Brabantse Pijl is a solid little race, holding its own at arguably the busiest time of the season. What’s more, it’s the perfect transition from cobbles to climbing. It calls the Ardennes riders to wake up from their slumber, whilst tempting the cobble-worn peloton for one more race. The balance has tilted in favour of the Ardennes men in recent years with Roubaix seen as the last of the cobbles programme for most of the A-listers. Here is the Just Pro selection.
Set To Flop: Mathieu van der Poel (9/4)
You can get a shade over 2/1 on the most exciting rider to emerge this season. Support is justified after a stunning performance in Flanders, but there’s no proof that he’ll get the better of the fit, fresh and firing puncheurs. At 9/4 he just isn’t backable. I can’t see him winning solo and he’ll do well to win this competitive uphill sprint on debut. It’s a big ask; even for a rider with the best bloodline in the sport.
In The Bet Slip: Daryl Impey (25/1) & Alberto Bettiol (20/1)
I treated myself to two punts for Brabantse. Daryl Impey was tenth last year before finishing one place worse at Amstel Gold. He is unlikely to compete in the hillier Ardennes races so I expect him to ride hard tomorrow. He is a huge price at 25/1 if anywhere near his Tour Down Under level. He’s not usually a headline-writer in April, but there was plenty to like about his fast finishing at Catalunya. The Tour of Flanders may prove to be the biggest victory of Alberto Bettiol’s career, but let’s hope it’s not the only one. The strong Italian has always had an underrated sprint, but has developed into a big threat this year in EF Education colours. I have some concerns over his ability to go uphill fast – Ronde suggests he’s put a few pounds on – but I’m not too worried.
Just Missed Out: Michael Matthews (11/2)
“Bling” was my pre-market pick. He is so often underrated by bookmakers that I was shocked to see him into 11/2 from an already modest 7/1. He has struggled to bring his best to Brabantse in recent years, quite possibly due to big goals in the weeks that follow. Nevertheless, Sunweb will be keen for a victory and Matthews should have the better of 2017 winner Sonny Colbrelli. Unfortunately, if the race does end up as a battle of the short prices, he will struggle to jump Alaphilippe. Not tempting enough at this price – will save the punt for Amstel.
The “How’s That Happened” Selection: Xandro Meurisse (150/1) & Mauritis Lammertink (100/1)
I love the longshot selection at this time of year. Xandro Meurisse and Mauritis Lammertink are two names you won’t find at many TV races, especially since the latter joined the former at Continental Tour level. Both were in action at Pay de la Loire at the start of the month racing against Brabantse favourite van der Poel. Both have the same strengths (consistency) and clear weakness (winning races), and I am certain neither will fare well in the final sprint. However, at big prices they do have the talent and motivation to get into a winning escape should the chance develop. Get your pennies out.