In the lead up to the decisive 1.3km climb, Lampre were present at the front of the race with three riders capable of taking the win.
World Champion Rui Costa was forced to deviate significantly after Damiano Cunego, who was well covered sitting on his rear wheel, fell, hitting the rear wheel of the World Champion. While behind his two teammates, Deigo Ulissi was held up the crash, losing his position in the peloton.
Cunego had to abandon all hope of catching the group which was speeding off into the distance, while Costa was forced to put his foot on the ground to avoid crashing, slowing him down also and ending his hopes of a good result.
"Today, there is no use beating around the bush. I have to say that I was really good, I think it is also seen on TV that we rode well and were always in the lead up to those damned 3km from the end," Cunego explained who has several abrasions on his hips, back and elbow as evidence of the fall.
"I was obliged by the fall at the head of the group to dodge Rui Costa, who I was really close to to avoid losing positions. I could not help but hit his wheel and fall to the ground. We are sorry because he, myself and Ulissi, behind me, could really have done well in the...
Albasini was just eight seconds behind Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) as he recorded his fifth top-ten at the challenging races in a sign of the 33-year-old's consistency in the Ardennes.
"We knew it was going to be very controlled," Albasini said. "There was a lot of interest from many guys to stay together until the last climb. For us it made no sense to have any special tactics when we knew it would be so controlled. It would have been a waste of energy to send someone out because BMC and Katusha wanted it to be together at the bottom of the Mur."
With Cameron Meyer putting in a strong effort for his teammate, Albasini arrived at the base of the 1.3km Mur de Huy well placed and ready to launch.
"It is important to come to the bottom of the Mur in good position.I got good help from Cam [Cameron Meyer], Santa [Ivan Santaromita] and [Simon] Clarkey leading into the final two times up the Mur," Albasini said who was joined in the top-twenty by Clarke was who 16th.
"I gave Alba a big hand the second to last time into the Mur," said Clarke. "On the final time, I had him with me near the bottom when a crash caused chaos, and I lost him. Fortunately, Cam came flying by to take him to the front. At that point I was about 10-15 wheels behind Alba...
Victorious in 2012 and a top ten finisher in Flèche Wallonne last year despite crashing in Amstel Gold Race, this time around, Rodriguez came down in the final part of the race when there was a mass pile-up.
Although able to finish, albeit in 70th place, the Catalan was 4:06 down and missing from the finale. After starting as a co-leader, the Russian team’s best finisher was 2013 winner Dani Moreno, in 9th. It was a disappointing result given Katusha’s success in the previous two editions of Flèche Wallonne, as well as the way the team had, together with BMC, done most of the work to keep the race under control on Wednesday.
"He's ok for Sunday, we think, but it was not good – when he crashed the upper part of his body once again got hit the hardest," Katusha sports director José Azevedo told Cyclingnews.
"Somebody went down right in front of him in the crash and he couldn't avoid going down, there was nowhere for him to go."
"He could finish, but these hard knocks take it out of you and he had not had an easy start to the race, either," Azevedo added, pointing out that the ultra-fast pace of this year's Flèche Wallonne, run off at an average of 43.144 kmh, did not exactly help Rodriguez to ease his way back into the action.
Already fifth in Flèche Wallonne last year and fifth in Amstel Gold last Sunday, Kwiatkowski brandished his first Classics bouquet as he stood on the podium of the Mur de Huy. Aged just 23, it is a reasonable bet that this will not be the last time the Pole takes a top placing somewhere in the Ardennes.
Kwiatkowski said he was quietly satisfied with his progress in the Belgian race, even though the first question he was asked in the press conference - had he made his move on the Mur too soon? - suggested some felt he might have miscalculated a little and played his cards a little early.
However, the Polish national champion preferred to take away the positives and signs of progress compared to his 2013 ride in La Flèche Wallonne, seeing his glass of Belgian beer as half-full, as it were, rather than half-empty - an upbeat attitude which the thousands of cycling fans downing their own glasses of amber nectar as they cheered the riders on the Mur de Huy on Wednesday would surely approve.
"I was actually pretty smart on the Mur, I started the bottom exactly where I wanted to be and I kept my own pace. It was much better than last year where I lost a few positions with 400 metres to go, this time I could maintain my speed," Kwiatkowski said.
"I surprised myself, because Flèche Wallonne isn't a race that really suits me, Amstel and Liège suit me better, but I'm still in good shape and able to fight for a top result:"
German says sampling Tour's opening two stages was "well worth the trip"
Having spent a day in the yellow jersey following his stage victory on the opening stage of last year's Tour de France, Marcel Kittel has said he is ready to do all he can to repeat that experience when he lines up in what he described as Yorkshire's "big cycling party in July."
Speaking during a four-day recon trip to Yorkshire with five of his Giant-Shimano team-mates, including Paris-Roubaix runner-up John Degenkolb, Kittel said: "Doing a recon like this just underlines the commitment we're making. Our goal is to go for the yellow jersey in the Tour de France and we have to invest some time and energy in achieving that."
The German continued: "Personally, I don't want to have to live with the fact that we didn't get the jersey because we didn't know a climb. I think it's well worth the trip and I think it will help us put together some good team tactics."
The opening stage has been billed as a clash of the sport's sprint titans, and Kittel said that assessment is likely to prove accurate. Having ridden the final 100 kilometres of stage one into Harrogate he said of the parcours: "The last 50km are good, they are flat. Compared to what comes before they are really easy.
"I think the final could be flatter for me as a pure sprinter, but if you survive the last small climb [a kilometre from the line] before the final rise up to the finish you will come up there with a lot of speed. Then it's all about who has saved the most energy."
Asked about this much-anticipated clash, Kittel said, "We will of course take on the challenge of sprinting not only against Cav, but also against André [Greipel]. For Cav, there's special motivation with the start being here in his home...
Alejandro Valverde may have won Flèche Wallonne with an unmatchable turn of speed on Wednesday but the Mur de Huy was littered with cameo roles as riders battled up the climb towards the finish line.
Samuel Sanchez, who was instrumental in Philippe Gilbert’s Amstel Gold Race win last week, finished in 34th position on the Mur. He had tried to drop Gilbert off near the front of the peloton at the foot of the climb but the Belgian was left frustrated at the finish and was forced to settle for 10th position.
Garmin Sharp’s Nathan Haas was a little further back from Sanchez, in 58th position, but worked hard to set up Daniel Martin for his second place, with Tom Jelte Slagter rounding out a good day for the American team in fifth. At the finish Haas spoke to Cyclingnews about the race and the Mur.
In this exclusive interview for Cyclingnews Serge Pauwels, who helped deliver Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) to a podium spot, also talks about the Mur and what makes it such a feared and respected climb in professional cycling.
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Cataldo, Kennaugh and Siutsou for GC, Boasson Hagen and Swift for stages
Team Sky has announced its line-up for the Giro d’Italia, with Pete Kennaugh, Dario Cataldo and Kanstantin Siutsou leading the team’s general classification challenge in the absence of Richie Porte, while Edvald Boasson Hagen and Ben Swift will chase stage victories.
Porte had originally been pencilled in to make a tilt at winning the maglia rosa but the Tasmanian was forced to alter his race programme after illness forced him to abandon Tirreno-Adriatico and the Volta a Catalunya.
Cataldo has twice finished 12th overall at the Giro and lines up for his seventh appearance in the corsa rosa, Siutsou finished 9th overall in 2009 and Kennaugh underlined his potential in three-week races with a fine Tour in support of Chris Froome last year.
Dario Cioni will be the lead directeur sportif for Team Sky at the Giro d'Italia. He has done a lot of the reconnaissance of the race route and will call the shots from the lead team car.
"Last year we had Bradley Wiggins as a clear leader. This year we'll target stage victories and give a chance to riders like Pete Kennaugh to gain experience of focusing on the overall classification," Cioni explained to Cyclingnews before the start of stage three of the Giro del Trentino.
"Kanstantsin Siutsou and Dario Cataldo will have a chance to ride for themselves after working for other riders so often. We've also got Edvald Boasson Hagen and Ben Swift; there will be opportunities for them too.”
For Boasson Hagen, a regular in Sky’s Tour de France team, this will be his first Giro appearance since he made his grand tour debut there in 2009, and along with Swift, who finished third at Milan-San Remo, he will lead the team’s hunt for stage wins.