscar Freire was moving towards the front of the peloton where a lot of riders were showing the fatigue of riding in the rain and cold for such a long time.
Just before the penultimate climb of the Bruineput, with 28km to go, the leaders were caught by Cofidis-led peloton. Mol and Capelli were shaking hands to conclude their long partnership in front of the race. The Cofidis team didn't have time for sentiment and steamed forward with four men. Nuyens accelerated on the right hand side of the road with team-mate Sylvain Chavanel on his wheel, and only Karsten Kroon and Frederik Willems were able to follow as well. Meanwhile on the left hand side of the road Carlos Barredo crashed when his chain snapped and he took Philippe Gilbert along with him. When Chavanel took over from Nuyens nobody was able to follow 'Mimosa', and when the Willems and Kroon decided not to chase with Nuyens on their wheels Chavanel quickly gathered 20" with still 23km remaining.
While Gilbert managed to get back in the big chasing group Carlos Barredo punctured. Apparently he was the team leader of the day since world champion Paolo Bettini offered his wheel to the Spaniard, and Wynants was waiting to bring him back to the peloton. Two kilometres further Philippe Gilbert jumped away on the Lindenberg when Chavanel had 30" on his chasers. Jurgen Van Den Broeck copied Gilbert's attack a little later, but he was accompanied by Stubbe who kept sitting on his wheel to protect the attack from his team-mate Gilbert.
On the penultimate climb of the Alsemberg, just before hitting the ultimate lap, Chavanel had a lead of 15" over Gilbert, while the duo Van Den Broeck and Stubbe were joined by Frederik Willems. The duel between Chavanel and Gilbert offered a great spectacle, but it was clear Gilbert had lost too much energy to come back to the peloton after his crash.
After the last ascent of the Bruineput the peloton, led by Sebastian Langeveld, almost caught the leaders but then Juan Antonio Flecha and Visconti jumped away and joined Frederik Willems with only 9km to go. Gilbert noticed that he wasn't getting any closer to Chavanel while the trio behind him started to mean a threat. The Belgian waited for Willems, Visconti and Flecha and together they had a mission impossible ahead of them to close the 33" gap on sole leader Chavanel with only 6km remaining, while the peloton followed twenty seconds further back.
Chavanel arrived at the foot of the Alsemberg, with only 1,200m remaining with a gap of 35" on the four chasers and a minute on the peloton. Gilbert accelerated and only Visconti could stay on his wheel for a while but then got dropped as well. Chavanel didn't collapse during the final ascent of the Alsemberg and came to the finish with 27" on Gilbert. Flecha won the sprint for third place before Visconti and Willems. The peloton sprint was narrowly won by Fabian Wegmann ahead of Enrico Gasparotto and Nick Nuyens who crashed into the arms of winner Sylvain Chavanel. The sprint of the peloton caused a little gap in the peloton and five seconds later Grégory Rast and Nico Sijmens always strong in this race filled up the top-10. Triple winner Oscar Freire finished in 37th position, he clearly didn't bother to sprint for a top-10 result. Eventually only 81 riders finished the soaked race near Brussels.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by AFP Photo
Images by Roberto Bettini/www.bettiniphoto.net
Images by DCP/Bert Geerts
Images by Erik Van Breugel/cyclingmoments.com
1 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone 4.44.38 (40.683 km/h) 2 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Française des Jeux 0.29 3 Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Spa) Rabobank 0.37 4 Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Quickstep 0.38 5 Frederik Willems (Bel) Liquigas 0.40 6 Fabian Wegmann (Ger) Gerolsteiner 0.59 7 Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Barloworld 8 Nick Nuyens (Bel) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone 9 Grégory Rast (Swi) Astana 1.04 10 Nico Sijmens (Bel) Landbouwkrediet - Tönissteiner 11 Anthony Geslin (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 12 Bert De Waele (Bel) Landbouwkrediet - Tönissteiner 13 Pavel Brutt (Rus) Tinkoff Credit Systems 14 Karsten Kroon (Ned) Team CSC 15 Johan Coenen (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen 16 Rubens Bertogliati (Swi) Saunier Duval - Scott 17 Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Française des Jeux 18 Carlos Barredo Llamazales (Spa) Quickstep 19 Marco Marcato (Ita) Cycle Collstrop 20 Mickael Delage (Fra) Française des Jeux 21 Kurt Hovelynck (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen 22 Addy Engels (Ned) Quickstep 23 Artur Gajek (Ger) Team Milram 24 Mickaël Chérel (Fra) Française des Jeux 25 Jonathan Hivert (Fra) Crédit Agricole 26 Jan Kuyckx (Bel) Landbouwkrediet - Tönissteiner 27 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Silence - Lotto 28 Dmytro Grabovskyy (Ukr) Quickstep 29 Christophe Le Mével (Fra) Crédit Agricole 30 Geert Verheyen (Bel) Mitsubishi-Jartazi 31 Simon Spilak (Slo) Lampre - Fondital 32 Wim Van Huffel (Bel) Silence - Lotto 33 Marcus Ljungqvist (Swe) Team CSC 34 Maxime Méderel (Fra) Crédit Agricole 35 Aurélien Passeron (Fra) Saunier Duval - Scott 36 Sven Nevens (Bel) Mitsubishi-Jartazi 37 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank 38 Arnoud Van Groen (Ned) P3Transfer - Batavus 39 Frederik Veuchelen (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen 40 Christophe Brandt (Bel) Silence - Lotto 41 Daniel Lloyd (GBr) An Post - M. Donnelly - Grant Thornton - Sean Kelly Team 42 Koos Moerenhout (Ned) Rabobank 43 Dries Devenyns (Bel) Silence - Lotto 44 Bobbie Traksel (Ned) P3Transfer - Batavus 45 Thomas Dekker (Ned) Rabobank 46 Christian Knees (Ger) Team Milram 1.17 47 Eric Berthou (Fra) Crédit Agricole 48 Sébastien Minard (Fra) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone 49 Alexander Gottfried (Ger) Tinkoff Credit Systems 1.32 50 Kalle Kriit (Est) Mitsubishi-Jartazi 51 Christian Kux (Ger) Team Milram 1.39 52 Sven Renders (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen 2.20 53 Tom Stubbe (Bel) Française des Jeux 3.51 54 Aaron Kemps (Aus) Astana 4.10 55 René Haselbacher (Aut) Astana 56 Cyrille Monnerais (Fra) Française des Jeux 5.27 57 Kasper Klostergaard Larsen (Den) Team CSC 5.33 58 Borut Bozic (Slo) Cycle Collstrop 5.37 59 Paidi O'Brien (Irl) An Post - M. Donnelly - Grant Thornton - Sean Kelly Team 5.58 60 Kenny De Haes (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen 6.11 61 Markus Zberg (Swi) Gerolsteiner 8.14 62 Bingen Fernandez Bustinza (Spa) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone 63 Kevin De Weert (Bel) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone 9.48 64 Amaël Moinard (Fra) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone 65 Gregory Habeaux (Bel) Mitsubishi-Jartazi 66 Serge Pauwels (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen 67 Daniel Fleeman (GBr) Post-M.Donnelly-Grant 68 Jean-Paul Simon (Bel) Josan Mercedes Benz Aalst CT 69 Jonas Ljungblad (Swe) P3Transfer - Batavus 70 Mathew Hayman (Aus) Rabobank 71 Kenny Van Der Schueren (Bel) Cycle Collstrop 72 Lars Ytting Bak (Den) Team CSC 73 Michal Golas (Pol) Cycle Collstrop 74 Benny De Schrooder (Bel) An Post - M. Donnelly - Grant Thornton - Sean Kelly Team 75 Nick Gates (Aus) Silence - Lotto 76 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Silence - Lotto 77 Olivier Kaisen (Bel) Silence - Lotto 78 Evgeny Sokolov (Rus) Bouygues Telecom 9.56 79 Yohan Cauquil (Fra) Mitsubishi-Jartazi 80 Tom Criel (Bel) Cycle Collstrop 81 Marco Bandiera (Ita) Lampre - Fondital