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Alright. It's Wednesday 24th of April and La Fleche Wallonne starts in about 30 minutes time. We'll have complete live coverage throughout the race, and you can find today's start list, right here.
If you're familiar with the race, these days it sits neatly between Amstel Gold Race and Liege-Bastogne-Liege. It might only be 195km in length but it's still a hugely prestigious race to win. Just take a look at some of the previous winners, for example.
2018 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick-Step Floors
2017 Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar Team
2016 Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar Team
2015 Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar Team
2014 Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar Team
2013 Daniel Moreno (Esp) Team Katusha
2012 Joaquim Rodríguez (Esp) Team Katusha
2011 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma–Lotto
2010 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team
2009 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Diquigiovanni–Androni
2008 Kim Kirchen Lux) Team High Road
2007 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner
2006 Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Caisse d'Epargne–Illes Balears
2005 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas–Bianchi
2004 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner
2003 Igor Astarloa (Esp) Saeco Macchine per Caffè
What's the first thing that comes to mind when you see that incredible list of names?
Find out what to think, next!
The race very much comes down to the Mur, and it's near 26 per cent slopes. This is the only WorldTour one-day race that finishes uphill, apparently, but the organisers have tweaked the course again this time around. There are nine categorised climbs in the final 77km, and the Mur will be climbed three times in total. If you're not familiar with the Mur de Huy, here's 1999 Fleche Wallonne winner, Michele Bartoli, talking about the climb back in 2013.
“For me, Flèche boils down to the Mur and nothing more. It’s the toughest climb there is, normally a mountain-top finish is hard but that one seems interminable. But it’s also the most beautiful finish of all the classics, too.”
We have about 15 minutes until the official roll out but the neutralized zone will take around 15 minutes to cover. Julian Alaphilippe is the defending champion and he's just signed on and waved to the crowds that have gathered here in Ans. The Frenchman has had an incredible start to the year with wins in Strade Bianche and Milan-San Remo. He just missed out on a podium in Amstel Gold Race on Sunday but this finish is simply perfect for him. If he can arrive at the foot of the final climb in a good position - top 10 - then he should have the legs to finish things off and take the win.
On paper, Alaphilippe's biggest challenger should be world champion Alejandro Valverde. The Spaniard has won this race a record five times, both before and after his doping ban, but he's not quite been at his best this season. He's been consistent but with a return of just one victory, he's been below the standards he has set for himself in recent times. Last year he was outpaced by Alaphilippe on the Mur and it's going to take something very special from the veteran rider to take a sixth crown.
That's Romain Bardet, AG2R La Mondiale's big hope for the day. Like Valverde, the Frenchman has been consistent this spring but without finding his best form. Bardet has never been a prolific winner but he's actually not taken a victory in over a year. In theory today's final climb suits him but he's only finished in the top ten once, and that was last year with a dogged 9th place. He's had four other starts but has little to show for them.
For those of you with an interest in meteorology, it's 19 degrees out there with sunny skies and a tailwind, so we could be in for a fast edition of the race. Not like in 1999 when Bartoli had to plough through snow, sleet and rain. That day World Champion Oscar Camenzind was dropped from the lead group because he couldn't take off his rain jacket, the conditions were that bad. I think it was caught in his rear wheel and he had to stop. Bartoli later dropped Maarten Den Bakker on the steepest part of the Mur, and it was arguably Bartoli's most memorable win. A few days later he went to Liege looking for a third straight win but Fleche wrecked him and he had no answer when Frank Vandenbroucke attacked.
We've just left the neutralized zone by the way. I'll stop with the Bartoli talk now, but seriously watch the race highlights from 1999 and read our race report from the event too.
#FlecheWallonne Here we go...the 195km race is now underway. Let’s see what we can do up the Mur de Huy today.
Away from the race today, Stephen Farrand has the scoop on Mikel Landa joining Bahrain Merida next season. Done deal, and he'll replace Nibali who is going to leave for Trek Segafredo. The Landa deal was done some time ago and he's going to Bahrain on a two-year jolly where he'll link up with Rohan Dennis. There are big changes at Bahrain for next year. The team is likely to be called Bahrain McLaren and Rod Ellingworth is joining the senior management of the squad. You can read about Landa, right here.
It will be interesting to see how Landa goes in the Giro. He was down to ride but will Movistar allow him a leadership role now that he's leaving for a rival squad? It will certainly be entertaining seeing Landa go up again Nibali, the man he's meant to replace.
We're still coasting through the neutralized zone having left Ans a few minutes ago. The flag will drop shortly and we'll be racing.
About an hour of live coverage and we've not mentioned Peter Sagan once. That, unfortunately for him, sums up his season so far. Today's finish it probably too explosive for the Bora rider but he's here and he'll also race Liege next week. Here's the Bora team for today:
71 Peter Sagan (Svk)
72 Cesare Benedetti (Ita)
73 Davide Formolo (Ita)
74 Patrick Konrad (Aut)
75 Jay McCarthy (Aus)
76 Gregor Mühlberger (Aut)
77 Maximilian Schachmann (Ger)
In terms of form they have a few riders capable of top-ten rides. Schachmann might be an option for an attack before the final ascent, while Formolo and Konrad shouldn't be a million miles away.
And we're racing! Christian Prudhomme drops the flag and we immediately have a flurry of attacks.
We can see a few Mitchelton Scott jerseys at the front of the race from our vantage point in the Cyclingnews blimp. The Australian team arrive with a number of cards to play.
31 Adam Yates (GBr)
32 Michael Albasini (Swi)
33 Tsgabu Grmay (Eth)
34 Damien Howson (Aus)
35 Daryl Impey (RSA)
36 Nicholas Schultz (Aus)
37 Dion Smith (NZl)
Albasini has competed in the race every year since 2007 and other than Valverde he's probably has the best record in terms of consistency with seven top-10 results and two podium spots. He was a DNF last year but his skill in this race is his ability to position himself on the final climb and the time his kick for the line. So often we've seen riders hit the Mur and then just crumble because they don't save anything for the final few hundred meters. Experience tends to be key in a race like this.
- 186km remaining from 195km
Just under 10km of racing has been completed and we've seen a number of short lived attacks. Right now, though, we have three riders with a gap of 15 seconds on the peloton. That's the best we've seen so far. CCC and Rally are both present and accounted for.
- 182km remaining from 195km
So the riders on the move, are as follows:
Joseph Rosskopf (CCC Team), Robin Carpenter (Rally UHC Cycling) and Kenneth Van Rooy (Sport Vlaanderen-Balkoise). They have 15 seconds on a group that contains
Tom Wirgten (Wallonie Bruxelles), Koen Bouwman (Jumbo-Visma) and Sergio Rodriguez (Euskadi-Murias).
The peloton are at over a minute behind the first group.
If these two groups can merge then we'll have a tidy little break for the start of the race.
Joey Rosskopf takes a long pull on the front of the race an the two-time US national time trial champ settles in for a long day in the saddle. His group have extended their lead over the peloton to 3'45 and they've swelled to five now. Rodriguez is still the lone chase, and he's 35 seconds back.
- 175km remaining from 195km
So our five leaders, after 20km of racing, are
Koen Bouwman (Jumbo-Visma) has joined Joseph Rosskopf (CCC Team), Robin Carpenter (Rally UHC Cycling), Kenneth Van Rooy (Sport Vlaanderen-Balkoise) and Tom Wirgten (Wallonie Bruxelles).
The gap to the leaders is only going out, and it stands at 5'10 after 33km of racing. QuickStep and Movistar appear content to let this one go for now.
Bouwman, an SEG graduate, is probably the most high profile rider in the break. He won a stage of the Dauphine a couple of years ago but Robin Carpenter has a pretty impressive resume too. He's won stages in Utah and the US Pro Challenge and he knows Rosskopf because they both served time on the Hincapie Sportswear Development Team in 2014.
At the start this morning the race organisers caught up with Valverde. Here's what the ageing Movistar rider had to say:
"The age doesn’t matter, I’m still enthusiastic although I can’t deny the new generation is pushing hard. This year, instead of accumulating victories, I’m coming second. But I wouldn’t even be in contention for the win if I didn’t have a good condition."
- 162km remaining from 195km
The race has quickly settled down and we have a group of five riders clear with a lead of 5'45 over the peloton. We've not reached any of the main climbs but the majority of them are packed into the final 70-odd kilometres.
- 159km remaining from 195km
Back in the pack it's a case of who will blink first as the lead continues to grow. It's QuickStep who cave, and they post two men at the front of the peloton in a bid to stop the haemorrhaging of time. Their efforts are almost immediately rewarded with the gap down to 4'35. We've 159km to race.
QuickStep aren't just on the front to catch the break, they've sensed and opportunity and are splitting the field into echelons as a cross-wind is picked up.
Riders from rival teams are scrambling to pull themselves back into contention but QuickStep are continuing to pile on the pressure during the early stages of the race. The gap to the break is down to 4'10.
A truce has been called and the QuickStep brigade ease off and allow the rest of the peloton to come back. All of that has cut the lead for the break to 4'05 as we head towards the first two climbs of the day, the Cote de Tancremont and the Cote des Forges.
One team we've not mentioned so far are UAE Team Emirates. They arrive with perennial contender Daniel Martin, Rui Costa and Serio Henao. It's a strong line-up but you'd think Martin was the best equipped to deal with the terrain. So Pogacar for the win then.
UAE Team Emirates
111 Daniel Martin (Irl)
112 Rui Alberto Faria da Costa (Por)
113 Sergio Luis Henao Montoya (Col)
114 Manuele Mori (Ita)
115 Tadej Pogacar (Slo)
116 Rory Sutherland (Aus)
117 Diego Ulissi (Ita)
We have delightful retro gallery from Fleche Wallonne right here. I could be wrong but I think the below image is from 2004, the year in which the chap in blue won all three Ardennes races.... at least we got to roll out the headline 'Rebellin with a cause' so it wasn't a complete waste of a spring.
So the break has reached the first climb of the Cote de Tancremont after 46km of racing. The gap has plateaued at 4'10 with 147km to go.
At the start this morning CN's news editor Sadhbh O'Shea spoke to last year's winner, Julian Alaphilippe. Here's what he had to say with regards to last weekend's Amstel Gold Race.
"I was a little bit disappointed to have the victory so close but in the end I was also happy with my legs to do this type of racing with lots of attacking far from the finish line. Now, it’s behind me and I”m motivated for today."
Attacking from further out, could that be a tactic for you?
"It depends during the race but for sure I’m prepared to wait until the last climb. I hope it will be with good legs but we never know what can happen."
The leaders have crested the first climb of the day and are racing towards the second ascent of the Cote des Forges. Just to give you an idea how much the route has changed over the years, here's the profile from 1997 and the top ten from that day.
1. Laurent Jalabert (Fra, ONCE) 5.07.00
2. Luc Leblanc (Fra, Polti) 0.19
3. Alex Zulle (Sui, ONCE) 0.50
4. Michele Bartoli (Ita)
5. Marco Pantani (Ita)
6. Pascal Lino (Fra)
7. Andrea Noe (Ita)
8. Beat Zberg (Swi)
9. Benoit Salmon (Fra)
10. Richard Virenque (Fra)
Our first coverage of the race took place in 1996. Of course, the internet was in black and white back then but CN still had reports, results and live coverage. Here's a link to our report from '96.
I lied. I said no more Bartoli talk but he's given an interview in the Belgian press this morning:
1999 Fleche Wallonne winner Michele Bartoli was interviewed about his snow-blasted victory on the Mur de Huy in Sudpresse newspaper on Wednesday, saying one of his biggest feelings when he crossed the finish line was “relief, because I had been looking for the win for several years on the Mur.”
He and Maarten Den Bakker were the last survivors of an 80 kilometre breakaway and as he put it “I took the time to observe my rival under the flamme rouge [kilometre-to-go] banner and that’s where I opted to accelerate on the S-bend, the toughest part of the course.”
“Fleche Wallonne is a very clearcut course, because it’s always the strongest rider who wins. Milano-Sanremo is 100 kilometres longer but you can win on the Via Roma without being the toughest rider there.”
For today’s race, Bartoli tips Enrico Gasparotto (Dimension Data) and Diego Ulissi (UAE Emirates) as the best Italian options. But the former Classics star says, of course, that Julian “Alaphilippe [Deceuninck-Quick Step] can win all the Classics.” And at Fleche, you might say, Alaphilippe has got previous.
Onto the Cote des Forges now. It's a 1.3km climb with an average gradient of 7.8 per cent, so really just a warm-up for what's going to come later on in the race. Bad luck for Bouwman though who has been forced to stop due to a mechanical. He should be able to make it back to the leaders if he can receive assistance.
Kenneth Van Rooy is top at the summit of the climb and leads the break down the tricky descent with a lead of 3'50 over the peloton. It's slowly coming down but we've still 137km ahead of us.
Former World Champion Peter Sagan (BORA-hansgrohe) was a popular draw, as ever, at the start of Fleche Wallonne, with the Slovakian a late addition to the BORA line-up. However, he played down his chances of making a big move in the Ardennes mid-week Classic.
“ I’m stay here until Liege and today I will try to help. It’s not a good final for me, really hard,” Sagan argued. Asked why his Classics season had not been so good this year, Sagan answered, “I think I did a good period when I was always in the front. I didn’t win but that’s sport, sometimes good, sometimes bad.”
Sagan was non-committal about BORA’s tactics, but fans of Fleche Wallonne will recall that Max Schachmann, when a Quick Step rider, was one of the last riders to make a move, bridging across to Vincenzo Nibali and then being the last man standing on the Mur from the break before being swept up by the bunch.
“The goal is not Fleche Wallonne for Peter [Sagan] but to ride a good Liege,” BORA DS Jens Zemke told Cyclingnews at the start. “We’ve got a couple of good options.”
“Here was the first time that we really saw what Max could do on the climbs, and if you see how well he did on the Mur, then you could see that there is a real possibility of a top place. In the last kilometre he lost very little before the final attack, and got eighth which was a very respectable performance. So now he’s a leader for the team today.”
Race radio crackles through that Alex Howes has quit the race after an early crash. That's a shame for EF because Howes is normally really dependable in these races and he's got a lot of Ardennes experience. The team do have Woods and the in-form Simon Clarke still in the mix though.
On the subject of Woods, CN's Alasdair Fotheringham, caught up with the Canadian this morning:
2018 Liege-Bastogne-Liege runner-up Michael Woods (Education First) has his eyes on all the Ardennes Classics, but after a strong performance in the finale of Amstel Gold, the Canadian is optimistic about his chances in the two Walloon races. “I’m feeling good, I’m excited for today and excited for the final.”
“The much tougher final will reduce the group, and give guys more incentive to attack later in the race, prior to the climb. But the real factor could be the wind, and even some echelons forming as we head into the final circuit.”
As a winner on some side-of-the-house finishes like the Mont Oiz in the Vuelta, Woods has a good reputation on the hardest of climbs and he recognises that the Fleche Wallonne “is one of the steepest ones out there. But it’s short, and it’s a fun one, too, always one of the most difficult finishes on the calendar. I’m looking forward to it.”
Did you know that Alasdair's first Fleche Wallonne was in 1999. The winner of that year's race escapes me.
- 125km remaining from 195km
There's a brief lull in the race and the gap goes back out to 4'15 as the five leaders continue to share the workload. A number of riders have gone back to the teams cars after the first set of climbs but the peloton are rolling along nicely. 125km to go.
In the women's race the bunch are about to hit the Mur for the first time. There were reports earlier that there's a slight headwind on the climb today.
Team Sunweb’s Michael Matthews is considered a strong outsider for Fleche Wallonne, but the Australian’s rollercoaster season is making it hard for him to predict what he can do this Wednesday.
“Every race I’m going to, I’m trying, I thought I was closer [to top form] than I was at Amstel [where he was 16th and part of the late move which caught Alaphilippe and Fuglsang - Ed] but I’m really not where I need to be, unfortunately.”
“I’ll keep working and have a little break after Frankfurt, so for now, it’s all in.” Giving respect where it’s due, he praised Mathieu Van De Poel for his exceptional Amstel Gold Race, saying “it’s really hard to watch when a guy gets across from my bunch and wins, but it was a great win and good for cycling. It’s good to have a young gun like this showing what is possible.”
The five leaders continue to share their responsibilities at the front of the race and they're keeping the pack at arms length with the gap holding at 4'15.
Fresh off an impressive near-miss in Amstel Gold, Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) is a strong candidate for Fleche Wallonne, where he’s taken third, fifth and seventh in the past.
“I’m feeling good,” Kwiatkowski told Cyclingnews at the start of Fleche Wallonne, “It’s a pretty straightforward race, although maybe the wind will play a bit of a role and cut down on the number of riders at the finale. But it’s the same race as always, all about the Mur de Huy.”
“It might be very difficult for riders to get away sooner and stay away because the final’s so hard. But I’m going to wait for the finale for sure. It’s the same story as always.”
- 113km remaining from 195km
The gap goes out to five minutes.
Just to re-cap the five leaders are: Koen Bouwman (Team Jumbo-Visma), Joey Rosskopf (CCC Team), Kenneth Van Rooy (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise), Robin Carpenter (Rally UHC Cycling) and Tom Wirtgen (Wallonie Bruxelles).
Five-minute gap for the escapees with 110 kilometres to go in the #FlecheWallonne.
@Lotto_Soudal Wed, 24th Apr 2019 11:36:41
So almost halfway through the race but with the deciding climbs still further down the road. We'll hit the Cote d'Ereffe, then the Cote de Cherave, and the Mur for the first time. The peloton will complete that set three times before we'll have a winner of Fleche Wallonne.
We're now inside the final 100km of the race and almost onto the finishing circuit. There's a noticeable increase in pace from the main field but the gap is holding at 4'50.
The bunch are chipping away the break's lead but the gap remains at over four minutes. QuickStep and Valverde's Movistar are at the front of the peloton and looking active as they try and mount a chase.
In the women's race Anna van der Breggen has come out on top. You can find our report, results, photos and reactions, right here.
Puncture for Sergio Henao from UAE Team Emirates. He has plenty of time to come back though if he can have a quick wheel swap.
There's been a crash and three riders are down. Impey, Tuft and Bole. The fall took place near the rear of the main field and all three are back up and racing once more. The tension in the peloton, however, has certainly increased as we get closer and closer to the next climb.
- 83km remaining from 195km
And again the peloton chip away at the break's lead. With 83km to go the gap is down to 3'52.
The recent increase in pace has caused another split with 81km to go. On the right side are Sagan, Mas, a gaggle of Movistar riders, Lutsenko and a number of other riders.
The leading five are losing around 10 seconds per two kilometres at the moment and they're less than 10km from the next climb, the Cote d'Ereffe.
Masnada has gone and won stage 3 of the Tour of the Alps. Here's our report page.
A few riders are making their way back the peloton after that last acceleration and split. UAE and Movistar though are setting the pace and the gap to the break is at 3'41.
The leaders hit the climb which is 2.1km at 5 per cent. The bunch follow with Rory Sutherland setting the pace for UAE Team Emirates with 74km to go.
Credit to the five leaders, they're plugging away and holding their advantage at 3'42.
Spectators on the roads with their cameras, once again getting too close to the riders and almost cause a spill. Did they not learn from what happened to Giuseppe Guerini in 1999?
The five leaders are charging down a descent as they head towards the next climb. They're still doing a terrific job of holding the peloton at bay but they're taking all kinds of risks on the corners.
And now there's a counter from the main field with Cofidis, Katusha and Bora looking to create a gap. Movistar are aware, however, and they lead the chase. 67km to go and it's pretty much full gas now all the way to the finish.
We're now onto the Cote de Cherave for the first time this afternoon.
And the climb is too much for Van Rooy who has been dropped almost at the start. We're down to four leaders at the moment with 64km to go and the gap at 3'10.
The second group of Cesare Benedetti, Willem Jakobus Smit and Pierre-Luc Périchon are still clear of the peloton and have about 20 seconds on the peloton.
- 60km remaining from 195km
And we're about to hit the Mur for the firs time today with the bunch at 2'44 behind the four-man break.
It looks like Smit has been replaced in the counter attack by a rider from Bahrain Merida as the break hit the Mur and the two men in orange share the pace.
Tom Wirtgen is now starting to drift off the back of the break as Rosskopf moves out the saddle and sets the pace. All three riders spread over the road before the CCC rider takes over again.
The peloton are on the lower slopes, while the leaders cross the line for the first time.
Movistar, Astana and QuickStep flood the front of the peloton as they lurch out of the saddle and scramble up the climb. Few riders look stylish when the gradients are this high.
Yates is near the front as the counter attack crests the top of the climb, still about 20 seconds clear of the peloton.
- 57km remaining from 195km
So at the top of the Mur for the first time, this is the situation
Rosskopf (CCC Team), Bouwman and Carpenter
Van Rooy +1’20”
Benedetti, Perichon, Caruso +2’15”
We've not seen a lot of Caruso this year since his move to Bahrain but he's taken a page out of Nibali's book with an early attack in Fleche.
The leading trio have 1'46 as they start to climb again but in the bunch QuickStep are lighting things up as they push on. Katusha have gone again and it's time it's Nathan Haas.
Haas is finally finding some health and form after a tough start to the campaign. He's flanked by a rider from Wanty but the gap isn't huge and Haas might sit up in a moment.
- 50km remaining from 195km
50km to go and the leading trio have a lead of under two minutes as Haas sits up. He's going to go with a counter though, if one goes.
The Caruso group are extending their gap on the bunch to one minute but now Team Sky join QuickStep in the chase. Haas is fourth wheel, one place back from the rider who replaced him at Dimension Data, Slagter.
Meanwhile Dan Martin is right at the back of the main field.
The Caruso group plough on and they've picked up the two riders dropped from the morning's break but the three leaders have 2;11 as we see Rui Costa drop back to see the mechanic.
Haas has kicked clear again and this time Slagter and several others go with him with 45km to go. Lotto Soudal try and fire a rider up the road. It's not Wellens.
So it looks like Haas and Slagter have joined up with the Caruso group. This could be key as we see QuickStep and Team Sky lead the chase.
Seven riders in the Haas group, as we hit the Ereffe. The second group contains: Tom Jelte Slagter (Dimension Data) and Nathan Haas (Katusha Alpecin), Tomasz Marczynski (Lotto Soudal) and Michael Gogl (Trek-Segafredo) and the Caruso group from earlier.
Back in the bunch and Mitchelton bring forward Yates as Movistar respond by playing the same card with Valverde.
There's a long descent now before we hit the second ascent of the Cherave.
Race favourite Alaphilippe needs a bike change.
It looks like another group has gone clear and this time Sky and Astana are attacking as we see Alaphilippe take a draft from his team car.
The riders in the Haas group are:
P. Perichon 156 COF
C. Benedetti 72 BOH
T. Marczynski 24 LTS
G. Izagirre Insausti 124 AST
N. Haas 135 TKA
T. Slagter 95 TDD
D. Caruso 168 TBM
M. Gogl 56 TFS
Alaphillipe has 40 seconds to make up, and that's not easy at this point in the race. He's at least in the convoy.
- 38km remaining from 195km
The leading trio have just 1'10 of their original lead with 38km to go.
This is really powerful counter attacking group and Movistar realise the danger and start to mount a chase. Mitchelton and QuickStep will have to join forces even though the gap is only around 20 seconds.
AG2R La Mondiale join the party at the front of the bunch as we climb once more on the Cherave for the second time.
Two from Sky, one from Mitchelton and one from Katusha.
There's an Astana rider too. It's Ion Izagirre who is now out of the race. He's on his feet but there's no way he can continue. Alaphillipe made it back by the way after his puncture.
Impey was almost involved in that fall. That's a big scare for the South African national champion. The second group that includes Haas only have about five seconds now with 35km to go. Movistar have motored up this climb.
- 35km remaining from 195km
Sagan has been dropped. Or eased up. Either way his race is over for the day.
Instead of completing the chase Movistar has sent a rider up the road and it's Anacona but he's brought a string of riders wit him.
The Cherave is done and now we're racing to the foot of the Mur.
Terrible fall for Pozzovivio. He's down, so is Yates and Krueziger. It's the Bahrain Merida rider who needs the most attention. I think he landed on his face, he attempts to sit up but the medical staff ask him to lie down. His race is over.
Yates also looks out of contention.
Onto the Mur and the break have 29 seconds. It looks like the Haas group has been caught as Rosskopt drops his companions.
- 29km remaining from 195km
Lotto are leading the peloton and Mohoric is well placed. Carpenter has just been caught. 29km to go.
Woods, Alaphilippe and Kwiatkowski are near the back of the pack but they look comfortable. There's another split though and Mohoric is forced to chase as Lotto lead a break.
There's still a split with a group of around 15 riders clear of the rest of the field with 27km to go. Too many riders, surely, for this to work but Formolo is there, Slagter, Izagirre, Mas, Poels, Schachmann and De Marchi, Teuns and Wellens.
Wellens is at the back of the group and he has a teammate on the front drilling the pace as we start the third and final circuit. Movistar have a man in there too, so I'm not sure who is going to chase this one down at the moment.
Mollard, Luis Leon Sanchez are also in this move. Teuns takes a big turn but the only question is whether this group is too big as there are a number of passengers. I'm not sure Mas will work.
And it's Movistar and EF who are chasing as Bora have three riders in the lead group. This could be a tricky move to control.
- 24km remaining from 195km
Valverde sits in third wheel for now, just behind his two teammates as the gap sits at 15 seconds.
Matthews is in the Valverde group as Bora keep the pace high in the lead group. The gap continues to sit at around ten seconds.
There's an attack from AG2R. I think that's Cherel and Lutsenko goes with him but now it's all back together with 22km to go but Bora still lead.
Haas moves back to the front and is trying to position himself. Imagine if he had a bit more support at this point in the race but he's the only Katusha rider left in the main group.
Bardet, Valverde, Woods, Alaphilippe and Wellens. They're all still in the mix as we see Lotto Soudal fire another rider off the front. Where was this intent during the cobbled classics?
We're about to start the d'Ereffe with 19km to go in Fleche Wallonne. There are still about 40 riders in contention as Bora continue to set the pace.
Lotto Soudal go again as they look to set something up for Wellens.
That brings Movistar to the front as they let the Soudal rider dangle off the front with a gap of around 60m.
Tomasz Marczynski is holding his own out there but now Mohoric has gone clear as he hunts down the Lotto Soudal rider. 16km to go.
QuickStep now lead the chase of Tomasz Marczynski and Mohoric. The Lotto rider has 15 seconds with 14km to go.
QuickStep continue to set the pace and it's causing havoc on a short false flat section. Mohoric is about to be caught so we've just got Tomasz Marczynski out there with 12km to go.
Mohoric isn't giving up this descent and he's still clear of the QuickStep controlled peloton as we approach the Cherave.
And Mohoric is closing in on the Lotto rider. The gap is down to less than 10 seconds though with 10km to go.
So now we have Tomasz Marczynski and Mohoric clear with 17 seconds over the peloton with 8.9km to go and two more climbs.
Bora have come to the front again, along with Alaphilippe. I can't see Woods or D Martin at the moment.
And we're onto the Cherave, the gap is at 14 seconds.
The leaders try and keep as much speed as they round the corner to the foot of the climb. Bora attack from the bunch and QuickStep react and close the move down.
- 6km remaining from 195km
Mas is setting the pace and he catches the two leaders. It's all together with 6.6km to go.
Mas, Alaphilippe, Kwiatkowski and Wellens are near the front but a number of riders are slipping back.
Bora still have three riders in the top ten, as we see Valverde move up as well. Mas is setting a furious pace.
Matthews is struggling too, and Poels.
They crest the top and now they head to the Mur.
- 5km remaining from 195km
Just 5km to go and as expected the race is going to come down to the final climb of the day.
That unit of Bora riders look really dangerous as we race to the foot of the Mur.
This is a huge turn from Mas, who still leads.
Here come Bora.
Konrad, Schachmann and Formolo move up.
Mas has done his work for the day and slips back.
Dimension Data have Gasparotto in the mix.
Just under 30 riders left and here we go. Onto the Mur as Rui Costa leads.
Poels hits the front now.
He leads Kwiatkowski and Wellens.
1km to go.
Now the road kicks up.
Lotto lead the race now.
Kwiatkowski move to the front and lead the race.
Ulissi is there too and Wellens
Fuglsang comes forward and then attacks.
Alaphiliipe has to chase now.
250m to go.
Can Fuglsang hold on?
The Dane looks back and Alaphilippe finds another gear.
The rest have been distanced as Fuglsang looks to respond as the line comes into view. Can he come back?
Julian Alaphilippe wins Fleche Wallonne.
It looked like Fuglsang could come back on terms and he really pushed the Frenchman to the limit. Ulissi took third on the line but no win for Valverde.
Here is the top ten for the day:
1 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck-QuickStep 4:55:15
2 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team
3 Diego Ulissi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates 0:00:06
4 Bjorg Lambrecht (Bel) Lotto Soudal 0:00:08
5 Maximilian Schachmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
6 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo
7 Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe
8 Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb
9 Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Lotto Soudal 0:00:11
10 Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Dimension Data
It's a predictable race in that we know the race is going to come down to the final climb but it's still a thrilling spectacle.
When Fuglsang went clear on the steepest section it looked briefly as though he'd done enough. Then out of no where Alaphilippe comes across. Even then Fuglsang looked like he had enough but the Frenchman just had that extra turn of speed and in the end he had enough to hold Fuglsang at bay.
That's another really good ride from Lambrecht, especially when you consider that he was working for Wellens earlier in the race.
Let's hear from our winner:
Julian Alaphilippe: "This race is something special for me I always seem to finish on the podium whenever I come here. I've won a lot this year, many victories and I always like to do something and today at Fleche Wallonne I've done it. I'd like to thank everyone on the team, they've been phenomenal, the staff as well. This part of the season, this Classics part of the season, is something I love and I'm grateful to give it to the team.
"It was all about feelings today and going with your feelings. It was nervous out there but I was well supported out there, they supported me amazingly, Dries Devenyns and Enric Mas. I had to change my bike with a couple of laps to and they worked very hard to get me back in. I need to pay tribute to Jakob Fuglsang.
"He's a big man and of course he'll be very disappointed like I was after Amstel Gold. Today we finished first and second, up front together like we did in Strade Bianche."
Some big names outside the top ten, including Valverde:
11 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team
12 Benoit Cosnefroy (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
13 Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
14 Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain-Merida
15 Laurens De Plus (Bel) Team Jumbo-Visma
16 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Team Sky
17 Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal 0:00:15
18 Guillaume Martin (Fra) Wanty-Gobert 0:00:19
19 Rudy Molard (Fra) Groupama-FDJ 0:00:23
20 Sergio Henao (Col) UAE Team Emirates 0:00:25
Our complete coverage from today can be found here.