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Brabantse Pijl: Hungry for Some Hills

I think Robert Gesink just said he is sleeping on the Cauberg to prepare for the Amstel Gold Race. If that's not what he said? Please, just don't tell me. Allow me to indulge in my imagined picture of Gesink cuddled up with his blanky right there on the Cauberg dreaming bike racer dreams of finish lines and solo breakaways and podium kisses.

Yes, my friends, it's time to say a fond farewell to the cobbles for another year and journey onward. Tomorrow starts the Ardennes cycle that runs from Brabantse Pijl to the cycling's oldest one-day classic Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Now we exchange cobbles for sharp, biting climbs. Riders like Gesink come out of hiding. So too will Philippe Gilbert and Peter Sagan, both absent from Sunday's Paris-Roubaix.

This Brabantse Pijl race, it used to be smack dab in the midst of the cobbled classics, until some genius realized that really, it didn't fit well there at all. For one thing, it has no cobbles. For another? It has hills. Don't believe me? Check out the course profile (pdf).

Last year, Philippe Gilbert won Brabantse Pijl. There was a while when Oscar Freire used to own this race. Okay, he only won it twice, but it seemed like every time we talked about Brabantse, we talked about Freire. The finish now is more for the climbers than for a rider like Freire.

If Gilbert has found his legs, this is the perfect finish for him. Now, where could they be? Under the bed with that one sock that got away? Or maybe in kitchen with the lonely jar of mustard?

Peruse for a moment the full start list (pdf). See anything you like? I'm looking at Thomas Dekker (because really, how can I not?), Martijn Maaskant, Jérôme Pineau, Peter Sagan, Luis León Sanchez. And of course, I should mention Oscar Freire. Because it is Brabantse Pijl. Oh, and Andy Schleck is riding, though he doesn't seem to get too fired up for the midweek races. Maybe Sunday.

Sunday is the Amstel Gold Race. But, let's not get ahead of ourselves, okay? Tomorrow, Brabantse. Sunday, Amstel Gold Race. Wednesday, Flèche Wallonne. Sunday, Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Really, that's a whole lot of bike racing there. I get all giddy just thinking about it.

Want more info? Check out the official Brabantse Pijl website.