Belgian team Davitamon-Lotto was playing a home match again on the roads of the Flèche Wallonne yesterday, but unfortunately things didn't pan out the way Marc Sergeant's squad had hoped. American rider Chris Horner finished 19th, and Leukemans and Aerts, both favourites, came in over a minute down on winner. Evans, who prepared for the Wallonne Classics and called them his first goal for the 2006 season, rolled in as 122nd at over nine minutes.
Wim Vanhuffel didn't have a great day at the office either, as he had to abandon the race prematurely with a bad stomach. "I slept bad and couldn't get any food in the morning," Vanhuffel explained in HNB. "I already felt during the first climb of the Mur of Huy that my legs were flat. I felt really bad, it wasn't an option for me to continue."
As Cyclingnews reported yesterday, the Flèche Wallonne was an important date for Vanhuffel, who aimed to finish in the top of the rankings and defined this race as a moment of truth. "This is a small disaster," a disappointed Vanhuffel said, "and it happens at a bad moment. Hopefully I can get through this illness quickly and start in the Tour of Romandie next week. I had the same thing happening to me before Paris-Nice and the Brabantse Pijl went up in smoke too. For now it's not my year."
Meanwhile, team manager Marc Sergeant kept his cool. "There's no reason to panic," he comforted his men and the Belgian press. "Evans was the only one really with an off-day. Sunday, when there's less wriggling, he (Evans) will come out better. That also goes for Mario Aerts. The Flèche Wallonne is a very specific race. Everyone gets scared even before the Mur de Huy has to be dealt with. I can't disagree with Leukemans, who attacked before the Mur already."
Sergeant didn't like the sight of Vanhuffel sitting in the back of the bunch but reacted mildly when he heard about his rider's health problems. "It surprised me when I saw him constantly hanging off the back," the team manager admitted. "I didn't understand. I do now. With almost 38 degrees Celsius body temperature and an upset stomach, you can't ride a Flèche Wallonne. Wim has got enough time to get ready for the Giro. I assume that he will be fully recovered by next Tuesday to start in the Tour of Romandie."