Women's Brabantse Pijl History
The last couple of years of the women’s Brabantse Pijl have centred on Demi Vollering. The Dutch rider infamously celebrated just a moment too soon in 2021. With her arm already aloft in victory, Ruth Winder took the slenderest of victories on the finish line photo for one of the American’s final big wins. Keen to make up for that finish, last year’s race saw Demi Vollering go clear and come to the finish line solo, an easy way to avoid the same mistake.
Brabantse Pijl is positioned at the end of the cobbled classics and at the beginning of the Ardennes classics. Neither quite one nor the other, it’s an ideal transition race as some riders begin to bow out of this period of the season and others start to take more interest as more significant hills return to top-level racing. The Moskesstraat is probably the most well-known climb at Brabantse Pijl, it was used in the Flanders edition of the World Championships back in 2021. It used to be truly awful to ride, a broken-up surface that usually saw riders at the back of the peloton having to stop as the road squeezed riders. It was resurfaced for the Flanders Worlds and presented a tough but nicer obstacle than before.
Women's Brabantse Pijl 2023 Profile
Women's Brabantse Pijl 2023 Contenders
The best place to start is with the rider who has nearly won the last two editions in Demi Vollering. This parcours is ideally suited to a rider with a bit of a punch on the climbs and also potentially a decent enough finishing kick too. The way she won at Dwars door Vlaanderen this year is reminiscent of her victory at last year’s Women’s Brabantse Pijl and is potentially a sign we’re going to get a repeat. Her support comes in the form of Gent Wevelgem winner Marlen Reusser who we know can ghost off the front when she feels like it. If a climbing attacker is required then someone like Niamh Fisher-Black could get a chance as well.
A rider I’m expecting to see more from at Brabantse Pijl this year is Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio. The South African has been almost there during the early Spring Classics after her great performance at the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana. Moolman-Pasio maybe lacks the sprint to win here but is more than capable of carrying on a run of 3 top-10s in 3 finishes at the women’s Brabantse Pijl.
It’s been an up-and-down season for Marta Cavalli so far who had to take some time out to rediscover her confidence on the bike. That was clear in windy conditions on the UAE Tour where she didn’t hit the expectations we’d come to expect after last season. She did come back and finish 13th at Trofeo Alfredo Binda, which was a hint that we might see her back to her best again soon. A top-10 should be in her wheelhouse here.
Mavi Garcia has been finishing consistently around the bottom of the top-10 so far this season. That includes stage and GC finishes at Setmana Ciclista Valenciana, 11th at Strade Bianche I’m just about counting and 10th at Trofeo Alfredo Binda. There’s always a chance she pulls another GP Plouay performance out of the bag like last year but I suspect she will struggle to get gaps, yet have no issue keeping up with the front of the race.
Silvia Persico is in a good vein of form and is the all-rounder talent needed for this race. 4th at the Tour of Flanders and 6th at Trofeo Alfredo Binda are signs that the Italian is in good knick at the moment. If there’s a criticism, it’s that she hasn’t quite found the consistent winning knack yet at this level but will be a big contender at the women’s Brabantse Pijl.
Trek Segafredo has the team to take on SD Worx in this year’s race. Trofeo Alfredo Binda winner Shirin van Anrooij is going to be a big threat, we’ve seen her working hard for others on her way to 8th at the Tour of Flanders. It’s a similar story for Lucinda Brand who was maybe unlucky in the end to only be 12th at Paris Roubaix this weekend. This feels like a race Amanda Spratt would be good at, although her previous results haven’t shown a strong history so far. We’ve not seen her or Gaia Realini race since Trofeo Alfredo Binda, both will be the purer climber options tasked with marking Vollering and Fisher-Black.
This is very much of a Pauliena Rooijakkers race after the Dutch rider finished 6th last season and 10th the year before that. Often notable at the back of the bunch, she knows how to read this race and when to move up and put herself at risk in order to get a strong result. This result at the women’s Brabantse Pijl last season kick started a truly strong Spain month a few weeks afterwards. Ricarda Bauernfeind provides a useful alternative as well. She’s spent most of 2023 finishing just outside of the top-10s of races including both of Strade Bianche and Trofeo Alfredo Binda. You also can’t ignore Elise Chabbey or Soraya Paladin but neither has much of a history at Brabantse Pijl.
Yara Kastelijn has had a solid 2023 so far but is just missing out on a truly big result. She’s flirted with the top-10 without ever actually making it inside on stages, but her consistency did net an 8th in GC at Setmana Ciclista Valenciana. Her career best of 43rd at Brabantse Pijl is surely going to be broken this year.
We’re missing Annemiek van Vleuten but that gives other Movistar climbs a chance to shine here. Both Paula Patino and Katrine Aalerud have had good results just outside of the top-10 at Brabantse Pijl and will look for more of the same this year. Aalerud has barely raced since her crash at Setmana CV back in February so Patino is probably the horse to back here.
Liane Lippert has been added to the Movistar list for Brabantse Pijl. That changes things as the German will be clear leader instead. She’s finished 2nd and 3rd here in recent years and her riding style suits the punchy hills on the way to Overijse.
It’ll be good to see Kristen Faulkner back racing after a crash at Nokere Koerse also took her out of the following Trofeo Alfredo Binda around a month ago. Hopefully fully recovered, the American can try and deliver the performance at Strade Bianche that ultimately went unrewarded after her disqualification. Maybe not as punchy as the true favourites she can still grind out a performance.
Veronica Ewers has had a quiet 2023 season so far but in theory, the women’s Brabantse Pijl is right up her street. At her best, she’s capable of delivering on short steep climbs and always has the potential to be a threat. A purer climbing option will be Kristabel Doebel-Hickok who hasn’t yet recreated her Australian form in European races so far. The wildcard is Alison Jackson after an excellent weekend in Roubaix. If it came down to a reduced group sprint, then who knows?
Everyone is going to be hyped to see Fem van Empel in her first UCI road race since her truly breakthrough cyclocross season. There’s so much hype around what she might be able to do in her few planned road races that it’s almost tough to see her being able to deliver. However, this race has the potential to get her off to a decent start. Teammates Karlijn Swinkels and Anna Henderson also offer a threat. The latter has achieved top-10s in all of her last 3 races, including the likes of Gent Wevelgem and the Tour of Flanders. Karlijn Swinkels isn’t far behind either after 4th at Gent Wevelgem and 8th at Ronde van Drenthe.
Women's Brabantse Pijl 2023 Outsiders
It’s hard to quite pin down what to expect from Letizia Borghesi at the moment. She has a top-10 finish here from way back in 2019 when she was 7th whilst racing for Aromitalia Basso Vaiano but hasn’t hit the same heights since in Overijse. There are a couple of good results so far in 2023 but this should be a chance to get her best result of the year.
Arkea’s Megan Armitage won the Vuelta Extremadura with a strong climbing performance on the final day queen stage and so can’t be ignored. She had a quieter Tour de Normandie Féminin on mainly flatter roads so maybe the hills here will give the Irish rider another chance to shine.
I’ve been rooting for Ella Harris for a long time, as she’s definitely one of the unluckiest riders in the peloton. It’s felt like each time the New Zealander is about to really shine she’ll break a pretty important body part. I think Spain month will be a real time to shine but it could start here at Brabantse Pijl.
And as usual, I’m including the Italian duo of Cristina Tonetti and Alessia Vigilia. Both are out of contract at the end of this year and I will be surprised if they don’t get snapped up by bigger teams for 2024. Out of the pair, I’d probably pick Vigilia to have the stronger result.