2020: Belgian champion Merlier the fastest at the Atomium
A sunny start in the Cinquantenaire Park was followed by a wet final with the inevitable bunch sprint on the Place de la Belgique. Belgian champion Merlier was clearly the strongest. He won before Ballerini and Bouhanni.
As in previous years, the Brussels Cycling Classic started in the beautiful setting of the Cinquantenaire Park. In the sun and under a blue sky, 5 riders were able to make the early escape only 4 km of racing: J. Duval (AG2R La Mondiale), J. Sütterlin (Team Sunweb), L. Vliegen (Circus – Wanty Gobert), C. Beullens (Sport Vlaanderen – Baloise) and J.W. Van Schip (BEAT Cycling Club). The peloton let go quite quickly, one rider on the other hand fought alone in the counter-attack and was able to join the front in the end: J. Van Den Brande (Tarteletto – Isorex). A leading group of 6 riders thus coloured the first race hours.
The peloton remained calm for a long time. The leading group had a maximum lead of about 5 minutes. The situation remained completely stuck and the gap narrowed slightly. The slopes in Beersel territory brought action, because both on the Alsemberg and the Menisberg riders tried to escape from the peloton. The counter-attacks never went far and the peloton caught up with the leading group about 20km from the finish.
On the last hill of the day, the Keperenberg, an ultimate attacking attempt followed: J. Philipsen (UAE Team Emirates), A. De Gendt (Circus – Wanty Gobert) and I. Van Wilder (Team Sunweb) managed to get a small lead, but Deceuninck – Quick-Step didn’t allow it. At 8 km from the finish, the story of the last attackers was over and the peloton was getting ready for the bunch sprint.
In the pouring rain, Belgian champion Tim Merlier (Alpecin – Fenix) sprinted to first place. Merlier was faster than Davide Ballerini (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) and Nacer Bouhanni (Arkéa-Samsic).
2019: Caleb Ewan wins in Brussels
The Australian Caleb Ewan added the Brussels Cycling Classic 2019 to his name. After a tough race, because of the dreadful weather conditions, a select group sprinted for victory. Ewan just made it before the German Pascal Ackermann and the Belgian sprinter Jasper Philipsen.
During the teams presentation in the Cinquantenaire park, the sun was still there. A lot of top sprinters came to Brussels to try and win this race. Among them Pascal Ackermann, last year’s winner, pocket sprinter Caleb Ewan, man in shape Jasper Stuyven and fast men Alexander Kristoff and Jasper Philipsen.
The race was hard from the start and soon a leading group of about 7 riders was formed. In the meantime, the sun had disappeared and rain clouds filled the sky, which made it a tough race. Laurens Devreese and Anthony Turgis braved the rain and finally joined the leading group, which now consisted of 10 riders.
In the peloton Deceuninck-Quick Step took the initiative and the leading group was caught at about 20 km from the finish. The efforts of Deceuninck-Quick Step were not rewarded in the end, their leader Alvaro Hodeg was knocked back in the last 10 km due to mechanical troubles.
In the last kilometres the peloton was split up and finally a select group sprinted for the victory. Belgian champion Tim Merlier saw his chances go up in smoke, when he pushed out of his pedals at the start of the sprint. It was Pascal Ackermann who started early. He seemed to stand his ground, but last year’s winner was overtaken in the last few meters by Caleb Ewan. Jasper Philipsen finished third.
2018: German champion Pascal Ackermann sprints to victory in Brussels
Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) is the successor of Arnaud Démare on the honorary list of the Brussels Cycling Classic. After 201,4 km the race ended in the traditional sprint, which was spoiled by a crash in the final km. The German National Champion took advantage and won quite simple by holding of Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) and Thomas Boudat (Direct Energie).
The Brussels Cycling Classic started as per usual in the Brussels Parc du Cinquantenairewith a presentation of the riders in front of the triumphal arch. A fantastic location and the sun present it was a cozy gathering for both fans and riders. Like the years before the Brussels Cycling Classic was able to launch out with a strong field of participants. Especially the sprinters were the ones highlighted by the teams as their go-to-riders: Arnaud Démare came to defend his title with FDJ, but would get fierce competition from John Degenkolb (Trek), Alexander Kristoff (UAE), Fabio Jakobsen (Quick-Step Floors) and Pascal Ackermann (Bora). From the beginning on the race was made hard by the riders, as the first climbs of the day presented themselves after 15km already: Vossemberg and Smeysberg. It was on those hills that the escape of the day got it’s blessing from the peloton. Six riders quickly took an advantage of two minutes, with them one big name: former Belgian Champion Oliver Naesen (Ag2R). He was joined by Jonas Gregaard (Astana), Lars Bak (Lotto-Soudal), Hamisch Schreurs (Israel Cycling Academy), Nick Van Der Lijke (Roompot) and Tom Wirtgen (WB Veranclassic).The sextet up front worked together quite well and extended their lead to a maximum of 3’20”. Especially Oliver Naeses was the exponent of a extremely fast first race hour: 46km/h average. Between km point 14 and 162, the riders got presented a total of 13 climbs, which was too much for the New Zealander Schreurs.
The peloton closed the gap quickly towards the end, especially when the guys from UAE Team Emirates and FDJ took the lead to work for their leader, but it was Oliver Naesen who didn’t want to give up that easily. On a moment Tom Wirtgen got dropped for the breakaway group, Remi Cavagna (Quick-Step) lead the counter-attack from the peloton. He got company from Thomas Sprengers (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise) and Kamil Gradek (CCC). In the end the French Anthony Turgis from Cofidis was able to make the jump as well.
Cavagna was feeling great and launched various small attack, but everytime he hit a wall called Oliver Naesen, last week’s winner of the GP Plouay. The duo felt their escape had no chance of succeeding, resulting in the peloton catching them at only 20km from the finish line and leaving only Sprengers, Bak and Turgis up front. The latter fell away literally, going down in an innocent curve. Turgis took Sprengers down with him, leaving only Danish rider Lars Bak solely in front. At 10km from the finish on Houba De Strooperlaan his song was over as well, beining the last escapee of the day getting caught by the peloton.
With brussels in sight the first sprint trains started organizing themselves. Brice Feuillu tried, Dries De Bondt as well, but their attack wasn’t a great success. It was pretty obvious at that point: a sprint would once again decide the winner. A sprint that was spoiled by a crash in the last 300m, caused by the Ag2R duo Barbier and Venturini. Fabio Jakobsen and Arnaud Démare were held up and saw from a distance how Pascal Ackermann won the sprint efforlessly. In the German’s back Jasper Stuyven beat Boudat for second place.
For the German National Champion it’s a first victory on Belgian soil in his young, yet promising carreer. In the shadows of the King Boudain stadium Ackermann was visibly enjoying his victory to the fullest.
2017: Arnaud Démare finally hits the bullseye in the Brussels Cycling Classic
After a third place in 2014 and a second place (after Tom Boonen) last year, Arnaud Démare has now succeeded in winning a thrilling Brussels Cycling Classic. The Frenchman from team FDJ beat Marko Kump (UAE Abu Dhabi) and André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) in the sprint on avenue Houba de Strooperlaan.
On a sun-drenched morning at Jubelpark/Parc du Cinquantenaire, the public could catch a glimpse of the packed throng of participants. A large number of household names made their appearance on the starting podium and it quickly became clear that most teams were putting forward a sprinter to go all out for race victory. Quick-Step went for Marcel Kittel, Lotto-Soudal for André Greipel and FDJ for Arnaud Démare. With Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe), Cocquard (Direct Energy), Bouhanni (Cofidis), Stuyven and Degenkolb (both Trek-Segafredo), many outsiders also had their eyes on a win in this 97th Brussels Cycling Classic.
After just 9 kilometres, a number of riders sprinted away from the pack and the race was on. Five racers earned themselves a lead of five minutes or so: Van Goethem (Roompot), Peyskens (WB Veranclassic), Stosz (CCC), Cordeel (Veranda’s Willems) and Kuriyanov (Gazprom) steamed through Flemish and Walloon Brabant, while the troops of Quick-Step Floors kept everything nicely under control in the pack.
At about the 80 km marker, the pleasant bicycle ride in the sunshine was over and done with and the real racing could start. Matthias Brändle (Trek-Segafredo) was the first to break away from the front of the pack, and a little later a group of nine racers, including Burghardt (Bora), Benoot and De Bie (Lotto-Soudal) and three racers from Roompot forged a lead at the head of the race. In the meantime, an unrecognisable Marcel Kittel had to give up on the Rue d’Ittre. The German later called it quits, as did Pippo Pozzato. With Bouhanni, another outsider had literally fallen by the wayside.
At breakneck speed, the leaders and the pack overcame the hills in Brabant and pounded their way towards the finish line in the shadow of the King Baudouin stadium. However, the difference between the two groups remained fairly long at around 20 seconds, with the gap only being closed in the very last few kilometres. The Roompot crew displayed a magnificent team strategy, but it was Matthias Brändle who saw his chance, speeding away from the side of the pack. However, the Austrian’s lead was short-lived, ending a kilometre and a half from the finish line, with another classic sprint as a result.
In that sprint, Arnaud Démare was clearly the strongest. The Frenchman made his way out in front, cleanly disposing of Kump and Greipel who had to come from way back and made no challenge for final victory. With Dehaes, Stuyven and De Buyst, three Belgians ended up in the top 6, but it was a Frenchman who stepped up to the winner’s podium to accept the bouquet with a broad smile on his face. So, after two respectable runner-up places over the last three years, it was finally bullseye for the blisteringly fast Arnaud Démare.