Arnaud Démare sprints to second victory
In a sun-drenched edition, Arnaud Démare took his second victory in the Brussels Cycling Classic on the Houba de Strooperlaan. Tobias Lund Andresen and Jordi Meeus joined him on the podium.
Under a radiant sun, the peloton set off at 10:15 from the beautiful Cinquantenaire Park in the latest edition of the Brussels Cycling Classic. Starting from the heart of Brussels, a tough race over 209.6 kilometres awaited the riders. Ludovic Robeet (Bingoal WB), Jens Reynders (Israel – Premier Tech), Paul Lapeira (AG2R Citroën Team) and Jonas Abrahamsen (Uno-X Pro Cycling Team) made up the quartet that took flight after 20 kilometres of racing.
In the peloton, it was the entire Intermarché - Circus - Wanty team that kept the leading group within reach. They ensured that the lead on the peloton never exceeded 4 minutes. It was not until the first passage on the Muur van Geraardsbergen that the race broke open completely.
That first passage over the Muur immediately produced a first selection in the peloton. A strong burst of acceleration from Bystrom (Intermarché - Circus - Wanty) led to a group of 19 riders breaking away and going off in search of the leading group. The biggest names in this group were: Girmay (Intermarché - Circus - Wanty), Démare (Groupama - FDJ) and the Belgians Meeus (Bora - hansgrohe) and Van Gestel (TotalEnergies).
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Just before the second passage of Muur-Kapelmuur, the peloton once again had the sizeable group of pursuers in its sights. The four front runners still had a half-minute lead over group Girmay at that point. The Muur proved to be the ideal springboard. Derek Gee (Israel – Premier Tech) and Kelland O’Brien (Team Jayco Alula) managed to spring from the peloton and go after the chasing group. In that chasing group, Girmay then felt his moment had come. While Reynders was shaken off at the front, Girmay was able to catch up just after the summit. Later, the leading group expanded to about 20 riders.
Gee and O’Brien were also able to make the crossing from the peloton, but Belgian champion Merlier was not. So, with 50 km to go, it was Soudal Quick-Step that took the initiative in the peloton. The team did everything they could to catch the Girmay group, but the gap did not immediately decrease.
On the Brabantsebaan, the first of two cobblestone stretches in full finale mood, Dries Van Gestel (TotalEnergies) was the driving force at the front of the peloton. Steimle (Soudal Quick-Step) then pushed himself to the head of the peloton. With 20 km to go, the gap had shrunk to just 13 seconds, but in the end it was never closed. The frontrunners were battling for the win among themselves.
With the red last-kilometre flag in sight, they took turns attacking each other at the front. O’Brien seemed to have picked the right moment but was caught 500 metres from the line. So a sprint would decide who would win and who would lose. Girmay started from far out. Too far, because the Eritrean was quickly overruled by Arnaud Démare. After winning in 2017, the Frenchman took his second victory in the Brussels Cycling Classic, ahead of Tobias Lund Andresen and Jordi Meeus.