News: Alaphilippe powers to Flèche Wallonne Victory

Quick-Step Floors rider Julian Alaphilippe becomes first Frenchman in over two decades to conquer the mythical Mur de Huy – reactions from the movers and shakes in the top 10


RST Cycle Clothing & Trigon Bikes

News: Alaphilippe powers to Flèche Wallonne Victory
(photos from Thomas van Bracht of – brought to you by Prendas Ciclismo)

Quick-Step Floors rider Julian Alaphilippe becomes first Frenchman in over two decades to conquer the mythical Mur de Huy

Julian Alaphilippe scored the biggest triumph of his career at one of the hardest ever editions of Flèche Wallonne (Seraing – Huy, 198.5 kilometers), after jumping clear from a stretched out peloton with 150 meters to go and leaving everyone else trailing on the double-digit gradients of the Mur de Huy, the iconic climb of the Belgian Classic which this year ran its 82nd edition.

“I have been on the podium of this race twice, and if the first time three years ago I was surprised, the second time I was frustrated, but I also took that result as a confirmation. I have always kept believing and worked hard to land a victory in a classic. The team was extraordinary, protected and kept me in a good position, so I want to thank them for their help! Everything was perfect today and now I want to celebrate this fantastic performance”, Julian said after scoring his fourth win of the season.

Eight men broke clear at the start of the day, but the race was properly ignited with 40 kilometers to go, when a numerous group which included a strong Quick-Step Floors delegation slipped away and caught the escapees, while at the same time putting 20 seconds between them and the bunch. From that group, six riders attacked and went on to build a 50-second gap over the pack; among them was also Volta a Catalunya stage winner Maximilian Schachmann, who responded to several attacks, including the one of Jack Haig (Mitchelton-Scott) over the top of Côte de Cherave, with six kilometers left.

On the brutal Mur de Huy, a climb which features on the course since 1983, Schachmann dropped Haig and rode alone into the famous S-bend, while behind the big favourites began to show their intentions. Jelle Vanendert (Lotto-Soudal) was the first to attack, only for Alaphilippe to respond with remarkable ease. The duo passed Schachmann inside the final 150 meters before Julian kicked again on the tough ramps of the climb and gapped defending champion Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Vanendert, who were left fighting for the minor places on the podium.

The biggest victory of Alaphilippe’s career was also the first of a French rider at Flèche Wallonne since 1997 and marked Quick-Step Floors’ 26th UCI success of the season, one that cements our grip on the World Tour team standings after 17 events. This unforgettable day was rounded out by Max Schachmann’s maiden top 10 in a classic, after the young German still had enough left in the tank to finish in eighth place.


Julian Alaphilippe: “I was the only leader of the team, but I couldn’t have made it without such a strong squad! In the end, after Pieter shut down every move on the Cherave and Bob and Philippe worked to bring me in the best position at the foot of the Mur de Huy, I let my legs do the talking. Things were heating up, but I remained calm and rode my own tempo before attacking at the right moment”, Julian explained at the press conference.

In three Flèche Wallonne participations, Alaphilippe had never finished lower than second place, and now, after finally getting that much-desired win – the standout achievement of his career – he is looking forward to Liège–Bastogne–Liège, the last Monument of this spring. “For now, all that I want is to enjoy this incredible moment. It’s a beautiful victory and it makes me very happy. From tomorrow, we will start to think of Sunday. Liège–Bastogne–Liège is a race that suits me, I was on the podium at my debut there, in 2015, and I hope to have another strong display.”

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar): “I’m not disappointed by any means. Should I have won again, it would have seemed like it was easy for us, and people must know that it’s never easy to take a victory. I’m actually satisfied with this result. I proved again I’m once again up with the top guys in the hills. This second place in Huy and last Sunday’s fifth in the Amstel Gold – I think we stand a really good chance at Liège”.

“The heat really made for a very different race. Plus, the new route before the last circuit made things harder for everyone. I feel like the team was where they should and worked all they could. There was lot of chaos in the finale with that big break, including Nibali and Kangert, and it was difficult for us to keep things sorted out. We had Rojas into the break, then we worked hard with Mikel – who was really superb – and also Imanol, Winner, Andrey… They did everything they could and I thank them for that, because everybody raced pretty much against us.

“I started climbing Huy a bit too far behind, and even though we knew that our main rival would be Alaphilippe, he attacked a bit earlier than expect, I was still gaining back positions and that effort to bring him back was too much in the end. Alaphilippe has always been an impressive contender, he had claimed a couple of second places here and it was his time to win. Hats off to Julian and his team for their efforts. I continue to enjoy this race and the hills trio, and there’s still a certain race remaining. We’ll do our best to try and win it!”

Jelle Vanendert (Lotto Soudal): “Tim Wellens was our leader for today, while Tiesj Benoot and I had a free role; depending on how the race developed we would determine what to do. That could be anticipating or waiting for the Mur de Huy.”

“The race turned out to be very different than previous years. Apparently it took five years till the peloton realized that it was necessary to make the race hard to make it more difficult for Alejandro Valverde to win. The first part of the course was already hillier than previous editions. The tempo in the bunch was raised on the first ascent of Mur de Huy and eventually Valverde got isolated. In the finale Tomasz Marczyński and Tosh Van der Sande bridged to the front, but when six riders were left in the front group there was no Lotto Soudal rider in it. The peloton almost came too late to catch the six escapees, but thanks to the work of among other Tiesj Benoot we had reeled them all in by the first steep parts of Mur de Huy.”

“I wanted to set a high pace on the last ascent of Mur de Huy to tire the climbers out and to make sure they would be less explosive. That worked. I could maintain a steady pace right from the foot and when I looked behind me with two hundred metres to go, I looked straight in the eyes of Alaphilippe. At that moment Tim Wellens wasn’t riding on my wheel anymore and I just went full to set a good result. I am very happy with this third place. If I would have started my effort at the start of the climb a bit later, I might have become second but winning was impossible I think. On the other hand I was now able to ride up the climb on my own pace.”

“This doesn’t change much for Sunday’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège. We are with three riders who can end up high in the ranking; Tim, Tiesj and I. First we need to make sure to be in the finale together and then the legs will tell what to do.”


Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal): “I felt very good today and all race long I felt a good result was achievable. An early break with eight riders was not a bad situation. Movistar got help from UAE to control the gap; we didn’t put any energy in the chase. We were attentive all day long. During the first ascent of Mur de Huy I was already riding at the front because I had the impression that teams with potential podium contenders would already make a move. Not much later a large front group with Van der Sande and Marczyński was established. Unfortunately we had nobody in the front group of six afterwards, because that would have made things easier for us. Maybe the front group would even have remained ahead. Thanks to the very strong effort of Tiesj Benoot the break was caught after all.”

“I turned up the Mur de Huy in second position, on Jelle’s wheel. We had agreed that we would try to make the climb as hard as possible, so the punchers would be less explosive. Jelle was very strong. At one point Alaphilippe rode up to him. I could not join them and then I just tried to reach the finish as fast as possible. I can’t complain with this seventh place. I thought more was possible with the legs I had, but a third and seventh place is a nice result for the team. I won the Brabantse Pijl, got sixth at Amstel Gold Race and seventh at Flèche Wallonne today. That gives us confidence for Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the most important race of the Ardennes Classics.”



Roman Kreuziger Mitchelton-Scott – 4th place “The team today was amazing all day around me and Jack had a really strong ride up in the break and then at least I could be a bit more relaxed in the bunch and wait for the finale. I knew the guys like Alaphilippe and Valverde were the to look at. I was in a perfect position with one kilometre to go on the wheel of Alaphilippe but just wasn’t able to follow him when he started to go full gas.

“I remembered the words from Albasini because he gave me some suggestions because he is really good on this climb. For me to be fourth on the Mur de Huy is a really good and it is the sign of really good shape and it is a confirmation that for Sunday I can be relaxed and keep the focus because the podium is in the region.”

Jack Haig Mitchelton-Scott – Breakaway ride “I am really happy to have a good race today and get into that break and really test the legs before Liege and also I think it worked out perfectly for the team. We always had a plan of racing these circuits aggressively because we knew Roman had good legs and the first time over the Mur it was Rob Power and I constantly attacking, and I managed to get into the right move.”

“I tried my luck on the penultimate climb and down the descent I knew that I could use my descending to my advantage and try to get a bit of a gap and that’s what happened, with the gap holding until part way up the Mur for the final time. Roman is in super form at the moment and it’s great because we go into Liege-Bastogne-Liege on Sunday with a genuine contender for the win and you can tell by the way we have been racing over the last two races that we want to be aggressive and we have a lot of strength in depth within the team.”

Michael Matthews (Sunweb) said: “Ouch! With Wilco missing we knew it would be hard to replace him. We had some other good climbers with Sam and Simon going with the early moves and that made it easier for me. Then in the last lap Laurens and Sam protected me good.”

Bauke Mollema: “The last few years I didn’t do this race and I was not sure what I could do on a steep climb like this at the moment. In Basque, I did a good GC, but on the steep climbs I had some difficulties. It was aggressive, a big attack with 50kms to go and the favorite riders did not have many riders left to pull. The group was quite small – I looked back with 30kms to go and I was quite surprised there was maybe 50 riders left.”

“It made it easier in the peloton to stay in the front and save some energy. Myself, I just wanted to focus on the last climb. I am happy today I was back in the top 10 like a few years ago. I like this finish, but you need good legs. I was happy I had those good legs today.”

1. Julian Alaphilippe Quick-Step Floors
2. Alejandro Valverde Movistar Team 0:04
3. Jelle Vanendert Lotto Soudal 260 0:06
4. Roman Kreuziger Mitchelton-Scott
5. Michael Matthews Team Sunweb
6. Bauke Mollema Trek – Segafredo
7. Tim Wellens Lotto Soudal
8. Maximilian Schachmann Quick-Step Floors
9. Romain Bardet AG2R La Mondiale
10. Patrick Konrad BORA – hansgrohe 0:12

28. Rigoberto Uran Team EF Education First-Drapac 0:54
79. Tao Geoghegan Hart Team Sky 9:56
107. Stephen Cummings Dimension Data 13:06





Cycle Division’s New Shop

Send your results as well as club, team & event news here

Other Results on VeloUK (including reports containing results)

Other News on VeloUK

Tags: ,