By Andrew Hood
Sylvain Chavanel’s spectacular spring just keeps getting better.
With the biggest victories of his career coming since February, the 28-year-old Frenchman attacked with about 20km to go to hold off the Belgian specialists in Sunday’s rain-soaked 48th Brabantse Pijl.
Three riders – Ermanno Capelli (Saunier Duval), Wouter Mol (Batavus) and Raynold Smith (Collstrop) – attacked at 35km to build up a 5:35 lead before Cofidis took control of the chase.
The move was neutralized with about 30km and Chavanel took advantage of hesitancy in the bunch to attack on the Bruineput climb. Belgian Philippe Gilbert (FDJeux) counter-attacked, but he couldn’t do anything against Chavanel.
Four riders – Gilbert, Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank), Giovanni Visconti (Quick Step) and Frederick Willems (Liquigas) – organized a chase, but Chavanel won alone 38 seconds ahead of his pursuers. Sven Knauss (Gerolsteiner) led across another group at one minute back.
The 192km race served as a telling litmus test for next weekend’s Tour of Flanders.
With his second win in five days, Chavanel moves up as one of the top favorites and bolsters French hopes for Belgium’s most important race.
A Frenchman hasn’t won Flanders since Jacky Durand in 1992.