Orica-GreenEdge's Swiss rider consistent on the Mur de Huy
Having placed Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) on the podium at Amstel Gold Race for the second year running, the Australian WorldTour team continued its Ardennes campaign with Michael Albasini placing seventh at Flèche Wallonne.
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 and that's where I stayed to the finish."
"For me, this is easiest of the three Classics this week," said Albasini making the 199km race sound easy when describing how the race is won. Arrive in good position and then simply hurt all the way up the climb which includes one section that hits 26% gradient.
"All you have to do is get to bottom of Mur in good position and then suffer to the finish. The last 200 metres is where the big difference is made. I was with the best guys after the really steep part. From there you have to ride tempo and then kick it to the top. This type of finish really suits me. Seventh was the max I could do today. I am happy with that."
Sport Director Matt White has been pleased by the team's efforts in the two Ardennes races and believes another good race is on the cards this Sunday at the 100th Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
"We got what we were looking for, a top ten, so we are very satisfied," said White. "This race doesn't necessarily suit Alba's characteristics. He's a hard man. He's a powerful man. Seventh is a substantial result when competing against the best pure climbers in the world."
"Cam and Ivan have had nearly a month without competition, so seeing them in the front to help Alba was a pleasing sign,"
"It's a good sign for Sunday and a good sign for the Giro d'Italia."
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