Thomas Voeckler (Team Europcar) showed he is a favourite for the upcoming Ardennes classics with an emphatic solo victory at the Brabantse Pijl race in Belgium.
Voeckler attacked alone, 30km from the finish, dancing up the steep climbs on his special lime-green Colnago C59 Italia bike. He suffered as the rain soaked the race, showing the pain of his effort on his face but continued to extend his lead all the way to the line. Spain’s Oscar Freire won the sprint for second place but was 1:11 behind Voeckler.
It was Voeckler’s first win of 2012 but came at the right time, just four days before the Amstel Gold Race in the Netherlands.
“I wanted to go well and this kind of course suits me,” Voeckler said before climbing onto the winner’s podium with his son. “I was fifth a few years ago. I knew the course and knew it was better to attack because most teams didn’t have a lot of riders. I didn’t think I’d make it to the finish alone, I thought some riders would come up. But I raced hard to gain a minute’s lead, knowing it would mentally crack the other riders.”
Voeckler’s dominant performance in the first hilly Belgian race of the season makes him a natural favourite for Sunday’s Amstel Gold Race. Voeckler Modestly played down his chances but must have a great chance in the Netherlands.
“I just want to do well, I don’t know if I can win,” he said. “Winning Brabantse Pijl doesn’t automatically mean I’ll do well in Amstel. But I’ve done well in the past at Amstel and so winning is a goal. For now I’m just happy to win my first race of the season.”