De Brabantse Pijl: Benoît Cosnefroy comes out on top

French puncheur outkicks Dylan Teuns and Tim Wellens as seven-man group contests the victory in Overijse

Clock15:16, Wednesday 10th April 2024
Benoît Cosnefroy celebrates victory at De Brabantse Pijl

© Getty Images

Benoît Cosnefroy celebrates victory at De Brabantse Pijl

Benoît Cosnefroy (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale) emerged victorious from an open edition of De Brabantse Pijl, sprinting to victory from a seven-man group in Overijse.

The French puncheur was one of a number of riders to bridge to the lead group following the key climb of the Moskesstraat, and out-kicked his rivals in the home straight beyond the crest of the late S-Bocht climb.

Dylan Teuns (Israel-Premier Tech) was forced to bow his head as Cosnefroy roared past, settling for second place after his teammate Joseph Blackmore had neutralised a dangerous late attack from the impressive Marijn van den Berg (EF Education-EasyPost).

Tim Wellens (UAE Team Emirates) clinched the final spot on the podium.

“I feel at home at this race,” said Cosnefroy, explaining his victory salute of pointing down towards the tarmac, having clinched his first victory after three previous podiums.

“I’m very very happy to win here. It’s never easy to win a race and this one was very hard to read. When I was able to get across to the group it was perfect, and I was confident in my sprint. I wanted to get in the wheel of Dylan and when he launched I thought it was maybe too late but with the headwind, I was able to gain speed and get around him.”

Cosnefroy remarked that when Van den Berg attacked, it was “perfect” for him. The Dutchman agreed, berating himself for being “stupid” and launching a move that ultimately negated his strongest suit: his sprint.

Van den Berg was part of an elite trio, with Teuns and Wellens, that formed on the second of the four ascents of the steep cobbled Moskesstraat climb, but while he’s known for his sprint wins, he proved himself to be a good deal more versatile than that. He piled the pressure on on the final ascent of Moskestraat and then when wheels were let go in the final 2.5km, he decided to press on in a do-or-die solo move.

Without the presence of Blackmore, who had bridged across shortly after Cosnefroy, he might have survived, given the lack of team numbers otherwise. But he “exploded” on the S-Bocht and was forced to drop away as the others contested the sprint he’ll feel he could have won.

In the end, Cosnefroy, who had been on the attack much earlier in the race before launching his impressively snappy bridge to the winning move, was a convincing winner in a big boost ahead of the Ardennes Classics.

How it unfolded

Coming after Paris-Roubaix and ahead of Amstel Gold, De Brabantse Pijl forms a bridge between the true cobbled Classics and the true hilly Classics, taking elements of each and taking place on the border between Flanders and Wallonia in Belgium.

The 64th edition of the race featured a slightly modified route, with the removal of the Hagaard climb from the 20km finishing circuit that was tackled four times. The slight reduction in climbing, plus the absence of the peloton's biggest star names, made for an open race, which constantly threatened to come back for a reduced bunch finish, like in the old days.

It took a long time for a breakaway to form, with an eight-man group finally going clear on the first climb of the day. However, by the time they hit the finishing circuit, their advantage was tumbling, and it evaporated on the first ascent of Moskestraat, where the first big attacks came from the bunch.

Nothing stuck on the climb itself but a new breakaway trio formed soon after, featuring Antoine Huby (Soudal Quick-Step), Alec Segaert (Lotto Dstny), and Andreas Leknessund (Uno-X). On the subsequent lap, that group expanded when the attacks came again on Moskesstraat, and then again on the subsequent climb of Holstheide, where Cosnefroy would bridge for the first of two times that day.

Antonio Morgado (UAE), Lawson Craddock (Jayco-AlUla) and the Alpecin-Deceuninck duo of Søren Kragh and Axel Laurance (ADC) were also part of a group that swelled to nine, but they were brought to heel soon into the penultimate lap.

When the Moskesstraat rolled around again, the winning move started to take shape, with Teuns taking charge and gapping everyone over the top. Wellens and Van den Berg were the closest challengers and joined on the descent to form a trio that held off a chaotic reduced peloton, where there were numerous attacks but no cohesive chase.

They crossed the finish line and took the bell with 25 seconds in hand, but Alpecin-Deceuninck, after some dilly-dallying, took responsibility and were later aided by Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale to bring it back to within bridging distance.

On the final ascent of Moskesstraat it was Van den Berg, nominally the weakest climber, who looked the strongest, with Teuns fading slightly, while Quinten Hermans (Alpecin-Deceuninck) succeeded in jumping across from the bunch.

They descended to the Holstheide with a lead of 10 seconds, which Cosnefroy wiped out in the blink of an eye with a vicious acceleration. Beyond that climb, more riders from a disorganised and fragmented chase made the jump in ones and twos: Jefferson Cepeda (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), then Blackmore, with Laurance coming agonisingly close to joining before being spat.

The resulting group of seven worked together for a few kilometres and looked to be combining through to the finish until Cepeda let the wheel go behind Van den Berg, who carried on with his turn, looked around, and decided to try and press home the gap that he'd opened by accident.

He made a good fist of it as the others looked at each other, but the presence of two riders from one team saw Blackmore sacrifice himself and the gap was down to a few seconds by the late ascent of the S-Bocht, at which point Van den Berg's legs "exploded" and he couldn't even hang on for the sprint.

Blackmore continued to lead the way for Teuns, who was initially rivalled by Wellens, but it was Cosnefroy who showcased the best timing and finishing speed to finally take out the race that suits him so well.

For the latest news, interviews and analysis from the world of professional cycling, be sure to check out the Racing tab on the GCN website and visit our essential guide to The Spring Classics to stay up to date with all of the action from cycling's most exciting season.

Race Results

1

fr flag

COSNEFROY Benoît

Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale Team

4H 17' 02"

2

be flag

TEUNS Dylan

Israel-Premier Tech

"

3

be flag

WELLENS Tim

UAE Team Emirates

"

4

gb flag

BLACKMORE Joe

Israel-Premier Tech

"

5

ec flag

CEPEDA Jefferson

Caja Rural-Seguros RGA

"

6

be flag

HERMANS Quinten

Alpecin-Deceuninck

"

7

nl flag

VAN DEN BERG Marijn

EF Education-EasyPost

+ 10"

8

au flag

MATTHEWS Michael

Team Jayco-AlUla

+ 28"

9

be flag

BRAET Vito

Intermarché-Wanty

"

10

nz flag

STRONG Corbin

Israel-Premier Tech

"

Provided by FirstCycling

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