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Women's Brabantse Pijl Race History
The women’s Brabantse Pijl sees the Spring Classics move eastwards. The Flandrian part of the calendar is over and we’re only a few days away from seeing more racing in the Ardennes region of Belgium. The race begins at Lennik in Flemish Brabant before heading south, skirting around the bottom of Brussels. It crosses over into Walloon Brabant, reaching Lillois-Witterzee before heading north-east, past Waterloo and back into Flemish Brabant. The town of Overijse hosts the finish of Brabantse Pijl. The race passes through a few times this year before reaching the finish line.
2022 is the 7th edition of the women’s Brabantse Pijl and so far there has been a different winner each year. We saw Ruth Winder just pip an already celebrating Demi Vollering in a photo finish last year. The year before, Grace Brown won with a trademark solo break. That win announced her as a leading classics rider, and we’ve certainly seen more of that in 2022. Ruth Winder retired at the end of 2021, so won’t be here to defend her title. Brown won’t be here either and neither will 2019 winner, Sofie de Vuyst who has stepped away from cycling shall we say. Also, with no Marta Bastianelli, Annette Edmondson, nor Marianne Vos are here this year – a new winner is guaranteed for the second year in a row.
The current forecast is for rain, so we’re likely to see a damp Brabantse Pijl this year. The wind direction is perfect for echelons between Braine-l’Alleud and Overijse, a long stretch around 30-60km into the race. The wind doesn’t look particularly strong though, so it may not have huge effects. The Moskesstraat, which we saw in the 2021 World Championships will be tackled 3 times. The climb was re-cobbled for the major race so isn’t quite as brutal as it was but poor positioning going into it will cause headaches for the favourites.
Sofie de Vuyst
Women's Brabantse Pijl 2022 Contenders
Demi Vollering was so close to winning this race last season. It looked like she was ahead all the way until the line and as Vollering raised her arm in celebration, Ruth Winder just pipped her to the line. We’re yet to see a win from Demi Vollering in 2022 so far, the best result has been 2nd at Omloop het Nieuwsblad and Amstel Gold. She’s going to have the strongest team by far at Brabantse Pijl and I can’t see her not being involved in the finish. It’s the same SD Worx line-up from Amstel Gold Race but the finish lends itself more to punchy sprints than climbers. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio will be a useful lieutenant again and could sneak into the top-10 whilst leading Vollering out. It’s a similar story for the likes of Marlen Reusser, Blanka Vas and Niamh Fisher-Black who will be performing attacking and chasing duties throughout the race.
I think I’m going with Elisa Balsamo as my race favourite here. After ‘struggling’, in the loosest sense, at Flanders and Amstel Gold, this race should give her a chance to reach the top step again. Balsamo was 3rd in last year’s Brabantse Pijl and we know how much she’s improved this season already. With a strong Trek team to guide her, it’s tough to see anyone able to outsprint her, even if the final is slightly uphill.
Team DSM’s Liane Lippert was 2nd here in 2020, attempting to chase down Grace Brown with Floortje Mackaij. After regularly attacking this year, we hadn’t seen her score a big result until Amstel Gold. Lippert was 3rd there after cresting the Cauberg in the front group and just edging out Van Vleuten in a tight sprint for the podium. The team also has Juliette Labous who was 6th here last season. She’s more of a climbing option so with an expected sprint to finish, that will probably prevent a higher result.
In the 2019 Brabantse Pijl, it looked nailed on for Coryn Labecki to win. A small group had got away and on paper, she was the best sprinter. However, in the end, Sofie de Vuyst and a certain Marta Cavalli managed to hold her off for the top 2 spots. With no Vos here, Labecki should be the leader and she’s been in the top-10 at both Trofeo Alfredo Binda and Amstel Gold.
UAE Team ADQ come to the women’s Brabantse Pijl with a couple of options. Mavi Garcia was 9th in last year’s race and comes into this year’s race following 6th place at Amstel Gold. You figure the climbs shouldn’t cause issues for the Spanish rider but will be held back by the better finishing speed of others. The alternative is Sofia Bertizzolo who was 2nd back at the Trofeo Alfredo Binda. She was distanced slightly over the Cauberg but was still able to sprint to 10th from the 2nd group. If she can stay at the front over the Moskesstraat, she’s got a strong chance.
Arlenis Sierra has finished just outside of the top-10 here twice but you’d think the race should suit her more. Now at Movistar, we’ve already seen her finish 4th at the Tour of Flanders thanks to the stronger teamwork. A crash at Amstel Gold negated her chances there but we still saw her attack before the end and join the move started by Pauliena Rooijakkers. If she’s healed since Sunday, I can see Sierra on the podium.
FDJ’s Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig is on the start list currently. However, she missed out on Amstel Gold after testing positive for Covid so I have doubts she’ll race. There’s no Brown or Cavalli showing currently so the team’s best shot is probably Vittoria Guazzini. She was 3rd back at Le Samyn des Dames but hasn’t been seen racing since a DNF at the Ronde van Drenthe. If she’s at full strength then she can improve on the 9th and 12th she’s had at Brabantse Pijl before.
Chiara Consonni hasn’t raced Brabantse Pijl since finishing 8th here in 2018. Now the leader at Valcar, You can see her improving on that this season. The winner of Dwars door Vlaanderen has been consistently doing well in sprints, including 2nd at Scheldeprijs. It will be up to some of the non-sprinter type riders to make the climbs hard enough to drop Consonni but we’ve already seen that’s not too easy to do.
Maria Giulia Confalonieri has always been consistent at the women’s Brabantse Pijl, with 3 top-10 finishes in 4 editions. She took an impressive 3rd place at Gent Wevelgem and has been a regular top-10 finisher this classics season. The climbs won’t be a surprise to her after racing here 4 times and we’re likely to see her in the front group again. She’s got another shot of making the podium.
BikeExchange-Jayco’s Alexandra Manly has been impressing many in 2022 so far. After claiming 4th on the first stage of the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana, Manly has been getting closer and closer to the top-10 in Women’s WorldTour races. She was 12th at Amstel Gold, showing enough punch to get over the Cauberg and have a sprint at the end. With the Moskesstraat being an easier climb, I’d be surprised if we didn’t see her sprinting at the end of Brabantse Pijl.
Women's Brabantse Pijl 2022 Outsiders
We could see the first top-10 of the year for Julia Borgström here. The closest the AG Insurance-NXTG rider has come was 13th at GP Oetingen and 14th at Omloop het Nieuwsblad. Not a pure sprinter, the slightly uphill finale might help her sneak into her highest result of the season.
Roland Cogeas’ Tamara Dronova took the team’s best results of the season at Gent Wevelgem and Dwars door Vlaanderen with 8th and 14th place there. I can see her achieving a similar result here with the climbs not being too tough and a likely sprint at the end.
Le Col-Wahoo has Lizzie Holden who is in good form. She’s been on the attack regularly, including at Amstel Gold. There she attacked twice, but the big hitters pulled her back each time. Despite that, Holden still finished 18th. After finishing 9th in GC at Bloeizone Fryslan as well, Holden is certainly one to keep an eye on this season.
She doesn’t have the best record at Brabantse Pijl but Femke Markus will be on a high after winning Zuiderzeeronde on Saturday. The sprinter got clear of a small group and took a comprehensive win at the national level race. Her best result at UCI level has been 14th at both Le Samyn and Brugge-De Panne.