Annemiek Van Vleuten (Bigla Pro Cycling) could hardly have been happier with her second place at La Flèche Wallonne. The former Tour of Flanders winner was grinning ear to ear at the top of the Mur de Huy after taking her best ever finish at the World Cup race. Van Vleuten’s teammate Ashleigh Moolman Pasio made it a bumper day for the Swiss team finishing fourth.
"I never thought that I could be on the podium here at Flèche Wallonne because it’s not really the perfect circuit for me. This for me is a very good result, I never thought that I could do it," told Cyclingnews once she’d caught he breath.
Prior to Wednesday’s race Van Vleuten’s best finish at Flèche had been sixth place in 2011. Knowing that she lacked the explosivity of others in the peloton, Van Vleuten decided to go early and get the jump on the favourites. She launched an attack with 15 kilometres to go before the much talked about Côte de Cherave, taking Roxanne Knetemann (Rabo Liv) with her but it was clear from the offset that her companion was not going to assist in the effort with Pauline Ferrand-Prévot in the bunch behind.
"The plan was to attack before a climb to surprise so I attacked before the second to last climb," explained Van Vleuten. "I knew that it would be hard for me to attack on the climb, so I had to surprise. I had Roxanne Knetemann with me but she would not work because she had a leader in the group behind. It was really hard to do the work alone and then to have two climbs, knowing that you have to go on the Mur."
Behind them a strong group that included defending champion Ferrand-Prévot cut the once minute-strong gap to mere seconds. Knetemann’s teammate Anna Van Der Breggen saw her chance and dug deep to make the juncture. From that moment, Van Vleuten knew that the battle would likely be for second and not the victory.
"When Anna Van Der Breggen came back, I knew that it would be really difficult to beat her on the Mur. This is a course that really suits her and she was my favourite for today together with Pauline," said Van Vleuten. "I gave everything and I tried not to blow up myself and keep my own pace, and maybe she had bad legs you never know. I still believed in it, I tried to save myself for a bunch sprint and maybe catch Anna but it was impossible."
Van Der Breggen proved too strong for Van Vleuten, who rolled over the line some 12 seconds behind her former teammate. The result puts her second in the World Cup standings, 64 points behind Van Der Breggen.