De Brabantse Pijl served as one last test leading into the Ardennes. The course here is very similar to an Amstel Gold type course with quite a lot of short explosive climbs, technical bits, small roundabouts and lots of sharp corners. It’s a great way to do a very specific hit out before the bigger goal on Sunday. Being in the final few days leading up to Amstel, it’s a great way to test the condition.
We wanted to win today, and we brought a team that was capable of accomplishing that objective. We had quite a few options in the final. The team brought half of its Amstel team here in myself, Daryl Impey, Michael Matthews and Pieter Weening. It was expected that the four of us would be competitive in the finish circuit. The four that aren’t doing Amstel were asked to do the early work while the four of us that are racing on Sunday were waiting for the final to make our impact. It was up to Daryl, Michael, Pieter and myself to be really active on the finish circuit.
This team plan suited me well because I was hoping to stay pretty easy in the bunch for as long as possible and then have a really good hit out on the finish circuit to test my legs, which was exactly was I was able to do today. It was my personal ambition to use the race as one last good hit out to hopefully bring me up just a little more before Sunday.
We were happy with the composition of the early break as there were no WorldTour teams represented. Our guys started to ride as soon as the break had an advantage of 5 minutes, and we were soon joined by BMC.
In the past few years, this race has been won from a break on the finish circuit, but when I attacked with just under 50km to go, with the break still a minute ahead of the bunch, I didn’t think I was putting myself in the winning move. My intention was to take the pressure off my teammates – Daryl and Michael in particular – and to have a good hard race in preparation for Sunday.
When we started the final lap, our break still had a bit of an advantage on the peloton. That’s when I thought that maybe we would stay away to the finish, however the break stopped working together and we were swept up by the peloton just inside the final ten kilometres.
My chance to win the race was basically gone once the break was caught, but we still had Michael and Daryl in good condition. I wanted to do my bit to help those two out in the finish, so I neutralised any break attempts and made sure they were both well-placed in the final few kilometres for the run in towards the finish. Michael ended up second in the sprint behind Philippe Gilbert (BMC).
As a team, I think we can say we rode really well together. Half of our team here is very experienced, and the other half is still learning in these sort of races. Everyone rode well together, and everyone did the job they were asked to do. At the end of the day, to finish second with Michael is a pretty good result.
I’m really happy with my condition at the moment leading into Amstel. Although it’s been a turbulent spring for me with sickness and a few minor setbacks, the final phase of my preparation for the Ardennes has gone really well. I’ve put the runs on the board at Amstel in the past, so I’m probably going to be the guy the teams looks to get a result on Sunday. I am looking forward to the race and I feel that I am up for the challenge.