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Brabantse Pijl: Magnus Sheffield soloes home to become first American winner

Ineos Grenadiers used numerical advantage in final 50km to deliver the American rookie to the cobbled classic win.

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Magnus Sheffield (Ineos-Grenadiers) won the 2022 Brabantse Pijl, surviving repeated attacks from local favorite Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) on Wednesday.

The 19-year-old is the second-youngest winner of this cobbled classic, and the first American to take this title.

“I just felt unbelievable when I found myself off the front in the last kilometers, and I really didn’t expect to hold on,” he said.

“I just followed a move with Wellens, and he swung off, and I found myself alone, and I kept going to force the others to chase. Everyone was looking at each other, and I just went full gas and put it in the biggest gear, and tried to make it to the finish,” Sheffield said. “To be able to win a one-day, especially in these semi-classics is just unbelievable.”

A late surge by the Belgian star Evenepoel from the right side to the left side of the road was covered by Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal), who appeared to “close the door” on Evenepoel in the sprint.

For this, Wellens was later relegated to the back of his group, elevating Warren Barguil (Arkéa-Samsic) into a podium position. Benoit Cosnefroy (AG2R-Citroën) sprinted to second place.

How it happened

Two men on the front of the race had been brought back on the work of Ineos Grenadiers.

Sheffield and Ben Turner (both Ineos Grenadiers) did the work in a chase group to try to bring back the breakaway. Giacomo Nizzolo (Israel-Premier Tech), Victor Campenerts (Lotto-Soudal), and Alexander Kamp (Trek-Segafredo) lent a hand in the chase by this intermediate group.

A few riders bridged to the small group from the remains of the peloton including Evenepoel who brought along Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers). As soon as he made contact, the young Belgian took the front.

This re-sorting on the front gapped Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl), who faded to the peloton, while two-time winner Philippe Gilbert (Lotto-Soudal) abandoned the race in the final start of his career.

Turner attacked on the Moskesstraat, and the move again strung out the peloton at 53km to go. This caused Evenepoel to respond, as the only member of the “Wolfpack” in the front of the race.

Several times attacks went off the front, and each time Evenepoel was baited into covering them. And each time, just after he brought the race back, the young Quick-Step rider, racing on home roads, went to the front of the race to try to counter.

Campenaerts, exhausted from the work to bring back repeated attacks, dropped from the lead group at 30km to go.

Some 5km later, Evenepoel, Turner, and Pidcock continued to drive the pace in the break, extending a minute gap to the peloton. They were helped by Benoît Cosnefroy (AG2R-Citroën), Barguil, and Wellens.

Behind, just as the main bunch crossed under the finish banner in the bell lap for the final circuit, the world champion Alaphilippe hit the deck when it appeared that his team car forced Bryan Coquard (Cofidis) to move out. The car caught Coquard’s wheel and sent him to the ground, also taking Alaphilippe with him.

Alaphilippe was slow to get up, clutching his elbow, but he got a new bike and resumed racing.

Up the Hertstraat climb, Ineos Grenadiers controlled the smooth gutter on the right side of the road and forced Evenepoel onto cobbles in the middle.

This caused a gap, and Pidcock blasted the pace on the front. Evenepoel was gapped again on this climb along with Barguil, and they had to use a lot of energy to battle back into the front group over the successive 2km.

As soon as they made it back, Sheffield attacked, forcing Evenepoel to cover the move, which, again, brought the race together on the front.

A chase group had formed behind them, including Matteo Trentin (UAE Team Emirates), Michael Matthews (BikeExchnage-Jayco), Dylan Teuns (Bahrain Victorious), which put 10 seconds into a blown-apart peloton.

On the final cobbled climb of the day, Sheffield went again, aided by Wellens. This gapped Barguil at 10km to go.

Once again, Evenepoel covered the move, and tried to use it as a springboard to attack the six leaders.

But Ineos had the numbers, and slowed the pace, allowing Barguil to reconnect with this group with 7,500m of racing remaining. Wellens attacked at 5km and it was Sheffield who covered it.

When Evenepoel — who appeared to be saving his legs — dropped to the back of the head of the race inside 3km to go, Sheffield attacked and immediately got five seconds.

“I really like these races, especially the technical courses and especially the bad weather,” Sheffield said. “It’s not for the mentally soft kind of person, it was really gritty out there and you just had to fight the whole day.”

And again, Evenepoel tried to cover the move, but Turner went to the front, and slowed the pace. Sheffield’s five seconds ballooned to 15.

Pidcock and Turner took turns slowing the race from 2km to 1km to go, allowing the American, who turns 20 next week, to take his biggest career win.

When Evenepoel tried to launch a sprint for podium scraps, Wellens reacted but chose a line that blocked Evenepoel, and was ultimately penalized for the move.

Cosnefroy held onto the lead of the field sprint for second.

Barguil was notified of his promotion to third place as he was about to board his team bus.

Following the finish, the defending champion Tom Pidcock was concise with his analysis.

“It was good. The weather forecast did not say rain, it said 15 percent, and it rained all day. We had three guys up front, and I was feeling a bit crap, to be honest, but Magnus won, so that’s great,” Pidcock said. “We were keeping it together as long as possible to play the tactics. We got a young team, it’s good morale, we need to lose a few races so we don’t get too confident.”

The victory was the first by a U.S. rider in a northern classics one-day race since Tyler Farrar won Scheldeprijs in 2010.

“To be able to win a one-day in one of these semi-classics is unbelievable,” said the 19-year-old winner.

2022 Brabantse Pijl men’s results

  1. Magnus Sheffield (Inoes-Grenadiers), 4:53:21
  2. Benoît Cosnefroy (AG2R Citroën), at :37
  3. Warren Barguil (Arkéa-Samsic), at :37
  4. Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal), at :37
  5. Ben Turner (Ineos-Grenadiers), at :40
  6. Tom Pidcock (Ineos-Grenadiers), at :
  7. Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl), at :41
  8. Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange-Jayco), at :41
  9. Dylan Teuns (Bahrain-Victorious), at :41
  10. Xandro Meurisse (Alpecin-Fenix), at :51