I'd like to think we're at the turnaround, the cone in the road that says "halfway home" and if you're lucky, "that headwind is now a tailwind." However, for most of us Temporary Experts Brabantse Pijl feels more like the halfway point up the Koppenberg: you're rendered senseless by pain, and whatever ideas you have about how much more work is left are tragically underestimated.
With one exception: RubesandBabes. A seven-point lead can evaporate overnight, but Rubes has been consistently picking up a point or two even in the worst circumstance -- the monuments, which have been nothing but surprises. Millsy and Edredon are making a show of it, while the rest of us... well, there are four events left. Time enough to save face, at least. With two exceptions, one of whom might be better at making picks in Spain, while another would probably fare better at, oh, the Pipeline. [Update!] OK, I have Gavia's real picks now.
Anyway, the Brabant Arrow is a fabulous race, and holds the distinction of being the only calendar change from last year's Classics reshuffle that I completely agree with. It's a perfect transition from Flanders to the Ardennes. Enjoy!
|Edredon Browny||Oscar Freire||Stijn Devolder||Philippe Gilbert||1||11|
|Millsy 89||Greg Van Avermaet||Sep Vanmarcke||Oscar Freire||0||11|
|KOM Vuelta||Bjorn Leukemans||Philippe Gilbert||Giovanni Visconti||2||5|
|Rubesandbabes||Philipe Gilbert||Oscar Freire||Sylvain Chavanel||6||24|
|JSallee||Paul Martens||Bert De Waele||Philippe Gilbert||1||10|
|Popup Rolen||David Millar||Johnny Hoogerland||Jens Keukeleire||0||7|
|FrenchKheldar||Philippe Gilbert||Giovanni Visconti||Greg Van Avermaet||6||14|
|Margin Walker**||Oscar Freire||Oscar Freire||Oscar Freire||0||5|
|Dan Beringhele||Sep Vanmarcke||Oscar Freire||Greg Van Avermaet||0||7|
|Stevie Dexter||Philippe Gilbert||Thomas De Gendt||Giovanni Visconti||6||14|
|Gavia||Laurens ten Dam||Ryder Hesjedal||Oscar Freire||0||3|
|Chris F||Greg Van Avermaet||Oscar Freire||R Navardauskas||0||8|
The Brabant Roadmap
Brabantse Pijl is the last of the six Flanders Classics before we move in to the Ardennes region and start tackling more hillier terrain in these beautiful one-day race battlegrounds. Many may see this event as not as well supported as the other races this month, but there are still some notable riders who will be vying for that top podium spot as a precursor to Amstel Gold, La Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
Denis Galimzyanov of Katusha took a fantastic win on stage 2 of Three Days of De Panne but Wednesday may see the last opportunity he has to do something big in this early season before the terrain ramps up and all but the biggest and strongest sprinters are removed from the favourites list. Thomas De Gendt should also be one to watch. Although officially working for Devolder he has a beautiful habit of getting himself in the mix and looking dangerous at any given opportunity, which was shown in the stage he won at this years Paris-Nice. And who could forget the wonderful Phillippe Gilbert!? Some painfully awesome riding in the closing stages of Ronde van Vlaanderen showed that although the his top finishes at Tirreno-Adriatico and the Monte Paschi Strade Bianche seem a log time ago in Classics terms, his powder is dry and ready to do some real damage on the slopes of the Ardennes.
It may not seem like it now, but without Sebastien Rosseler competing to retain his crown, this years Brabantse Pijl could be a great form guide for the next few weeks of racing.
** MarginWalker has dubbed the race the Oscar Freire Invitational, and is backing that up with his picks. In fairness, we will score his picks to read 1) Freire 2) Gavia 3) Chris. Which is also fair. Gavia's been training like a madwoman.