Voeckler wins Brabantse Pijl
Team Europcar's Thomas Voeckler soloed to a remarkable win in the one-day Brabantse Pijl semi-classic in the Flemish Brabant region of Belgium. The victory was Voeckler's first of the season after his emphatic 2011 and bodes well for the approaching races in the Ardennes.
Jean-René Bernaudeau had predicted it as much last week: Thomas Voeckler's programme had been fine-tuned exactly so he would hit peak form for the Ardennes classics. With a win in Wednesday's Brabantse Pijl-La Flèche Brabançonne in Overijse it seems the Frenchman is bang on schedule.
Voeckler's first win of the season came in wet conditions and after a trademark solo break 30 kilometres from the finish. Pedalling like a man possessed and grimacing in only the way Voeckler does, the pocket-rocket from Alsace caught and passed previous leader Daniel Schorn (NetApp) with 27km to go and never looked back despite the best efforts of a select chasing group that included local riders Dries Devenyns (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) and Jelle Vanendert (Lotto Belisol).
Oscar Freire (Katusha) won the sprint for second place ahead of Pieter Serry (Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator), 1:11 down on Voeckler, who had benefited from some fine work from team-mates Kevin Réza and Sébastien Turgot.
"I am happy because it's a very demanding course," said Voeckler. "I didn't want to break away on my own but that's just how it happened. I was expecting that the chasing group would catch me but I gave it my all and it paid off."
Voeckler's triumph is Team Europcar's fourth of the season after wins for Pierre Rolland and Jérôme Cousin. With Turgot's second place in Paris-Roubaix and Voeckler's eighth place in the Tour of Flanders, the Vendée-based team are showing their true colours and proving that they have huge cards to play in these spring classics.
The timing is perfect for Voeckler, who hopes to be one of the main protagonists in the Ardennes calendar, which gets under way this weekend with the Amstel Gold race in the Netherlands. Having performed so well in Grand Tours – Voeckler has won twice won stages on the Tour de France, plus worn the yellow jersey for two 10-day periods – the 32-year-old Frenchman is targeting a major win in one of the big classics to add to his already impressive palmares.
Sunday's Amstel Gold and the following weekend's Liège-Bastogne-Liège will present Voeckler with two big occasions to continue his winning streak – and judging by his performance in Brabant, Voeckler is hungry for more success.
"I've got the legs for these races," said Voeckler. "I would love to do a good result at the Amstel Gold but this result doesn't mean anything. It's not a specific goal because there are a lot of strong men at the start."
But despite a field that featured the likes of Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing), Andy Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan), Peter Sagan (Liquigas) and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing), Voeckler proved the strongest – which bodes well for the next few of weeks.