By Gregor Brown in Huy, Belgium
Despite strong support from Slipstream Chipotle - H30 team-mate David Millar, young Canadian Ryder Hesjedal had his hopes dashed in the finale of the 72nd Flèche Wallonne due to a flat tyre. The 27 year-old pressed on up the Mur de Huy through the throngs of cheering Belgian fans to come across the line a minute and a half following race winner Kim Kirchen.
"At three 'K' I was skipping around, but I thought it was the wetness," Hesjedal explained to Cyclingnews following the 199.5-kilometre race in Belgian's Walloon Region. He continued to explain that he was with one of the race favourites and front-runner, Australian Cadel Evans, who went on to finish second. "Then all of a sudden Dave [Millar] had me, I was right with Cadel [Evans] – no problem. I was in the front ten."
However, bad luck took its toll on the top-finishing rider from the US-based squad managed by former professional Jonathan Vaughters. Hesjedal faced the race-ending climb of Mur de Huy in good position before his race truly went pear-shaped. "Top ten coming into the bottom of the Mur de Huy, but I had a puncture right at the bottom of the hill.
"I can't believe that, right when it was 'go time' it just went 'waa waa,' and I was like 'what?'"
Great Britain's Millar continued to support his younger team-mate, offering his wheel. "He was getting me in good position today, thinking I could have a go. ... I yelled at Dave, he gave me his wheel and I rode up. It was kind of frustrating, but I was happy with that insane race. I was in the final until the very end."
It was the third participation in the Flèche Wallonne for Hesjedal, who now aims for this Sunday's Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
The Slipstream Chipotle - H30 team is mainly using the Ardennes Classics as form building for the Giro d'Italia, May 10 to June 1. Millar confirmed the post-Liège-Bastogne-Liège plans, "From here, the team goes to Girona for team time trial training."