Australian Rob Stannard stepped up for Team BikeExchange as he battled to a superb sixth place at a brutal edition of Brabantse Pijl.
The 22-year-old went on the attack with more than 70km left to race as the team looked to put themselves on the front foot ahead of the tough final finish circuits. A number of riders joined Stannard to form the chasing group as they looked to hunt down the early breakaway of nine that had been more than five minutes ahead.
Team BikeExchange made sure Michael Matthews was well positioned back in the pack throughout the day, but bad look struck yet again as a large crash at the head of the peloton ended the 30-year-olds chances, leaving Stannard as the team’s only hope with 40km remaining.
The remains of the breakaway was finally reeled back in with 30km to go, as a counter-attack from behind saw a new lead group of 17 form, with Stannard amongst them. That group then continued to whittle down over the relentless climbs as the race reached the final finishing circuit in Overijse.
Matteo Trentin was the first rider to make a move ahead of the final lap before being joined by Thomas Pidcock and Wout van Aert. Stannard battled his way over the climbs to stay in contention, but there was no catching the leading trio, as Pidcock took the win despite a tense finale.
“We planned for me to attack at exactly that moment so we could be on the front foot during the race. That went to plan, and we rode into the front group, with the plan that Mathews could come across when Van Aert eventually went.
When Michael crashed then it was important for me to save my legs as much as possible and watch the favourites for when they would attack, but I couldn’t follow when they went, so I had I finished in the second bunch in the end
I’m pleased with sixth today, disappointed that our overall plan didn’t succeed, but I know I have good legs at the moment and I’m motivated for the next few races.”
2021 Brabanste Pijl – Results:
1. Thomas Pidcock 4:36:27
2. Wout van Aert ST
3. Matteo Trentin +0:02
6. Rob Stannard (Team BikeExchange) +0:07
Photo Courtesy of Getty Images.