Slippery conditions in Brabantse Pijl see some big names come down
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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Slippery conditions in Brabantse Pijl see some big names come down

by Ben Atkins at 2:09 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics, Brabantse Pijl, Injury
Andy Schleck crashes out early while Jérôme Pineau, Gerald Ciolek and Peter Sagan all hit the tarmac on the same corner

andy schleckAfter a predominantly dry Spring Classics season so far, the Belgian heavens finally opened on today’s Brabantse Pijl. The 196km course, which straddles the border between Dutch-speaking Flanders and French-speaking Flanders, features a number of climbs, but also a quantity of cobbles, as the tough races of the north give way to the hilly ones of the south.

Unfortunately, the wet conditions conspired to bring down a number of big names during the race, many of whom had their gaze set on this coming Sunday’s Amstel Gold Race, and Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège the following week.

After an unpromising start to the season, Andy Schleck (RadioShack-Leopard) came into the race with hopes of honing his form for the Ardennes races, with the hope of a repeat of his 2009 Liège victory. A crash just as the action was about to start, however, saw him quit the race with a sore hand, and will not know until tomorrow if it will effect his plans for next week.

“It was a pretty narrow road and when it’s raining we all know to put the team in a good position all day to avoid crashes, so we did that,” Schleck explained.  “I wasn’t in the back.  Three guys crashed in front of me so I couldn’t avoid it at all.  I chased back and got to the bottom of the climb, so I shifted to the small ring and realized my bike was broken.  I lost the peloton again.”

Assuming that Schleck’s hand injury is not serious, RadioShack-Nissan directeur sportif Dirk Demol is confident that his rider will be in good form for the coming weekend.

“I do think Andy has good legs” he said.  “When he came up to the car to see me, I could tell that he had good legs, so without the crash taking him out I think he was ready for today.”

Overijse’s slick streets make one part of the finishing circuit particularly nasty

With the race having reached the final four laps of the 12.8km finishing circuit, the sweeping righthand corner of the Justus Lipsiusplein, as the road descended around Overijse’s Sint Martinus Church, was to play a decisive role for more than one contender. The peloton was to hit the corner shortly after the climb of the IJskelderlaan and, while the rain had stopped, the still-wet tarmac, with its prominent white line down the middle, was glacial.

Omega Pharma-Quick Step’s Jérôme Pineau put in what was probably the first promising attack from a race contender, as the peloton began to split at the top of the IJskelderlaan for the first time with 55km to go. Unfortunately however, the Frenchman was about to suffer the first bit of bad luck experienced by the Belgian superteam in the current Classics campaign, and he came down on the slick surface.

The very next time around, Pineau’s teammate Gerald Ciolek was leading a four-man chase group in pursuit of a lone attack from Europcar’s Kévin Reza, when he too came down in exactly the same spot.

Omega Pharma-Quick Step has yet to release details of its two riders’ conditions, although neither is thought to be badly hurt; Pineau continued the race and finished in 44th place, last of the classified finishers, 5’53” behind Voeckler.

peter saganThe next time up the IJskelderlaan was where Europcar’s Thomas Voeckler made what turned out to be the race-winning move; the Frenchman was followed by a group of seven riders, but the chase was not coherent and his lead was steadily growing. Liquigas-Cannondale was one of the few big teams not represented in the group and, with Slovakian champion Peter Sagan aggressive in the preceding kilometres, the Italian team was leading the chase.

This all ended when Sagan became the corner’s third victim, coming down heavily on the outside of the bend and, with the road almost dry at that point, his abrasions looked the most serious of the three.

Sagan abandoned the race soon afterwards.

“We decided to ride this race first of all to refine his condition in view of the Amstel Gold Race,” said Liquigas-Cannondale directeur sportif Stefano Zanatta, “and this crash is the worst event. At the moment there are no other problems besides abrasions and contusions. We’ll see during next hours if a check in hospital will be necessary.”

After an aggressive Cobbled Classics campaign, which saw him take second in Gent-Wevelgem and fifth in the Ronde van Vlaanderen, Sagan will certainly hope to be fit enough to be a contender when the peloton hits the Ardennes.


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