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Alaphilippe, the current UCI road world champion, raised his arms in victory a few meters from the finish line only to see the front wheel of Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) surge forward on his left side. It was a near replay of Sunday’s finish at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, where Alaphilippe celebrated too early and was pipped at the line by Primož Roglič.
But at Brabantse Pijl, the photo replay was favorable to Alaphilippe. His wheel crossed the line just inches ahead of van der Poel, giving the Frenchman his first pro victory in the rainbow stripes as world champion.
“I didn’t expect to win here — I was disappointed after Sunday’s result in Liège, but I was feeling really good riding at the front,” Alaphilippe said. “It gave me a lot of pleasure to win here, so I’m really happy.”
The photo finish between Alaphilippe and van der Poel came after a slugfest between the two riders in the final 35 kilometers of the hilly Belgian semi-classic, which is 197 kilometers in length and concludes with three circuits southeast of Brussels. Alaphilippe and van der Poel attacked on the cobbled Moskesstraat climb, and the acceleration set the tone for the finale of the race.
The two were eventually joined by Omar Fraile (Astana), Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida), Michal Kwiatkowski (Ineos Grenadiers), and Benoit Cosnefroy (AG2R-La Mondiale), and the six riders sped ahead together. The group became seven after Dries Devenyns (Deceuninck–Quick-Step) joined the group.
The final move came with 11km to go on the final ascent of the cobbled Holsheide when Alaphilippe attacked and only van der Poel and Cosnefroy could follow, setting up the blow-for-blow sprint at the finish.
De Brabantse Pijl finishes with the punishing ascent of the Schavei climb to the finish line in Overijse. Van der Poel led up the climb and Cosnefroy was first to attack inside 1km to go. Alaphilippe came around with 100 meters to go and van der Poel waited until 50 meters to make his surge. It was just a few meters too late.
“I was totally on the limit and I had to give the maximum and of course I knew that Mathieu van der Poel was dangerous at the finish line,” Alaphilippe said. “I did everything I could and I’m very happy.”