Ben Hermans, Top 12 at Brabant Arrow

Ben Hermans, Top 12 at Brabant Arrow

Ben Hermans (1)

Ben Hermans (1)

Team RadioShack’s Ben Hermans (BEL) showed excellent form in Wednesday’s 51st edition of De Brabantse Pijl, one of the Flanders Classics, which kicked off in Leuven, Belgium and finished in Overijse some 201 kilometers (124 miles) away. He missed a move by the eventual winner Philippe Gilbert’s Omega-Lotto team when they pulled hard to get Gilbert to the front of the peloton enabling him to bridge a 6-man break that had developed earlier. Ben road hard to get forward later and showed very good form, but by then most moves were being countered and disrupted by Vacansoleil’s men protecting their frontrunners. Still, his finishing time of +2:19 was the same time given to 10th and 11th placed riders. Not a bad day’s work over another difficult Belgium, cobbled course.

The fans lining the streets in the little town of Overijse (pronounced over-rice), Belgium had a front row seat to a format that had the racers go through town 6 times, five of them on a 13-km closed loop up some pretty impressive climbs for this relatively flat part of the country. Also some nasty cobbled sections and some really fast, technical – though short – downhills right in the heart of town. The riders used every bike handling skill they’ve learned staying upright and out of trouble, hopping curbs, riding in gutters, sidewalks, and shoulder-to-shoulder in some of the narrow passages they traversed. There were some crashes and punctures, but nothing like the previous weekend’s Paris-Roubaix.

This was another event without radios, so RadioShack’s Team Director Dirk Demol had the frustrating experience of seeing what the riders should do based on the images he was watching in the chase car’s TV, but being unable to communicate it to his riders. He said later, “Without radio communication it was hard. In the car we saw on TV that Lotto was pulling to bring Gilbert to the front. We could not give the information to our riders. “ This was unfortunate because Hermans himself said later that, “I felt good today. In fact toward the end I felt better and better.”

About 185 riders took the starting gun at 12:30 in Leuven, but only 68 crossed the finish line 4 hours and 41 minutes later most spent and spread out all over the course looking for their team bus. There were some earlier attacks and breaks but the lasting one consisted of 6 riders pulling away with about 60 kilometers to go. The peloton was not reeling them in, so Vacansoleil’s Björn Leukemans (BEL) jumped to bridge the gap and Gilbert was the only rider strong enough to go with him. They caught the breakaway, regained some strength and then both shot off the front in what turned out to be completely a 2-man battle on the final lap to the finish.

The poster for the 51st edition of De Brabantse Pijl, which kicked off in Leuven, Belgium and finished in Overijse, Wednesday, sported the fierce image of last year’s champion Sébastien Rosseler in full attack. It was fun to see a Team RadioShack rider plastered on billboards all along the 201-kilometer long race route in small towns in central Belgium. The team all wore single digit bib numbers in recognition of last year’s win, but unfortunately, number one was not worn by Sébastien. It was a heartbreak for his fans, and must have been even worse for him, as it was announced during the sign-in ceremonies in the morning that Rosseler had fallen ill and would not participate in the race that he won so dramatically in 2010.

De Brabantse Pijl 2011 Results
1. GILBERT, Philippe (BEL) Omega Pharma-Lotto 4:40:38
2. LEUKEMANS, Bjorn (BEL) Vacansoleil-DCM +0
3. GESLIN, Anthony (FRA) FDJ +1:03
4. HOOGERLAND, Johnny (NED) Vacansoleil-DCM +1:03
5. TANKINK, Bram (NED) Rabobank +1:04
6. DEVENYNS, Dries (BEL) Quickstep +1:18
7. ZINGLE, Romain (BEL) Cofidis +1:23
8. MEERSMAN, Gianni (BEL) FDJ +1:39
9. PINEAU, Jérôme (FRA) Quickstep +1:41
10. GESCHKE, Simon (GER) Skil-Shimano +2:19
11. FREIR, Oscar (ESP) Rabobank +2:19
12. HERMANS, Ben (BEL) Team RadioShack +2:19
39. DEIGNAN, Philip (IRL) Team RadioShack +2:19

By George Hurst, staff writer

Photos:
(1) Hermans toward the end of the race, going about 70 kmh on a tight downhill – photo by George Hurst.
(Below) The official poster for the event portraying Rosseler as victor from 2010