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Brabantse Pijl 2017: Sonny Colbrelli wins from breakaway

Josh Cunningham
12 Apr 2017

Bahrain-Merida rider sprints to victory out of a winning breakaway move. Defending champion Petr Vakoc comes second.

Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) won the 2017 Brabantse Pijl today in a sprint from a breakaway group that formed with 40km to go. Defending champion Petr Vakoc (Quickstep Floors) was second, while Tiesj Benoot (Lotto-Soudal) completed the podium. 

Second place Vakoc had bridged across to the leaders in the dying stages of the race, before attacking them on the final climb, but the 8-man group remained mostly intact despite his efforts. Vakoc's teammate Dries Devenyns then led the sprint out with around 250m to go, but it was Bahrain-Merida's Colbrelli who defied Quickstep's strength - the sprinter coming around everyone to easily take the win. 

It is the Italian's second victory of the season after winning stage 2 of Paris-Nice last month.

The Brabantse Pijl occupies the Wednesday between Paris-Roubaix and The Amstel Gold Race, and as such is a transitory race between the Cobbled Classics and Ardennes Classics. Last year's winner Petr Vakoc was present on the start line along with teammate Philippe Gilbert, the recent Tour of Flanders winner who also won Brabantse Pijl in 2011 and 2014, and equal pre-race favourite Michael Matthews, who was second in both 2015 and 2016.  

The race started in Leuven, and as it headed out into the Flemish Brabant region, 5 riders broke clear before the first of 26 climbs: Reinardt Van Rensburg (Dimension Data), Adam Blythe (AquaBlue Sport), Lorenzo Rota (Bardiani-CSF), Zak Dempster (Israel Cycling Academy) and Christophe Masson (WB Veranclassic Aqua Protect).

With Quickstep Floors and Team Sunweb setting an early pace back in the peloton, the race made its way over the climbs of Brabant and the breakaway pulled out a lead of over 4 minutes after two hours. 

After reaching the town of Halle, before turning back on itself on the same roads, the race eventually reached the finishing laps, which are centred around the town of Overijse and the Schavei climb that the finish sits atop of; A notoriously aggressive race, the finale was set up to be a thriller.

By the time the peloton crossed the finish line to begin the first of three finishing laps, the breakaway's lead had been brought all the way down to 55 seconds. However, a group from the peloton formed on the second passage across the finish line to join the leaders, making a lead group of 13 riders that included Lotto-Soudal's Tiesj Benoot, Verandas Willems' Stijn Devolder and eventual winner Colbrelli. 

Going into the race's final stages the group began to splinter and attack itself, but the peloton behind couldn't bring the gap down to less than 20 seconds. 

At 4km to go, Vakoc and Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) launched themselves out of the peloton to bridge across to the lead group, which by this point had been whittled down to 8 riders, and caught them at the base of the final climb.

Vakoc was clearly strong, attacking straight over the top of the group, but unable to free himself, this was a move that ultimately blunted his legs ahead of the final sprint.

Vakoc's teammate Dries Devenyns led the sprint out, but Colbrelli came past with ease to take the victory. 

Classics season continues this weekend with the first instalment of the Ardennes Classics; The Amstel Gold Race. 

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