Flèche Wallonne may traditionally boil down to a shoot-out between the puncheurs on the third and final climb of the Mur de Huy, but Jelle Vanendert (Lotto Belisol) has warned that the altered finale could see the race break up beforehand.
Last year, the peloton tackled just one climb – the Côte d’Ereffe – between the penultimate and final ascensions of the Mur de Huy, but this time around the Côte d’Amay and Côte de Villers-le-Bouillet come in rapid succession before a shorter run-in to the finish.
“It’s not just the Mur de Huy,” Vanendert said according to rtbf.be. “The redesigned finale could culminate in a different race. It’s not so much the Côte d’Amay that worries me as the Côte de Villers-le-Bouillet, which is new and very narrow. The approach to the Mur has been changed too, so you’ll need to pay attention and I will need to make use of the other guys on the team.”
Vanendert finished 6th on the Mur de Huy last season after working in the service of winner Philippe Gilbert. With Gilbert now at BMC, Vanendert is enjoying a leadership role in the Ardennes classics, and he acknowledged that he is among the favourites for victory following his second place finish at Amstel Gold Race on Sunday.
“I can’t deny that there is a lot of expectation, just as there will be for Liège-Bastogne-Liège,” he said. “I’m confident. I’m stronger than last year and what’s more, I have a different role. I don’t have to work for someone else but instead I can play my own card in the finale. All of these little things put together show that I have become a more important rider.”
While his erstwhile master Gilbert noted that the top 10 at Amstel Gold Race often repeats itself at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Vanendert said that Flèche Wallonne was very different to the Dutch race.
“I’ll have very different rivals here than on the Cauberg,” he said. “The Mur is steeper and so Joaquim Rodriguez, his teammate Daniel Moreno and Alejandro Valverde will certainly be dangerous."