Ben Hermans (BMC) rode alone to win Brabantse Pijl after surviving a late breakaway, then attacking out of a lead duo on Wednesday in Belgium.
The 28-year-old Belgian made his winning move in the final four kilometers of the hilly race, riding away from David Tanner (IAM Cycling) and soloing to the win.
“I was very scared,” Hermans said. “You don’t have too many possibilities to win the race in this way, especially if you are not explosive and don’t have the sprint like Philippe [Gilbert]. I was in a good position there, and I had to push all the watts I had. Luckily it was enough.”
The early breakaway was a trio of riders: Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Anthony Delaplace (Bretagne-Séché Environnement), and Alex Kirsch (Cult Energy).
The peloton, driven by Orica-GreenEdge, caught Kirsch with just under 59km remaining, leaving only two riders off the front.
With about 46 kilometers to go, the gap was down to 50 seconds as they saw two laps to go in Overijse. Soon thereafter, the lead duo was caught.
Just inside of 35km to go, five fresh faces broke free from the peloton: Hermans, Tanner, Louis Vervaeke (Lotto-Soudal), Bartlomiej Matysiak (CCC Sprandi Polkowice), and Tim De Troyer (Wanty-Groupe Gobert).
Soon, it was only Hermans and Tanner off the front, and they had a 20-second gap with 30km left.
As the field reached 27km to go, Bjorn Leukemans (Wanty-Groupe-Gobert) attacked.
Then, it was Paul Voss’ (Bora-Argon18) turn to go, and he quickly bridged the gap to Leukemans, bringing along two other riders as they headed into the last lap of racing, Silvan Dillier (BMC), Julien Vermote (Etixx-Quick-Step), and Victor Campenaerts (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise).
Dries Devenyns (IAM Cycling) launched off the front of the peloton with 20 kilometers left and soon bridged to the five chasers, who were 31 seconds behind the lead duo.
Approaching the final 10km, the chase group continued to grow as riders jumped across the gap. Hermans and Tanner kept their lead, but it had fallen to 19 seconds.
Cooperation in the chase quickly disintegrated and they were caught by the peloton.
With five kilometers left, the two leaders’ gap had gone out to 30 seconds. The peloton began to sense the urgency and whipped up the chase, bringing the gap down to 10 seconds with 3.5km left.
The impending catch prompted Hermans to attack, and Tanner could not respond.
The bunch caught Tanner and was closing in on Hermans in the final kilometer, but the Belgian held off a hard-charging Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) on the final hill. Hermans’ teammate, Philippe Gilbert, the race’s defending champion, sprinted to third place behind Matthews.
“I told Ben he deserves this,” Gilbert said. “He is always working for the team. When you have someone like this and they win, it is always nice.”