Brabantse Pijl – or, La Flèche Brabançonne – is sandwiched between the cobbled Classics in Flanders/Northern France and the hilly Classics in Wallonia/the Netherlands. In fact, the race used to a cobbled Classic itself, but it re-invented itself and now it is a transition race. Or, if you will, the perfect preparation for the Amstel Gold Race, La Flèche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Yet, with a daunting gauntlet of 31 ascents it’s not a walk in the park either.
Title defender Tim Wellens (2018), Sonny Colbrelli (2017), Petr Vakoč (2016) and Ben Hermans (2015) are the contenders who tasted the sweetness of success in La Flèche Brabançonne. Other still competitive former winners are Philippe Gilbert (2014, 2011) and Peter Sagan (2013).
The gateway to the hilly Ardennes features a strong field this year. A likely scenario is that Alaphilippe, Matthews and cyclo-cross World Champion Van der Poel will dominate the finale, possibly with a sprint. Of Wellens want to prolong his title, he has no option to attack earlier. The Flemish attacker is not the most explosive rider in the world, but his accelerations can be devastating.
Favourites 2019 Brabantse Pijl
*** Mathieu van der Poel, Julian Alaphilippe, Michael Matthews
** Alberto Bettiol, Tim Wellens, Petr Vakoc, Sonny Colbrelli
* Daryl Impey, Dylan Teuns, Jelle Vanendert, Marc Hirschi, Bjorg Lambrecht