De Brabantse Pijl: Chavanel 4th, Maes Makes the Final After Long Day in Break
Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team riders Nikolas Maes and Sylvain Chavanel contested a final of 11 very select riders at the end of 200km De Brabantse Pijl on Wednesday, which included Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing Team), Peter Sagan (Cannondale), Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing Team) and others.
Nikolas Maes made the selection by going on the attack about 60km into the race with five other riders. That group was eventually down to five in total, and they were able to pass many of the 25 total climbs of the parcour before being joined by Stijn Devolder (Radioshack Leopard) with 43km to go, and then Chavanel, Sagan, Gilbert, Van Avermaet and Simon Geschke with 12km to go. That group attacked just inside the 20km to go point.
As the group approached the final kilometers, the gap of the peloton remained steady and Chavanel decided to test the legs of the group by attacking with 3km to go. Then, Maes launched an attack and was immediately follwoed only by Van Avermaet. Those two went onto the final climb — Schavei — with a gap that forced Sagan to lead the chase.
Van Avermaet dropped Maes with less than 2km to go, and then Sagan passed Van Avermaet and gapped everyone else in the former break except Gilbert. Gilbert and Sagan contested the final, and despite the close finish, Sagan took the victory. Gilbert was 2nd and Bjorn Leukemans (Vacansoleil-DCM) 3rd. Chavanel was 4th out of some of the best riders in the peloton.
"We told the guys today that they should be in any break, at least one rider," Sport Director Rik Van Slycke said. "Because this circuit is so hard to get back to the front group if you are not already there. You'd spend too much energy just to get back and make the final. Once you are in the front it is more easy to pass all the climbs. It's not so nervous, you don't have to fight for position. So we knew we had to do something like that and Maes did a perfect job today. His condition is good, but we knew that as he was doing the Classics. This was a good opportunity for him to do his own race today. I told him to go in the break and see how good he was, and he did that for the team."
"If you see all the riders that were in the break, it means it was quite hard," Van Slycke continued. "Only the best could catch up to the front. Also, I have to be honest. Chava told me he missed a little bit of freshness compared to Gilbert and Sagan who did not race Roubaix. He felt it was a little bit difficult for him, but he was still in good shape and got 4th. He wanted to get on the podium for his last race of the spring season, but OK, he did his best. Now we look forward to the next races. We are bringing some fresh guys for Amstel. We will see, as the intention of every rider has been veery good. We're always in the final with one, two or three riders. We're controlling the races. If we continue with this spirit I think we can do well in the upcoming Classics."