Petr Vakoc wins Brabantse Pijl

Petr Vakoc had stayed calm in the bunch throughout the entire De Brabantse Pijl 2016 as his teammates Pieter Serry, Gianni Meersman and Julian Alaphilippe did an excellent job by covering all the attacks.

The hard chase wore down the Orica-GreenEDGE team of pre-race favourite Michael Matthews and the teams of sprinters Bryan Coquard (Direct Energie) and Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani) who barely had any teammates left when the 40-rider peloton hit the penultimate climb of IJskelderlaan with 5km to go.

Bartosz Huzarski (Bora-Argon 18) won the battle for position and led his team captain Paul Voss onto the climb. The German set a modest pace from the bottom until Tim Wellens who had been in a previous attack, tried to set his Lotto Soudal leader Tony Gallopin up for a move.

When Wellens swung off, Voss took over with Gallopin, Enrico Gasparotto and Alaphilippe on his wheel but it was the counterattack from David Tanner (IAM) that made the difference. The Australian crested the summit with a small advantage over Gallopin, Gasparotto, Alaphilippe and Vakoc and it was the Frenchman who closed the gap to gather a quintet on the front as they reached the bottom of the descent. Voss was in lone pursuit, but he never got back.

As they reached the bottom, Alaphilippe realized the situation and he went straight to the front to up the pace. Further back, the peloton had been whittled down to just around 15 riders and this left Matthews, Colbrelli and Coquard isolated. Maciej Paterski desperately tried to chase for his leaders Simone Ponzi and Davide Rebellin but the gap had gone out to 8 seconds with 2km to go and from there it only got bigger.

Alaphilippe led the group onto the climb after having emptied himself completely and when he swung off, Vakoc made his move. Tanner and Alaphilippe fell off while Gallopin had to dig very deep to stay on his wheel.

Finally, Gallopin had to surrender and Gasparotto realized it too late. When the Italian passed the fading Frenchman, Vakoc was already gone and as he didn’t fade, the Czech increased his lead all the way to the top. He took the final turn with 200m to go with a big advantage and had plenty of time to celebrate the biggest one-day win of his career. Gasparotto crossed the line in second and Gallopin held on to take third while Coquard narrowly edged Matthews and Gallopin out in a very close sprint for fourth.

With the win, Vakoc now positions himself as an outsider for the Ardennes classics which will kick off in the Netherlands on Sunday at the Amstel Gold Race. The first of the Belgian classics is Fleche Wallonne next Wednesday and then it all culminates at Liege-Bastogne-Liege on April 24.

 De Brabantse Pijl 2016 results:

1 Petr Vakoc (Etixx – QuickStep)

4:48:50

2 Enrico Gasparotto (Wanty – Groupe Gobert)

+06”

3 Tony Gallopin (Lotto Soudal)

+12”

4 Bryan Coquard (Direct Energie)

+20”

5 Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge)

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6 Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani CSF)

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7 Maurits Lammertink (Roompot – Oranje Peloton)

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8 Julian Alaphilippe Etixx – QuickStep)

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9 Tom Jelte Slagter (Cannondale)

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10 Loic Vliegen (BMC)

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