Julian Alaphilippe never fails to deliver drama and the 2020 Brabantse Pijl was no exception.
The newly-crowned world champion was the most aggressive rider on the day and forced the elite three-up group, including Mathieu van der Poel and Benoit Cosnefroy, that went to the line.
But Alaphilippe almost repeated his disastrous mistake from Liège-Bastone-Liège last weekend, raising his hands too early as a rival surged from behind.
Luckily for Alaphilippe, Mathieu van der Poel had mis-timed his sprint and wasn’t quite able to steal the victory, but it was still too close for comfort for Alaphilippe.
Speaking to Wielerflits after the finish, the Deceuninck – Quick-Step rider said: “I have to admit that I was satisfied that the line was getting closer quickly.
“A little tension can’t hurt, right? That way people don’t get bored. But Mathieu was indeed still strong.”
Alaphilippe has now taken his first win since becoming world champion, after a shocking display in the final of Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
The 28-year-old came to the finish of Liège with a five-rider group and looked to be the favourite, but things when south when he veered off his sprinting line and almost took out Marc Hirschi (Sunweb), before he then raised his arms too early to allow Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) to pass him at the line.
Alaphilippe was relegated to fifth place in the group for his dangerous sprint and later apologised to Hirschi.
You’d think the Frenchman would have played it safe in Brabantsje Pijl, particularly with world-class rider Van der Poel on his wheel.
But after a tactical masterclass on the final straight from Alaphilippe, blocking in Van der Poel and leaving his sprint late, Alaphilippe almost threw away the victory by raising his arms before the line.
He said: “This win makes me happy as it came at the right moment after the disappointment of last Sunday. I took some time to think about what happened there and I arrived here without any pressure, just to have fun and enjoy the experience.
“In the final I took the responsibility and attacked several times to make the difference. Going into the last kilometre, I had some pain in the legs, but gave my best, and although it was really close again, I’m delighted that I came out on top. I didn’t expect to win today, but I believed in my chances and I couldn’t be happier with this victory.”
Alaphilippe’s next target is the Tour of Flanders on October 18, where he is now among the favourites after his outstanding autumn so far.