Tim Wellens wins Brabantse Pijl with a late solo breakaway. Belgian dedicates win to Michael Goolaerts, who died at Roubaix.

Instead of cheering and celebrating his win on Wednesday, Tim Wellens solemnly pointed to the sky in remembrance of the late Michael Goolaerts when he crossed the line to win Brabantse Pijl.

Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) won the sprint for second place ahead of Wellens’s Lotto-Soudal teammate Tiesj Benoot.

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After the race, Wellens said, “I didn’t want to celebrate because everybody’s thinking about [Goolaerts]. I didn’t know him personally but it’s very bad what happened.”

Three days prior at Paris-Roubaix, Goolaerts, 23, suffered heart failure and crashed. He was taken to a local hospital but could not be resuscitated.

A minute of silence was observed before the start of the race in Leuven, Belgium in memory of Goolaerts.

Into the finale of the 201.9km race, Jack Haig (Mitchelton-Scott) and Tosh Van der Sande (Lotto-Soudal) held a 30-second gap until Colbrelli attacked one of the route’s short, cobbled climbs with around 18km remaining. The peloton caught the duo with 12 kilometers to go.

With the early attack neutralized, a lead group of about seven riders formed.

“It was our plan to send a rider in the break afterwards and that was the case with Tosh Van der Sande,” said Wellens. “I thought for a while that they would remain ahead as there was not immediately a team that took control of the chase.”

Then, it was Wellens’s turn to attack. The Belgian climber went clear into a slight headwind with about six kilometers remaining.

With his teammate Benoot sitting back in the chase, the gap grew quickly, and Wellens rode alone to victory.

Dylan Teuns hit out first in the final kilometer, which included one last climb. Although he wound up the pace, the Belgian BMC rider was swamped in the final few hundred meters as Colbrelli opened up his sprint. Benoot made it two Lotto-Soudal riders on the day’s podium.

After the race, in addition to honoring Goolaerts’s memory, Wellens looked ahead to the big hilly classics that start Sunday with Amstel Gold Race.

“There are four chances and today was the first of the four, and I’m happy to win here,” he said.

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