Monday, April 9, 2012

Leaving Leuven this Wednesday...

The Brabantse Pijl, or Flèche Brabanconne, aka Brabant Arrow, is one of those professional races of the Spring Classic season long considered a warm-up for one or another of the more prestigious races it proceeds (the Ronde van Vlaanderen in the past and, most recently, the Amstel Gold Race). While on the one hand this may ostensibly be true, I feel that, on the other hand, this warm-up description does a disservice to the Brabantse (and similar races), which often have their own challenges, and their own defining characteristics.

Claude Criquielion (Guy Dedieu photo)

Thirty years ago, a young rider by the name of Claude Criquielion jumped away to score the first major victory of this career, in the Brabantse. Coincidentally, that same year, a babe was born who, thirty years later would be riding the Brabantse as defending champion - Philippe Gilbert. Fun stuff with dates. Beside these two men, many of the most talented racers in the sport have won the Brabantse - Jan Janssen (1966), Herman Van Springel (1970, 1974), Eddy Merckx (1972), Freddy Maertens (1976), Roger De Vlaeminck (1981), Eddy Planckaert (1983), Adri Van Der Poel (1985). Edwig Van Hooydonck is a four time victor, Johan Capiot and Johan Musseuw each won three times, Michael Boogerd twice. Oscar Friere will be attempting to match Van Hooydonck's four wins this year.

Edwig Van Hooydonck

This 52nd edition of the Brabant Arrow (the races official website likes to call it that) will be raced for 194.9 km along a 143.8 km route through the Flemish and Walloon Brabant region, finishing with 4 - 12.8 km loops in Overijse. Twenty-eight steep hills will provide plenty of opportunity for racers to attempt to springboard away from the rest of the race, and try for victory. Who to look for? Friere is a good bet. The veteran says this is his final season of racing, and with some good finishes already this spring including 2nd at the E3 Harelbeke, 4th in Ghent-Wevelgem, and 7th in Milan-San Remo, he has the form to claim a fourth victory. Others to watch include the ever strong Peter Sagan, Matti Breschel, Thomas Dekker, Stijn Devloder, and Bert De Waele. Rabobank, Omega-Pharma-Quick Step and Lotto Belisol are each fielding teams with much depth, and numerous riders capable of pulling off a win. Or, will Gilbert be able to salvage his Spring season and claim a second victory in as many years. It should be exciting whatever the outcome.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...