31-year-old Dani Moreno is best known as Joaquim Rodriguez’s key lieutenant at Katusha, but on this occasion it was the domestique not the leader who stole the limelight on the Mur de Huy at Flèche Wallonne.
Winner of Gran Piemonte and the Sierra Nevada stage of the Vuelta a España in 2011, as well as taking fifth in the Vuelta last year, Moreno had no doubt that this was “the biggest victory of my career without a shadow of a doubt.”
Moreno played his move perfectly to take Spain’s fourth Flèche Wallonne win in a decade, first following Philippe Gilbert (BMC) – who once again attempted to blow the race apart on the final climb, just as he had in the Amstel Gold – before charging away along on the right and shooting past early attacker Carlos Betancur (Ag2r-La Mondiale).
“We knew that Joaquim’s condition [after his Amstel Gold injury] was slowly improving, but today we decided to see if I could have a chance myself,” Moreno said afterwards. “This is my favourite race, I’ve always dreamed of winning here and my condition’s been slowly improving over the last few weeks.”
As chance would have it, this week Moreno is roommates Rodriguez in “Lucky room 11” at Katusha director Valerio Piva’s hotel near Liege where the Russian team are staying for the Ardennes Classics. The same room has been used by numerous Classics winners from four-times Liège-Bastogne-Liège winner Moreno Argentin to Joaquim Rodriguez last year.
“I’m not usually superstitious but I’m getting that way, I think we’re going to end up buying the room,” Moreno told Cyclingnews with a laugh. “Purito said to me ‘look we’re in the same room as we were before, and let’s see if we are lucky again.' And that’s how it’s turned out. At this rate we’ll end up buying it for the rest of our careers!”
Tactically, Moreno said that there was only one wheel for him to follow, that of his former Omega Pharma-Lotto teammate Philippe Gilbert. “I knew that Gilbert was very strong, he’s always good and he attacked where he did two years ago. So I followed him, maybe he’s not on his best day, but it was certainly mine.”
Moreno was not surprised that two Colombians had ended up on the podium beside him. “[Sergio] Henao was one of the big favourites and we saw that [Carlos] Betancur was good in the Vuelta al País Vasco as well. The Colombians are definitely getting stronger all the time.”
Asked why he had left Omega Pharma after his single year there, Moreno said: “because I wanted to be in the same team as Purito. A Belgian’s not the same as a Spaniard, I don’t speak the same language, and it just made more sense for everything.” However, his biggest and best victory to date has come on Belgian soil.