Fleche Wallonne: Third win for Alaphilippe

For the third time in his career, the Frenchman, World Champion Julian Alaphilippe, wins Flèche Wallonne after out sprinting Primoz Roglic at the top of the Mur de Huy

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Fleche Wallonne: Third win for Alaphilippe

Photo: ©Luc Claessen / Getty Images

Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) returned to his winning habits on the Mur de Huy, conquering the Flèche Wallonne for the third time in his career (2018, 19, 21) on Wednesday. The French World Champion edged out Primoz Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) in the final metres after a strong attack from the Slovenian in his first attempt on the Mur. The Spanish 5 time winner Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) finished 3rd and claimed a podium spot for the 8th time in Huy.

This is Julian Alaphilippe’s third victory with the rainbow jersey on his shoulders and the second this season.

On the menu of Wednesday’s 85th edition: 193.6 kilometers, almost 3000 vertical meters and twelve climbs, one more than last year. The 168 starters roll from the Dôme, Spirou Charleroi Bastket Club’s facility, and reach km 0 at 11:32. UAE Team Emirates, featuring last year’s winner Marc Hirschi and Tadej Pogačar, didn’t start after two members of the team underwent tests that returned positive to Covid-19.

Attacks flew from the gun and it took 19km of hard battling for a group of five riders to get away with Alex Howes (EF Education-Nippo), Sylvain Moniquet (Lotto-Soudal), Sander Armée (Team Qhubeka Assos), Maurits Lammertink (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux) and Julian Mertens (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise). They were joined by Diego Rosa (Arkéa-Samsic), Louis Vervaeke (Alpecin-Fenix) and Simone Velasco (Gazprom-Rusvelo) at km 39.

The gap reached 5.10’ over the first climb of the day, Côte d’Yvoir (km 51.5), with Sander Armée leading the breakaway. Riders from Ineos-Grenadiers, Movistar, Jumbo-Visma and Deceuninck-Quick-Step worked together to control the break with a maximum gap of 5.25 at km 75.

The tension increased in the bunch for the first climbing sequence of the day, with the Côte de Thon, Côte de Groynne and Côte de Haut-Bois. Movistar took the helm on the Côte de Gives and took the gap down to 3.15 as the race entered the final circuit, with 71km to go.

Photo: ©Luc Claessen / Getty Images

The peloton moved closer to the break on the first ascent of the Mur de Huy: 2.25 at the summit with Ineos-Grenadiers’ Tom Pidcock and Michal Kwiatkowski in the front positions. The British squad kept pushing on the Côte d’Ereffe before Dylan Teuns’ Bahrain Victorious set the pace with 40km to go. A strong pace on the penultimate ascent of the Mur de Huy saw the race explode. Only Vervaeke, Lammertink, Armée, Moniquet and Howes remained at the front with their lead down to 1.15. Simon Geschke (Cofidis) accelerated in the bunch and many other riders counter-attacked. At this point, there are only about 70 riders left in contention for the win.

The final lap began with a crash involving the former winner Philippe Gilbert (Lotto Soudal) and the gifted rookie Tom Pidcock. They both returned to the bunch with some 25km to go, ahead of the final challenges of the day. Bruno Armirail (Groupama-FDJ) lead the bunch on the final ascent of the Côte d’Ereffe and cut the break’s lead to 30″. Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) accelerated at the bottom of the penultimate climb of the day, Côte du chemin des Gueuses. Omar Fraile (Astana) and Ilan Van Wilder (Team DSM) joined him but they were all suppressed by a strong James Knox, who continued to remain in control of things on the descent taking the race to the Mur de Huy.

Lammertink held on for as long as possible at the front and was eventually caught right at the bottom of the Mur de Huy. The tension was palpable in the bunch with one kilometer to go, but Julian Alaphilippe – brought into position by Mikkel – remained calm and composed on the endless ascent, where the first to make his move was Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma), with 350 meters to go. Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s leader, oblivious to the brutal double-digit gradients, waited for a moment before unleashing an enormous acceleration that saw him make inroads into the Slovenian’s lead and come past him just 50 meters from the top on his way to a third victory in Flèche Wallonne, a race he never finished outside the top 2 in five participations.

Special mention for 19 year old Ben Tulett in 12th


Julian Alaphilippe: “I was very motivated and wanted to show today that I had a strong head, so I gave everything when it mattered. Since the start of the season I haven’t won a lot and even though that didn’t stop me from having fun, I really wanted to raise my arms again. The fact that it happened at this great race, more than one month after my Tirreno win, makes it even more beautiful”, said a delighted Julian after his sumptuous performance in the Ardennes.

“The team did a great job today, working tirelessly and protecting me, and I’m really proud of them. I had huge confidence in the guys and was well placed thanks to them when I needed to be. Mikkel dropped me off at the bottom of the Mur in the first positions, and in the end, I knew what I had to do. It’s the legs that make the difference on this hard climb. It wasn’t easy with Roglic out front and Valverde on my wheel, who were both very strong, but I managed to pull it off. Winning in this jersey gives me an amazing feeling, and at the same time, a huge confidence boost. I’m really happy”, added Alaphilippe, the sixth rider in history to win Flèche Wallonne on at least three occasions.

Photo: ©Luc Claessen / Getty Images

Primoz Roglic: “Julian was the strongest rider on the climb. He deserved to win. The final climb is really difficult and tough, but it’s one that suits me. I was in a good position and went for it. When you feel that the legs are good, you just have to attack. That is what I did. Unfortunately, I got caught up just before the finish. That’s racing.”

“Julian [Alaphilippe] caught me and passed me so he was definitely the strongest. Congrats to him, he deserves to win. With legs a little bit stronger, maybe I could have won but congratulations to Julian. There aren’t much tactics on the last climb: if you have the legs, you go. It was a nice race, it went fast. For sure I’m happy with my shape going into Liège. You always want to win but I’m happy with my level and I’m definitely looking forward to the next race. Liège is a different race and we’ll see who has the best legs.”

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar): 3rd, five time winner “For sure I’m in a great condition. I’ve been feeling good since the Volta a Catalunya and I’ve showed it again today. I’m really happy to be so close to the best, Primoz [Roglič] and Julian [Alaphilippe]. I had great legs but I had to make a big effort to get back because I was in a bad position entering the Mur. I’ve been second, I’ve won five times, I had to be third too! I don’t know [if it’s the last time I race the Flèche Wallonne]. I feel great and I don’t know if I’ll continue. On Sunday, we have Liège, and positioning is not so important there, we’ll see how it goes.”

Mike Woods (Israel Startup nation) (4th): “I’ve got a real bitter taste in my mouth right now because I felt like I was better than fourth today. It was certainly frustrating, especially because the team rode so well for me. Krists put me in a really good position and I chose not to follow him at the very end because I thought it would be better to slot in and watch where Roglic was.”

“But that wasn’t the original plan. The original plan was for me to stick with [Krists] and I regret not doing that because it put me in a bit of a fight and then I got botched several times, pushed several times, and I ended up in a really bad position, and just couldn’t respond when the guys [Roglic and the eventual winner Alaphilippe] went.”

“I’m proud of how my legs were, I am proud of the team and we are all looking forward to Liège-Bastogne-Liège. LBL is going to be even bigger for us. It’s a monument. No Canadian has ever won a monument and I think that where my legs are it is certainly a possibility for me to do well there.”

Esteban Chaves – 8th place “It is my third time here and eighth is not a bad result, of course I wanted a bit more, especially today because the team did an awesome job. We rode as a team and it doesn’t just mean ride in this jersey, it means we are committed together to achieve a result and I want to thank the boys for that today. We rode all day in a really good position, myself and [Michael] Matthews and we really rode well today as a team and we need to be happy and proud of that. I just did what I could, I was a bit blocked, but I don’t think the result would change.“

Photo: ©Luc Claessen / Getty Images

Bauke Mollema: “You have to go super deep on the Mur, it’s a really hard effort, around 3 minutes. At the bottom I was in a pretty good position until like 500 meters to go. With the two corners with 400m to go I lost some positions; the speed went down a bit and some guys came around. Then after they really started the sprint, and I lost the momentum there and was a bit stuck. Then I was already too far. It would have been nice to finish top 10 again, I was close, but the first 5 anyway were really strong and I could not have followed them. It would have been nice to have finished a few positions higher. I recovered well from Amstel and the feelings are quite okay. I felt quite good the whole day and I didn’t spend too much energy, the other guys kept me in front really well, so that was nice. Liege is the hardest of these 3 and hopefully I can do something good there.”

Maximilian Schachmann (10th) “Tenth place is admittedly not quite the result, that we had hoped for today. I felt ok during the race, and tried to cover all the important attacks over the last kilometres, which cost quite some energy. I was able to be up there in the important move on the final and decisive ascent of the Mur de Huy, but ultimately I was just missing that final kick to be able to fight it out for a top result.”




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