The Women’s Brabantse Pijl (or Brabantse Pijl Dames Gooik) started out as the Pajot Hills Classic in 2016. It kept that name in 2017 but changed to its current name for the 2018 season. The new name is neater as the race runs alongside the men’s Brabantse Pijl as a Spring Classic in the Flemish Ardennes. The big difference though is that the women’s race is based in Gooik to the west of Brussels, whereas the men’s is based to the east of Brussels.
The women’s Brabantse Pijl is almost flat but has just enough within it to create splits. The serious climbing is completed in the first 50km with short steep leg sappers. Then the route sees the riders take on a rolling finishing circuit for 3 laps. The cobbled Schavolliestraat is tackled 5 times, giving strong and smart riders the opportunity to create gaps The final sprint isn’t perfectly flat but has a slight rise that can catch out riders.
Last season’s race saw Sofie de Vuyst take a career break-out win after a few years struggling to regain some of her early promise. She won the final sprint from a small group, timing her effort up the final incline perfectly. Coryn Rivera was considered the strongest sprinter in that group and with teammate Floortje Mackaij also in the group, didn’t contribute and was the freshest rider in theory. De Vuyst’s win was clouded though after she tested positive for anabolic steroids in September 2019. The Flandrienne of the Year saw her 2020 contract with Mitchelton-Scott torn up as the B sample also tested positive.
2019 – Sofie de Vuyst
2018 – Marta Bastianelli
2017 – Annette Edmondson
2016 – Marianne Vos
2015 – Not held
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Women’s Brabantse Pijl 2020 Profile
Women’s Brabantse Pijl 2020 Favourites
Lotte Kopecky won her last race, the Belgian Championship, to become one of the rare riders to hold both the road race and TT titles. She’s pushed on in 2020, winning a stage in the Giro Rosa and also a 2nd and 3rd place. With her sprint and power, she’s a strong favourite for the finish in Overijse. Emilia Fahlin almost won her national championship recently. It was held on an unattractive former military airfield, not the best place to ride! She fractured her hand and left the Giro Rosa needing surgery. She may not be in top form.
Aussie Grace Brown definitely is in top form after nearly catching Lizzie Deignan in Liège Bastogne Liège at the weekend. She attacked the Roche-aux-Faucons climb and nearly closed the gap that Deignan had earned from the previous climb. Potentially she will struggle in a big group sprint for the win but could always go clear again. Lorena Wiebes is gone from the startlist so Coryn Rivera gets another shot at winning Brabantse Pijl. She looked to be the best sprinter in the small group last year but somehow lost out to Sofie De Vuyst. In what we now know to be a somewhat questionable performance. She’s not been in the best form in 2020 but did score a pair of 4th places in the Giro Rosa.
Ellen van Dijk is gearing up for a big turn at the Autumn Classics. She was 3rd at Liège Bastogne Liège this weekend, going long on a sprint ahead of Vos and Pieters. Early on the season, she was 5th in Omloop het Nieuwsblad and Le Samyn des Dames. She’s been touted as a big favourite for the inaugural Paris Roubaix as this race will help her gear up for that. Marianne Vos has slotted into the startlist late on. She won the first edition of this race under its old name and was 3rd in 2018 too. The lack of serious hills and the likelihood of a small bunch sprint makes this a Vos type of race. Her 3 stage wins at the Giro Rosa show her current form.
Aromitalia’s Letizia Borghesi did well with 7th in last year’s Brabantse Pijl. A season where she also won a Giro Rosa stage. She didn’t repeat that this season and her best result is 11th in La Périgord Ladies. Only 21 years old, she’s looking for a better 2020 result.
Cuban Arlenis Sierra is slowly getting back into form. She managed a pair of top-10s in the Giro Rosa but then wasn’t able to keep up on the climbs around Imola in the World Championships. The Ardennes Classics aren’t really for her and she barely finished in the top-30 in both races. Brabantse Pijl is more her style though and she could finish in the top-5. Maria Giulia Confalonieri likes a sprint at the end of a tough race. She was 8th in the GP de Plouay and 3rd in the Clasica Femenina Navarra. She had to work for others in the Giro Rosa though as teammates had GC ambitions. She’s been 5th and 7th in Brabantse Pijl before too.
Chevalmeire’s Roxanne Fournier is off to SD Worx in 2021. Her best results in 2020 have been 12th in Omloop van het Hageland and 8th in the Grote Prijs Euromat a month or so ago. She’s someone who can find themselves in the top-10 of a Classics sprint. She’s even won the odd race, the GP de Dottignies in 2015. NXTG’s young sprinter Charlotte Kool is turning some heads. She sprinted to 6th in the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana and Omloop van het Hageland. She then topped that with 2nd in the Grote Prijs Euromat. In that sprint, she only lost to Lorena Wiebes (no mean feat) and beat the likes of Kopecky, Demey, Fournier and Schweinberger.
Rally’s Chloe Hosking is a big sprint favourite but may struggle on some of the uphill sections. She’s never raced Brabantse Pijl before but is in good form, winning a stage of the Tour de l’Ardèche and then the GP International d’Isbergues 2 weeks ago. At her best, she’s up there with Wiebes as the best natural sprint specialist. Fellow North American team TIBCO have Lauren Stephens who continues to impress. She was 15th at the uphill sprint in Flèche Wallonne and 11th at the World Championships, and of course, she won the Tour de l’Ardèche in September. She’s someone who can get into the small group near the end, even if others might sprint better than she can.
Valcar’s best option this year is Elisa Balsamo, as last year’s runner-up Marta Cavalli isn’t racing. She’s another for whom the Ardennes Classics aren’t her strongest races. She won the European U23 Champs and followed it up with a strong 8th place at La Course too. Potentially she’ll have no issues on the rolling climbs and should be a contender at the end of the race. Ale’s Marta Bastianelli would normally be a big favourite but she’s still on the road to recovery after having Epstein-Barr over the Summer. I’ll rule her out but would love for her to be back to her best.
Women’s Brabantse Pijl 2020 Outsiders
With Bastianelli not back to her best teammate Anastasia Chursina gets a chance to impress. She was 16th at Flèche Wallonne after finishing no worse than 7th in 4 of the weaker Turkish races coming out of lockdown. She’s got a decent sprint and the uphills shouldn’t cause problems. She’s not necessarily delivered big results in Flanders before though.
The big CCC-Liv stars aren’t racing so Valerie Demey is another with the chance to impress. She does do well in her native Belgium though. Demey’s best result of the season is 6th in Grote Prijs Euromat in a sprint finish. She’s someone who could easily break into the top-10 if everything goes her way.
Ciclotel’s Kim de Baat is another with a strong result at the Grote Prijs Euromat, finishing 9th place. She followed that up with 6th at the Belgian National Championships. She lives near to the race route so will know the roads intimately. Austrian Kathrin Schweinberger was consistent enough to finish 7th Overall in the Dubai Women’s Tour pre-lockdown. Since then, she’s become national champion for the first time and finished 7th in the Grote Prijs Euromat. She’s a rung below the top sprinters but is still young enough to get a breakout result and make the jump.
Parkhotel’s Karlijn Swinkels had a bit of a breakout result of her own at the GP International d’Isbergues recently. She was 5th ahead of people like Alice Barnes and Kathrin Schweinberger. In a head to head sprint, there are others who may beat her but she’s potentially the next sprint talent from the Parkhotel Valkenburg stable. TIBCO’s Kristen Faulkner won a stage in her first European race at the Tour de l’Ardèche last month. That was an uphill finish so climbs won’t be a problem. She was 20th at Liège Bastogne Liège which is no mean feat for only her 2nd classic. The cobbles in Brabantse Pijl might be an eye-opener but she’s got a chance to continue impressing.