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Valverde wins the 2014 Flèche Wallonne

By:
Sadhbh O'Shea

Spaniard victorious atop the Mur de Huy

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) showed us why he’s won more races than anyone else this season. Valverde timed his attack to perfection on the Mur de Huy to win his second Flèche Wallonne, ahead of Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) and Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-QuickStep).

Valverde, who won this race in 2006, sat on the front of the peloton unfazed by the little digs off the front happening around him. Kwiatkowski made the first move of the favourites, passing Bauke Mollema (Belkin) who had been marshalling things on the front.

Martin managed to stage a great recovery after being hampered by a crash at the foot of the Mur de Huy. The Garmin rider briefly looked like he might have the legs to make it to the line.

Valverde kept his cool until the climb began to crest, at around 200 metres to go, before launching his attack. Nobody was able to get close to Valverde as he powered away and the Spaniard built up a sizable gap by the time he reached the finish line. The Movistar rider has been on scintillating form this season and Flèche Wallonne is his eighth victory this season.

"The Ardennes have been resisting me in the last few years - always getting podium places, but no victories," Valverde said. "I was coming here a bit frustrated. I felt strong at the Amstel, but not as well as today. I had good legs from the beginning; when you feel well, you have to take all chances. It turned out perfectly well at the end, but sometimes, you're doing well but you run out of luck, which I really had today."

Some of the same protagonists from Amstel Gold Race were near the front at the top of the climb, but Amstel Gold Race winner Philippe Gilbert (BMC) was also caught out by the same crash as Martin. However, the Belgian rider found himself stuck in the middle of the peloton with nowhere to go, the huge crowds preventing him from making it back to the front. He had to settle for 10th place. Defending champion Daniel Moreno (Katusha) could only manage once place better than Gilbert.

"Those who contested the win today were not a surprise at all: all the top guys," Valverde said. "I didn't want to get myself boxed in - I had to get in very, very good position into the final climb. When you're feeling great, you have to start climbs up front not to suffer any misfortune. You can get boxed in, you have to brake, you take bigger efforts, and you don't win.

"I was looking for Dani (Moreno), Purito, Gilbert, Kwiatkowski, Daniel Martin... there were many candidates I was next to the barriers with 300m to go and couldn't get past, but as soon as I saw a gap, I followed it, I jumped away and managed to make a gap and raise my arms at the finish."

How it happened

Perhaps motivated by the much warmer, drier weather than had been forecast and the lack of any classified climbs for the first two fifths of the 199 kilometre route, the peloton roared out of the Flèche Wallonne 2014 start town of Bastogne at an extremely fast pace, averaging 49.4 kilometres in the first hour of racing.

That couldn’t stop three riders going clear very early on: Garmin-Sharp’s Ramunas Navardauskas - who in 2012 became Lithuania’s first ever Giro d’Italia leader after his team won the TTT there - United Healthcare’s Jonathan Clarke and Belgian veteran Preben Van Hecke (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise). Van Hecke had already established his early break credentials for this year’s Ardennes when he took part in a day-long four-man move in the Amstel Gold last Sunday that only fell apart in the last 15 kilometres.

As the trio of early movers headed north towards the Huy circuit, their lead stretched to as much as nine minutes on the rolling farmland before Katusha and BMC opted to begin the process of reeling them back in. At the Côte de Bellaire, the first classified climb of 11, their advantage was down to 6:40 and on the first ascent of the Mur de Huy, as BMC tapped out a steady rhythm behind, the three were now down to an advantage of 5:50.

With a little less than 50 kilometres to go, Clarke found the going too tough on the Cote de Bohissau climb and dropped back, whilst Navardauskas and Van Hecke continued to forge on regardless. BMC and Katusha continued to set a painfully high pace, however, and the lead was falling fast. The remaining two escapees only had 1:18 on the peloton on penultimate ride up the Mur de Huy.

There was a flurry of attacks as the escapees came close, but Katusha looked in control as they sat on the front of the peloton. The Russian team were joined by Astana and AG2R-La Mondiale at the helm in the closing kilometres. One Katusha rider that wasn’t present at the pointy end was Joaquim Rodríguez. The Spaniard could be seen dangling off the back, still suffering from the rib injury he suffered at Amstel Gold.

As the escapees were caught with 12 kilometres to go, Lotto-Belisol began to drive the pace. The result was the peloton stringing out and gaps began to appear near the front. Jérémy Roy (FDJ.fr) saw his opportunity to go and the Frenchman tried to go on a long-range attack.

Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Merida) saw his chances of a good result go up in smoke when he went down with just under three kilometres to go. He fell right into the path of Rodríguez, who found himself on the floor again. The crash also disrupted the run of the likes of Gilbert, Martin and Nibali, as they entered the Mur de Huy.

AG2R-La Mondiale lead the peloton onto the Mur, with Belkin taking up the pace setting soon after. As the favourites assembled on the front of the group, Gilbert found himself only able to watch the action from a distance.

Valverde sat comfortably to one side of the group, allowing the others to show their cards. After his performance on the Mur de Huy, the Spaniard will surely be favourite for victory at Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday.

Full Results

# Rider Name (Country) Team Result
1 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 4:36:45  
2 Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin Sharp 0:00:03  
3 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team 0:00:04  
4 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team    
5 Tom Jelte Slagter (Ned) Garmin Sharp 0:00:06  
6 Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Lotto Belisol    
7 Michael Albasini (Swi) Orica Greenedge 0:00:08  
8 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Tinkoff-Saxo    
9 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Team Katusha 0:00:11  
10 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing Team 0:00:15  
11 Julian David Arredondo Moreno (Col) Trek Factory Racing 0:00:17  
12 WoutPoels (Ned) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team 0:00:19  
13 Paul Martens (Ger) Belkin Pro Cycling Team 0:00:23  
14 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:00:24  
15 Mathias Frank (Swi) IAM Cycling 0:00:26  
16 Simon Clarke (Aus) Orica Greenedge 0:00:28  
17 Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-Merida    
18 Rudy Molard (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits    
19 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team    
20 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto Belisol    
21 Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Giant-Shimano    
22 Gorka Izaguirre Insausti (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:32  
23 Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Giant-Shimano 0:00:37  
24 Sébastien Reichenbach (Swi) IAM Cycling 0:00:40  
25 Daan Olivier (Ned) Team Giant-Shimano 0:00:43  
26 Lars Petter Nordhaug (Nor) Belkin Pro Cycling Team 0:00:45  
27 Ivan Santaromita (Ita) Orica Greenedge 0:00:48  
28 Thomas Sprengers (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise 0:00:51  
29 Thomas Degand (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert 0:00:54  
30 Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team    
31 Cyril Gautier (Fra) Team Europcar    
32 Jean-Marc Marino (Fra) Cannondale    
33 Giampaolo Caruso (Ita) Team Katusha    
34 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) BMC Racing Team    
35 Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:58  
36 Carlos Alberto Betancur Gomez (Col) AG2R La Mondiale 0:01:00  
37 Chris Anker Sörensen (Den) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:01:03  
38 Alex Howes (USA) Garmin Sharp 0:01:04  
39 Mikael Cherel (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale    
40 Jerome Coppel (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits 0:01:12  
41 Jesus Herrada Lopez (Spa) Movistar Team 0:01:14  
42 Thomas Lövkvist (Swe) IAM Cycling 0:01:17  
43 Jan Bakelants (Bel) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team    
44 Benoît Vaugrenard (Fra) FDJ.fr 0:01:23  
45 Ben Hermans (Bel) BMC Racing Team 0:01:25  
46 Jérémy Roy (Fra) FDJ.fr    
47 Cameron Meyer (Aus) Orica Greenedge    
48 Alexandr Kolobnev (Rus) Team Katusha 0:01:30  
49 Eduard Vorganov (Rus) Team Katusha    
50 Bart De Clercq (Bel) Lotto Belisol 0:01:32  
51 Romain Sicard (Fra) Team Europcar 0:01:40  
52 John Gadret (Fra) Movistar Team    
53 Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa (Por) Lampre-Merida 0:01:44  
54 Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team 0:01:45  
55 Ben Gastauer (Lux) AG2R La Mondiale 0:01:51  
56 Frank Schleck (Lux) Trek Factory Racing    
57 Marco Marcato (Ita) Cannondale    
58 Nathan Haas (Aus) Garmin Sharp 0:01:54  
59 Andres Torres Agudelo (Col) Colombia 0:01:56  
60 Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto Belisol 0:01:57  
61 Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Belisol 0:02:02  
62 Pieter Serry (Bel) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team 0:02:08  
63 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Team Europcar 0:02:13  
64 Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Astana Pro Team 0:02:30  
65 Sébastien Minard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:03:01  
66 Matteo Montaguti (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale    
67 Amaël Moinard (Fra) BMC Racing Team 0:03:54  
68 Eliot Lietaer (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise 0:04:01  
69 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Merida 0:04:04  
70 Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Team Katusha 0:04:06  
71 Jon Izaguirre Insausti (Spa) Movistar Team 0:04:12  
72 Pieter Weening (Ned) Orica Greenedge 0:04:14  
73 Angel Vicioso Arcos (Spa) Team Katusha 0:04:17  
74 Merhawi Kudus Ghebremedhin (Eri) MTN - Qhubeka 0:05:02  
75 Guillaume Levarlet (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits 0:05:12  
76 Francis De Greef (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert    
77 Fabian Wegmann (Ger) Garmin Sharp    
78 Simon Yates (GBr) Orica Greenedge    
79 Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana Pro Team    
80 Victor Campenaerts (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise    
81 Natnael Berhane (Eri) Team Europcar    
82 Luis Angel Mate Mardones (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits    
83 Laurent Pichon (Fra) FDJ.fr    
84 Reto Hollenstein (Swi) IAM Cycling    
85 Ramunas Navardauskas (Ltu) Garmin Sharp    
86 Darwin Atapuma Hurtado (Col) BMC Racing Team    
87 Robinson Eduardo Chalapud Gomez (Col) Colombia    
88 Pieter Jacobs (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise    
89 Maxim Iglinskiy (Kaz) Astana Pro Team    
90 Stef Clement (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team    
91 Romain Zingle (Bel) Cofidis, Solutions Credits    
92 Edwin Alcibiades Avila Vanegas (Col) Colombia    
93 Serge Pauwels (Bel) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team 0:05:19  
94 Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:05:23  
95 Karsten Kroon (Ned) Tinkoff-Saxo    
96 Linus Gerdemann (Ger) MTN - Qhubeka    
97 Adam Yates (GBr) Orica Greenedge    
98 Alberto Bettiol (Ita) Cannondale    
99 Davide Villella (Ita) Cannondale    
100 Carlos Verona Quintanilla (Spa) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team    
101 Marcel Wyss (Swi) IAM Cycling 0:05:28  
102 Tanel Kangert (Est) Astana Pro Team 0:05:30  
103 Thierry Hupond (Fra) Team Giant-Shimano 0:05:32  
104 Thomas Damuseau (Fra) Team Giant-Shimano    
105 Rein Taaramae (Est) Cofidis, Solutions Credits    
106 Dennis Vanendert (Bel) Lotto Belisol    
107 Jaco Venter (RSA) MTN - Qhubeka    
108 Jesper Hansen (Den) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:05:35  
109 Rory Sutherland (Aus) Tinkoff-Saxo    
110 Alberto Losada Alguacil (Spa) Team Katusha    
111 Perrig Quemeneur (Fra) Team Europcar    
112 Matthew Busche (USA) Trek Factory Racing    
113 Rafael Valls Ferri (Spa) Lampre-Merida 0:05:42  
114 Kristijan Durasek (Cro) Lampre-Merida    
115 Matteo Bono (Ita) Lampre-Merida    
116 Jonathan Hivert (Fra) Belkin Pro Cycling Team 0:05:47  
117 Jérôme Baugnies (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert    
118 Kevin Seeldraeyers (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert 0:05:49  
119 Michal Golas (Pol) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team    
120 Daniele Ratto (Ita) Cannondale 0:05:51  
121 Benat Intxausti Elorriaga (Spa) Movistar Team 0:05:59  
122 Marcus Burghardt (Ger) BMC Racing Team 0:06:04  
123 Preben Van Hecke (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise 0:06:05  
124 Anthony Roux (Fra) FDJ.fr 0:06:06  
125 Alessandro De Marchi (Ita) Cannondale    
126 David Lopez Garcia (Spa) Team Sky 0:06:18  
127 Julien Simon (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits 0:07:52  
128 Edward Beltran (Col) Tinkoff-Saxo    
129 Alessandro Bazzana (Ita) UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team 0:09:21  
130 Gustav Larsson (Swe) IAM Cycling    
131 Guillaume Bonnafond (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale    
132 Jay Robert Thomson (RSA) MTN - Qhubeka    
133 Dennis Van Niekerk (RSA) MTN - Qhubeka    
134 Jonathan Fumeaux (Swi) IAM Cycling    
135 Danny Pate (USA) Team Sky    
136 Jussi Veikkanen (Fin) FDJ.fr    
137 Matej Mohoric (Slo) Cannondale    
138 Mattia Cattaneo (Ita) Lampre-Merida 0:09:27  
139 Lucas Euser (USA) UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team    
140 Michel Koch (Ger) Cannondale    
141 Pieter Vanspeybrouck (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise 0:09:35  
142 Davide Frattini (Ita) UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team 0:10:07  
143 Bob Jungels (Lux) Trek Factory Racing    
144 David Tanner (Aus) Belkin Pro Cycling Team    
145 Fabio Felline (Ita) Trek Factory Racing 0:10:22  
DNF Darwin Ferney Pantoja Tobar (Col) Colombia    
DNF Nico Sijmens (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert    
DNF Mirko Selvaggi (Ita) Wanty - Groupe Gobert    
DNF Marco Minnaard (Ned) Wanty - Groupe Gobert    
DNF Gregory Habeaux (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert    
DNF Gert Dockx (Bel) Lotto Belisol    
DNF Sander Armee (Bel) Lotto Belisol    
DNF Juan Pablo Valencia (Col) Colombia    
DNF Bryan Coquard (Fra) Team Europcar    
DNF Felipe Paredes (Col) Colombia    
DNF Jonathan Clarke (Aus) UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team    
DNF Fabian Diaz Cardenas (Col) Colombia    
DNF Jeffry Johan Romero Corredor (Col) Colombia    
DNF Christophe Kern (Fra) Team Europcar    
DNF Angelo Tulik (Fra) Team Europcar    
DNF Kenny De Ketele (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise    
DNF Martijn Maaskant (Ned) UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team    
DNF Marc de Maar (AHo) UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team    
DNF Christopher Jones (USA) UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team    
DNF Nathan Earle (Aus) Team Sky    
DNF Kiel Reijnen (USA) UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team    
DNF Daniel Navarro Garcia (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits    
DNF Ignatas Konovalovas (Ltu) MTN - Qhubeka    
DNF Youcef Reguigui (Alg) MTN - Qhubeka    
DNF Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana Pro Team    
DNF Arthur Vanoverberghe (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise    
DNF Andy Schleck (Lux) Trek Factory Racing    
DNF Dmitry Kozontchuk (Rus) Team Katusha    
DNF Peter Kennaugh (GBr) Team Sky    
DNF Johann Van Zyl (RSA) MTN - Qhubeka    
DNF Joshua Edmondson (GBr) Team Sky    
DNF Christophe Riblon (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale    
DNF Thomas Dekker (Ned) Garmin Sharp    
DNF Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin Sharp    
DNF Imanol Erviti Ollo (Spa) Movistar Team    
DNF José Ivan Gutierrez Palacios (Spa) Movistar Team    
DNF Jack Bobridge (Aus) Belkin Pro Cycling Team    
DNF Nelson Simoes (Por) Lampre-Merida    
DNF Ben Swift (GBr) Team Sky    
DNF Danilo Wyss (Swi) BMC Racing Team    
DNF Thomas Peterson (USA) Team Giant-Shimano    
DNF Boy Van Poppel (Ned) Trek Factory Racing    
DNF Calvin Watson (Aus) Trek Factory Racing    
DNF Michael Valgren Andersen (Den) Tinkoff-Saxo    
DNF Bruno Pires (Por) Tinkoff-Saxo    
DNF Pierrick Fedrigo (Fra) FDJ.fr    
DNF Arnold Jeannesson (Fra) FDJ.fr    
DNF Laurent Mangel (Fra) FDJ.fr