Report: Joaquim Rodriguez wins Fleche Wallonne

Katusha’s Joaquim Rodriguez has won the 2012 Fleche-Wallone, a race that forms part of the Ardennes Classics

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After two second places in 2010 and 2011, the rider nicknamed ‘Purito’ finally managed to distance his rivals on the Mur de Huy, a climb with several sections 15 per cent or greater. Wet, windy weather tormented the field over the 194 kilometer Ardennes Classic. An early crash split the peloton in two after an early break of two riders went up the road. The chase group eventually rejoined the front group and a second two-rider break formed before the bunch hit the Mur de Huy the first of three times.

The two rider break of Dirk Bellemakers (Landbouwkrediet) and Anthony Roux (FDJ-Big Mat) built up a maximum advantage of eight minutes before Katusha and Lotto-Belisol combined efforts to bring them back. The duo maintained a slim advantage over the bunch the second time up the Mur.

Andy Schleck (Radioshack-Nissan), launched by his teammate Laurent Didier, tried his luck with 40 kilometres to go but he was followed by Yuriy Trofimov and his move was over a few kilometres later.  The main group caught the break 30 kilometers from the finish and several other pairs of riders attempted to break clear. Hail began to fall in the closing kilometers and a dangerous two-rider move of Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda) and Lars Nordhaug (Sky Procycling) formed ahead of the third and final ascent of the Mur de Huy.

The duo were kept on a short leash at around 10 seconds from a chasing group until the beginning of Mur de Huy, where their break was over and the real challenges for the victory started to come. The one that succeeded was from Rodriguez who crossed the line four seconds clear of former Tour of Britain winner Michael Albasini (GreenEdge) and last year’s winner, Philippe Gilbert (BMC).

“It’s the best and most incredible victory of my whole career” said ‘Purito’. “Today is definitely one of the best days of my life. I’ve always been in love with these Classic races and a victory in these competitions has always been one of my main goals: finally, after many good results, I managed to win. Obviously, I have to thank my teammates: all of them did a great job from the beginning to the end.”

“It’s true that Mur de Huy was more suited to my strengths than Cauberg, but I have to admit it was really hard: it looked like an easy victory, but I had to dig deep in order to defeat my rivals. Now I can get ready for ‘Liege-Bastogne-Liege’ with high motivation. I don’t think this victory will change anything, I’m not the only favourite, there are many strong riders with chances to win. Everything changed from ‘Amstel Gold Race’ to ‘Fleche Wallonne’; everything can change on Sunday too. So we have to pay attention and work at our best if we want to take this legendary double”.

First Spring Classic Podium for Albasini 

Tour of Britain winner Michael Albasini continued his run of extraordinary form with a second place finish at La Flèche Wallonne. “Today was a really great result for myself and the team,” said Albasini. “The guys placed me perfectly at every part of the race and made it possible for me to conserve my energy in the last part of the final climb.  I really want to thank the entire team for once again believing in me and making it possible to get this result,” said Albasini. “It was the strongest guy who won today, but I still managed to get my first podium finish in a Spring Classic – and I’m thrilled with that.”

2011 winner Gilbert third

BMC’s Gilbert Third At Flèche Wallonne – Philippe Gilbert continued his climb up the results on Wednesday with third place at Flèche Wallonne, his best performance of the season for the BMC Racing Team. The Belgian national champion could not match the acceleration by race winner Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) over the last 300 meters of the steep, twisting climb of the Huy.

Gilbert rolled across the line four seconds later, just behind Michael Albasini (GreenEDGE) and ahead of Jelle Vanendert (Lotto-Belisol). The winner here a year ago, Gilbert said his result was an encouraging sign. “I’ve come from a long way down so I am satisfied to be back at this level,” he said. “Being on the podium is nice, but most important is a victory. Today, Rodriguez was the deserving winner.”

Gilbert said he is not making much of his mathematical progression of improving results – from 12th a week ago at Brabantse Pijl, to sixth on Sunday at Amstel Gold Race, to third on Wednesday. “The number three can’t be divided, so we’ll see what can happen on Sunday at Liège-Bastogne-Liège,” he said. “I think that the weather plays into my favor. I can stand the cold, maybe more than the Italian or Spanish riders. So that can be an advantage for me.”

In achieving another podium finish in one of cycling’s classic races, the BMC Racing Team added to third place finishes at the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix (both by Alessandro Ballan). “In critical moments, the teamwork was great,” BMC Racing Team Directeur Sportif John Lelangue said of the 194 km race that featured periodic rain showers and windy conditions.

“We proved one more time that we were there and could make the race. We didn’t want to control it completely to preserve the guys a little bit for Sunday, which will be even longer and more difficult. It also gives Phil and Greg Van Avermaet more confidence.”

1. Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver Katusha Team 04:45:41
2. Michael Albasini GreenEdge Cycling Team 00:04
3. Philippe Gilbert BMC Racing Team @ same time
4. Jelle Vanendert Lotto – Belisol Team @ same time
5. Robert Kiserlovski Astana Pro Team 00:07
6. Daniel Martin Team Garmin – Barracuda 00:09
7. Bauke Mollema Rabobank Cycling Team @ same time
8. Vincenzo Nibali Liquigas – Cannondale @ same time
9. Diego Ulissi Lampre – ISD @ same time
10. Jurgen Van Den Broeck Lotto – Belisol Team 00:11
11. Enrico Gasparotto Astana Pro Team @ same time
12. Rinaldo Nocentini Ag2R – La Mondiale @ same time
13. Maxim Iglinskiy Astana Pro Team @ same time
14. Sergio Luis Henao Montoya Sky Procycling @ same time
15. Wout Poels Vacansoleil – DCM Pro Cycling Team @ same time
16. Paul Martens Rabobank Cycling Team @ same time
17. Igor Anton Hernandez Euskaltel – Euskadi @ same time
18. Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa Movistar Team 00:18
19 Julien Simon Saur – Sojasun @ same time
20. Frank Schleck RadioShack – Nissan @ same time

46 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte Movistar Team @ same time
81 Andy Schleck RadioShack – Nissan 02:25
83 OscarFreire Katusha Team 02:28
138 Luke Rowe Sky Procycling 10:17


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