La Flèche Wallonne has been won by Julian Alaphilippe – the World Champion beat Primoz Roglic on the last 100 metres of the Mur de Huy.
Philippe Gilbert was back on home turf today, and on the 10th anniversary of his Ardennes treble. The 38-year-old has had a difficult season, having to forego the Tour of Flanders earlier this month, although he did ride Gent-Wevelgem.
He did not participate in the Amstel Gold Race due to a recent crash in training, and before
that, he also endured ongoing knee issues which hampered his training and his progress to full fitness.
Despite his palmares in the Ardennes classics, he is not considered as a favourite today.
No Tadej Pogacar nor a UAE team today, thus last year’s Swiss winner, Marc Hirschi was also absent –
they have two positive Covid-19 cases in the team.
No Mathieu van der Poel either (nor last Sunday), he has decided to get off his road bike and turn his attentions to his mountain bike for the time being.
La Flèche Wallonne breakway attempts
That all meant at least one less favourite in the ranks, but also gives the likes of Alaphilippe,
Roglic, Dylan Teuns, Tom Pidcock and Jakob Fuglsang one less name to worry about.
There were a few early breakaway attempts, but they all came back together by the 15th kilometre.
However, soon after, an eight-man breakaway did make it – Sander Armée, Alex Howes, Maurits
Lammertink, Julian Mertens, Sylvain Moniquet, Diego Rosa, Simone Velasco and Louis Vervaeke.
With 74kms to go, Movistar hit the front to bring down the gap – they were working for Alejandro
Valverde of course, who at 40 years-old, has won this race on five occasions.
His last victory here was in 2017 when he did the Fleche Wallonne – Liege-Bastogne-Liege double;
he’ll be 41 years-old on Sunday, the day of Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
American national champion, Howes, had mechanical issues and had to ride a fair few kilometres on
a Shimano service bike – with 48 kilometres left to go, he got his Cannondale back.
EF Education-Nippo also had issues with their Colombian national champion, Sergio Higuita, who
with 50 kilometres to go, seemed to have knee issues and had lengthy discussions with his team car
about continuing or calling it a day.
However, he did continue and was later seen at the back of the bunch, where he spent a lot of time.
Mertens was the first in the breakaway group to have to let go, and he was followed by the two
Italians (Rosa and Velsaco) with approximately 30 kilometres left to race.
Reeling in the breakaway
At this point, the gap between the five remaining breakaway riders and the peloton was just over a
minute. Pidcock was involved in a coming together in the peloton with 27 kilometres to go, as was Gilbert,
but both got back on their bikes and were able to continue.
Howes was then left behind by his four compatriots on the Côte d’Ereffe with 20 kilometres to go,
and was swallowed up by the peloton soon after, with just over 18 kilometres left in the race.
At this point, the peloton was approximately 30 seconds behind the breakaway group – lead by
three Belgians; the 23-year-old Moniquet, in particular, looked forward to this race and reconned the parcours on several occasions, and put the hammer down a few times to stay away from the chasers.
Lammertink took the opportunity to escape from the three Belgians to pick up 250 euros on the top
of Côte du Chemin des Crueuses.
The peloton caught up with the three breakaway Belgians with just over 10 kilometres to go, Tim
Wellens the first to go, with Richard Carapaz and Mauri Vansevenant chasing the Belgian – Omar
Fraile was present too.
Lammertink’s power and stubbornness allowed him another 8.5 kilometres of a solo effort – with 2
kilometres to go he still had an 11-second gap.
But, Mikel Honore and Jan Tratnik then went for it with a kilometre to go – that was unfruitful, as
they were quickly joined by Michal Kwiatowski, Roglic and Alaphilippe.
With 500 metres to go, Roglic took up the pace at the front, with Pidcock in Valverde’s wheel at the
14% incline part of Mur de Huy.
At 300 metres, Roglic accelerated, Alaphilippe reacted first, and had to go around and over Pidcock
–Valverde tried his best to follow the world champion’s acceleration.
However, the former world champion was unable to match the Frenchman’s pace and power, and
slowly but surely saw the rainbow jersey move farther and farther away from him – and then past
the Slovenian national champion.
Roglic lost some power in the last 80 metres of the final ascent of the Mur du Huy, and Alaphilippe was the first one over the line to win his third Fleche, after victories in 2018 and 2019.
Although the Frenchman did not look great on Sunday at Amstel, he took it upon himself to chase
down Roglic first.
Roglic will have a look back at this race and realise that he made one vital mistake – going for it from
too far – he may be able to accelerate on ascents of 14% but keeping that power at 19% was a more
For Valverde, he finds himself on the podium of this race for the eighth time (five times in first place,
twice in second place), and will look forward to Sunday in and around Liege where he has been on
the podium seven times in his career (four wins, two second places and once in third).
Pidcock ended up in 6th place, and he continues to impress commentators, spectators, ex-
professionals and current road colleagues.
After winning Brabantse Pijl one week ago by out-sprinting Wout van Aert and then coming second
to van Aert in the Amstel Gold Race last Sunday in a very similar scenario, the young Brit’s stock
continues to grow.
Like van der Poel, Pidock will turn to his mountain bike shortly – he is expected to focus on his
mountain biking by the end of the month in preparation for the Olympics in Tokyo.