The 98th edition of the Brussels Cycling Classic was an occasion for the fast men, who finished the day with a hectic fight for the win on the line. As is typical for the Belgian classic races, the race was characterised by a number of hellingen, which, however, didn’t spoil the sprinters’ party. In the bunch sprint in Brussels, Pascal Ackermann took the win convincingly over the other fast men.

The Course

Today’s one-day race, one of the oldest classics, led the riders around Brussels on a 201km-long route. The parcours contained no less than 13 slight climbs, the last of which appeared 40km ahead of the finish line. The race began in Jubelpark in the Belgian capital city and meandered through slightly hilly terrain initially towards the south east, where the first of the 13 ascents waited for the peloton 14.3km after the start. The race proceeded further south from there towards Nivelles, where several small climbs had to be contended with in succession. Afterwards, the race headed back towards Brussels, but this time not to the centre, but rather the northern edge of the city, where the finish line awaited the riders near the King Baudouin Stadium. The last 35km were not particularly demanding in nature. Ahead of the flamme rouge, the riders had to negotiate a left-hand turn before heading straight towards the finish, which kicked up ever so slightly.

 

Team Tactics

Although 13 ascents were on the menu today, they were not overly challenging, and like in the past years, it was to be expected that a mass sprint in Brussels would cap off the day this year as well. The teams with fast men would attempt to bring about a bunch sprint. Because the last small ascent came 40km before the finish, it would not be difficult for the peloton to reel in a breakaway in time. Pascal Ackermann, who has already notched up some impressive results this season, was among the favourites today. The team was to support the German champion and bring him safely to the finish while positioning him well for the final sprint. However, Pascal wasn’t to be without rivals on the course, and BORA – hansgrohe therefore had to prepare for a difficult finale.

 

The Race

The second ascent of the day saw several attacks, after which a group of 6 was able to establish itself at the head of the race. During the day, the advantage of the group hovered around 2:30 and the race situation remained largely unchanged. Entering into the last third of the course, under the tempo meted out by Groupama – FDJ, the gap slowly began to whittle down. On the penultimate climb, several riders broke free from the peloton and tried to bridge the gap to the leading group, but BORA – hansgrohe remained attentive and came to the front of the main field to pursue the attackers. With 15km remaining, several riders in the breakaway hit the deck, and everything came together a few kilometres later. Not long afterwards, the sprinters’ teams took a renewed interest in setting the tempo and the preparations for the final sprint began in earnest. BORA – hansgrohe was also in position at the front as the team attempted to navigate Pascal Ackermann into a good position for the final sprint. As expected, it came down to a bunch sprint between the fast men in Brussels. However, just before the finish line, many riders went down in a crash. In a hectic sprint, Pascal Ackermann was able to pull of a convincing victory, his first win on Belgian soil.

 

Results

01 P. Ackermann    4:33:12

02  J. Stuyven             +0:00

03  T. Boudat              +0:01

04  F. Sénéchal           +0:01

05  J. Lobato               +0:01

 

From the Finish Line

“The race was not easy today. We had to contend with 13 ascents and that made the race quite difficult. The team rode fantastically and worked for me the whole day. I am very happy about my win here in Brussels, because it is my first victory on Belgian soil. I hope that I am able to achieve more success here in the future.“ – Pascal Ackermann

 

“It all went according to plan today. We tried to control the race and although the breakaway was relatively strong today, we were able to reel them back in time. Peter [Kennaugh] and Juraj [Sagan] rode for a long time at the front in order to prevent any further attacks. Our goal was to bring Pascal into a good position for the final sprint, and the entire team worked well together to bring him safely to the finishing straight. He launched his sprint relatively early, but he had good legs and was able to win convincingly. I am very happy with the performance of the whole team.” – Christian Pömer, Sport Director

 

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