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La Flèche Wallonne 2015

photo credit @ Le Tour

excerpts from Le Tour 

Despite the appearance of a new climb in the closing moments of the Fleche Wallonne, the decision was made in the last 200m of the race and there wasn’t much anyone could do against flying Alejandro Valverde. The new course however proved to make the Grande Finale extremely lively with several attacks occurring including that of rising star Tim Wellens. Calm and composed, Valverde finally made the best of his experience to claim the race for the second consecutive time, adding a third win in Huy to his record. The soon to be 35-year-old beat promising young Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe (only 22) and Switzerland’s Michael Albasini. For the fourth year, a Spaniard wins the Fleche Wallonne.

Under beautiful sunny conditions, 199 riders (Westra, non starter) took off from the city of Waremme for the 79th edition of the Fleche Wallonne. After a fairly fast start, five men eventually managed to pull away from the pack at km 8: Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal), Pieter Van Speybrouck (Topsport), Jerome Baugnies (Wanty), Reinier Honig (Roompot) and Daniele Ratto (UHC). Five kilometres later, they were joined by two other riders: Mike Teunissen (Lotto Jumbo) and Brice Feillu (Bretagne).

7 men in the lead

While the pack wasn’t two concerned by the escapees, the gap reached 8′ at the top of the first climb of the day, the Côte des 36 Tournants with Reinier Honig leading the front group. The escapees seemed under the control of a pack led by teams Katusha and Movistar as they reached the top of the second climb, the Côte de Bellaire with a 7’05. That gap had dropped to 6’40 at the summit of the Côte de Bohissau (km 100).

Dan Martin bites the dust

Just before the first climb up the Mur as the pack was going through the city of Huy, a crash occurred sending the likes of Daniel Martin (Cannondale Garmin) to the ground. A first blow for the Irishman who had finished second of the 2015 edition. While the front seven still enjoyed a 5’50 lead at the top of the Mur, it took Martin several kilometres before he finally moved back into the peloton.

Gilbert, down and out

As the leaders move closer to the Côte de Bellaire, the pack really started chasing and the gap dropped rapidly. On the climb, five men remained in the lead as Theunissen and Honig were dropped. The leaders reached the top with a 3’05 advantage. Real drama struck several kilometres later when local hero and 2011 champion Philippe Gilbert (BMC) was caught in a crash. Despite getting back on his bike, the Belgian rapidly decided to quit the race.

Two left in lead

Home soil wasn’t the place to be on this 79th edition of the Fleche as Jelle Vanendert was the next man to be caught in a vicious crash. On the second climb up the Mur de Huy, Jerome Baugnies powered away reaching the top with a slim 10” advantage over De Gendt. Both men bunched together again shortly after, soon to be caught by three other riders: Ratto, Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) and Luis-Leon Sanchez (Astana). With 25 kilometres to go, the front men had a 20” lead over a pack led by team Etixx-Quickstep of World Champion Michal Kwiatkowski well decided to shine again three days after his Amstel Gold Race triumph.

Eventually all the former escapees were to be dropped leaving in the front of the race two men with 15kms to go: Visconti and LL Sanchez. As the pack continued chasing, yet another crash happened sending 2013 Tour de France winner Chris Froome (SKY) and Samuel Sanhez (BMC) to the ground.

Wellens last survivor

In the penultimate and new climb up the Côte de Cherave, the leading two were eventually caught by a pack led by Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) himself, and just as the pack bunched up together (around 40 riders), Tim Wellens gave it a go. The Belgian reached the top of the hill with a slim advantage of counter-attacking man Gianpaolo Caruso (Katusha) and the chasing pack. Courageous and optimistic Wellens could still enjoy a 13” lead as he took on the finsl climb up the Mur de Huy. But he was eventually gobbled up.

Patience pays off for Valverde

As all the main favourites moved to the front, there was no attacking until the final 200m. That was the moment chosen by experienced Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) to take off. The Spanish title-holder was never to be caught and victoriously crossed the line for the third time. Valverde beat promising Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx Quickstep), who was discovering the race, to the line while Michael Albasini (Orica Greenedge), second in 2012, conquered third spot.

La Flèche Wallonne 2015 Results
ESP 1 VALVERDE BELMONTE, Alejandro (MOVISTAR) 5:08:22
BEL 2 ARMEE, Sander (LOTTO SOUDAL)
SUI 3 ALBASINI, Michael (ORICA GreenEDGE)
ESP 4 RODRIGUEZ OLIVER, Joaquin (KATUSHA)
ESP 5 MORENO FERNANDEZ, Daniel (KATUSHA)
FRA 6 VUILLERMOZ, Alexis (AG2R LA MONDIALE) + 4
COL 7 HENAO MONTOYA, Sergio Luis (SKY)
DEN 8 FUGLSANG, Jakob (ASTANA)
NED 9 SLAGTER, Tom Jelte (CANNONDALE – GARMIN)
NED 10 KELDERMAN, Wilco (LOTTO NL – JUMBO)

 

 

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