The start of Wednesday’s Flèche Wallonne was a star-studded affair with grand tour contenders mixing with the classics specialists. Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) were in big demand in Waremme, patiently signing autographs, posing for photos and talking to the media. Both are riding the mid-week race in preparation for the Tour de France.
Reigning Tour champion Vincenzo Nibali was also present, although his team was one man down with Lieuwe Westra failing to sign on after his Amstel Gold crash. Quintana is unlikely to be contesting victory but Movistar teammate Alejandro Valverde is the defending champion, and the Colombian may find himself drafted into team duties in the latter part of the race.
World champion Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-QuickStep), former winners Philippe Gilbert (BMC), Joaquim Rodríguez and Daniel Moreno (Katusha) were among the other big contenders lining up. Sunday’s third place finisher Michael Matthews is riding only his second Flèche Wallonne but like the Grand Tour contenders, his mission is recon only.
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