Evans conquers the Mur de Huy

Contador goes too early, fades to third behind Rodriguez

World Champion Cadel Evans has come second on the Mur de Huy in the past, but this year he timed his effort perfectly to overtake Alberto Contador (Astana) and hold of a surging Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) to take his first Flèche Wallonne victory.

The BMC rider waited while Contador launched his move behind Euskaltel-Euskadi rider Igor Anton, using his previous experiences on the brutal final climb to judge his effort precisely, saving just enough to surge to the win in the final hundred metres.

Contador faded to third behind Rodriguez, while Anton held on for fourth ahead of Damiano Cunego (Lampre).

"I've finished second, fifth, ninth - I've finished in every position but first in Flèche Wallonne, so to win is fantastic," said Evans. "It's the first time I've come here while preparing for the Giro d'Italia and so my periodization and training is in a bit of a different order.

"It seems I came here with good legs and it's certainly my best result. I was second a few years ago but I'm very, very happy to have won. It's a good morale booster for the team. We've been close to victory but this is a good way to do it. Better late than never."

Rodriguez was disappointed to miss out on victory after his team road aggressively all race long.  “Our team still rode a very good race, we have a strong team with good relationships between us. It’s a pity that I was not able to win. I think I was missing a little bit of confidence in myself after having stomach problem in the Amstel Gold Race. I thought I was weaker than the normal, but it was a mistake because I was good. Anyway many compliments to Cadel," said the Spaniard.

Contador was happy to show himself in the finale, but felt the final climb would have had to have been a bit longer for his qualities. "I am not a specialist in Classics, because the best quality I have is recovery, but despite that I'm happy with what I achieved today. After the circumstances of the journey to come here, it’s not bad, but it is also true that when you're so close it is not a relief to be third," said the Astana rider.

He was happy to gain some more experience in the race, and now is looking forward to Sunday's Liège - Bastogne - Liège. "I will try to recover and I would do well, but am aware that it is a different race. In Fleche we passed several times through the finish and it is not the same in Liege. I do not know how I will respond there."

The final climb

The race was decided – as it so often is – on the closing climb up the much-feared Mur de Huy, the third trip up the 1.3km long beast with gradients over 20%. As in past years, all breakaways were nullified before the climb approached and one rider hit at the base of the climb with an ill-fated attack.

This year it was RadioShack's Andreas Klöden who was the first to go, but his early move was doomed to failure as the seriously steep pitch brought him to a near stand-still. Anton then took over at the mid-way point, with Contador right behind him.

But the Mur de Huy wasn't quite finished with the feisty Spaniard, and as Contador sprinted past Anton, the climb bit down hard and even the best climber in the world could not withstand the punishing pitch.

As the final metres approached, Evans, who showed no signs of suffering the legendary "curse of the rainbow bands", showed he had learned a few things about patience in his previous lost battles with the Mur, and moved easily around the struggling Spaniard to take his first ever Classic win, with Rodriguez surging past the Tour de France winner at the line to claim second.

Experience certainly counted for Evans, who was competing in his seventh Fleche. While Contador's move was powerful, the Australian knew that the Spaniard had gone too soon.

"Contador was good and certainly had the legs. With about 500 metre I thought he had it, but it’s not the first time I've done this race and I used that to my advantage today."

Evans credited a pre-race reconnaissance at the insistence of BMC team director John Lelangue with his improved tactics.

"I realized I had always raced it with the wrong tactic. Today I had good position right from the start, but waited until the last 100 meters. That was the way to do it.."

The world of cycling has already seen one World Champion double up in the Classics season, with time trial title holder Fabian Cancellara doing the Tour of Flanders/Paris-Roubaix double. Does Evans fancy his chances for another win in Liège - Bastogne - Liège on Sunday?

"Sometimes when you win one of these, it means everyone is watching you for Liège, and that doesn't help. We'll see on Sunday," he concluded.

An early start, a break and a big crash

The day got off to an early start for at least two teams. Rabobank and Saxo Bank were awakened by doping controllers at 6:45 a.m., and the Danish team had to wait an hour until it was their turn for testing.

On a cool and overcast day in the French-speaking part of Belgium, 182 riders got underway from the town of Charleroi.

Davide Palumbo was the first serious aggressor at 44 km, and was soon joined by David Loosli (Lampre), Dimitri Champion (AG2R) Benjamin Gourgue (Landbouwkrediet) and Stephane Auge (Cofidis).

By the time the peloton crested the Mur de Huy the first time the quintet had amassed a lead of 8:25.

Caisse d'Epargne and Katusha moved to the head of the bunch to dig into the chase work, and the gap started dropping. With about 80km remaining the leaders still had more than five minutes advantage, but seven riders thought it was a good time to counter-attack over the Côte de Haut-Bois.

Laurent Didier and Jens Voigt (both Saxo Bank), Daniele Righi (Lampre-Farnese Vini), Thomas De Gendt (Topsport Vlaanderen), Jan Bakelants (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Christophe Moreau (Caisse d'Epargne), and Chris Froome (Sky) started to eat into the leaders' advantage quickly but the effort also inspired the peloton to up its game.

A big crash about 20km later took down a number of riders, including RadioShack's Yaroslav Popovych, said to have suffered a knee injury. The wreck split the field, which just inspired more teams to step up the pace, and the peloton soon caught the chase group.

Palumbo, who started the early attack, was the first to fall out of the group, and he was followed by Gourgue and Auge. Close behind them were Jurgen Van de Walle (Quick Step), Eduard Vorganov (Katusha), Biel Kadri (Ag2R-La Mondiale), while Bram Tankink of Rabobank was the last to succumb.

The lead group fell apart on the second climb of the Mur van Huy, with Tankink maintaining a few second's lead at the top ahead of the field.

Andy Schleck led the peloton up the Mur van Huy for the second time, passing those who had dropped out of the lead group. Not far behind him were brother Fränk, Alberto Contador (Astana), and Damiano Cunego (Lampre), who were on the lookout for counter-attacks given the new placement of the Mur de Huy's second trip just 30km from the finish.

Yet it wasn't on the climb that the action heated up, but on the descent when Fränk Schleck, Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) and Davide Loosli (Lampre) got away, soon to be joined by Tankink who had held his position at the front of the group.

The field was strung out single file as more riders gave chase, with Astana doing the bulk of the work for their man Contador.

Sensing danger, Garmin-Transition's Ryder Hesjedal rocketed out of the bunch in pursuit, and was joined by Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Omega Pharma Lotto), Lars Peter Nordhaug (Sky), Eduard Vorganov (Katusha) and Benoit Vaugrenard (Francaise des Jeux), but the five men couldn't get a rhythm going before the peloton was back in contact..

Katusha then sent Alexandr Kolobnev on the attack, with the Russian gaining a dozen seconds before he too was reeled in.

As the Côte d'Ereffe approached, the BMC team moved Evans into position behind the Astana train, which was keeping the lead group of Schleck, Kreuziger, Loosli and Tankink at a steady 20 seconds.

Katusha was on the attack again over the top of the climb, this time with Serguei Ivanov, winner of last year's Amstel Gold Race, putting in a serious bid.

Once again, it was Hesjedal who tried to jump across, this time joined by a Lampre rider, but the move only served to bring along the entire peloton to the Russian champion.

Kolobnev went on the counter-attack, in what was clearly a bid to soften the legs of the favourites for their man Joaquim Rodriguez. He pulled away Igor Anton (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and a Francaise des Jeux rider, but once again the Astana-led bunch nailed them back.

The attack served to close the gap to the four men out front, and with 5km to go, the field was all back together.

The Caisse d'Epargne team launched Luis Leon Sanchez and Alejandro Valverde off the front as the final climb neared, but with three kilometres to the line it was far too soon and coming into the base of the climb the bunch was once more intact.

Klöden launched his ill-fated move at the base, only to be nailed back by Contador's surge while the crafty and patient World Champion loomed in the shadows, biding his time until just the right moment to make his final attack. That came with 100m to go, and after six tries Evans finally bagged his first Classic at La Flèche Wallonne.


Full Results

1 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 4:39:24  
2 Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Team Katusha    
3 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana    
4 Igor Anton Hernandez (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi 0:00:06  
5 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini 0:00:09  
6 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto 0:00:11  
7 Christopher Horner (USA) Team Radioshack    
8 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne    
9 Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank    
10 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin - Transitions    
11 Michael Albasini (Swi) Team HTC - Columbia    
12 Bert De Waele (Bel) Landbouwkrediet    
13 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo    
14 Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) Française Des Jeux    
15 Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank 0:00:19  
16 Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini    
17 Xavier Florencio Cabre (Spa) Cervelo Test Team    
18 Daniel Martin (Can) Garmin - Transitions    
19 Sébastien Minard (Fra) Cofidis, le Credit en Ligne 0:00:24  
20 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto    
21 Jérémy Roy (Fra) Française Des Jeux    
22 Leonardo Duque (Col) Cofidis, le Credit en Ligne    
23 Thomas Lövkvist (Swe) Sky Professional Cycling Team 0:00:27  
24 Andreas Klöden (Ger) Team Radioshack    
25 Haimar Zubeldia Aguirre (Spa) Team Radioshack    
26 Dario Cataldo (Ita) Quick Step 0:00:32  
27 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom    
28 Marco Pinotti (Ita) Team HTC - Columbia    
29 Lars Petter Nordhaug (Nor) Sky Professional Cycling Team    
30 Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale    
31 Eduard Vorganov (Rus) Team Katusha 0:00:36  
32 Peter Velits (Svk) Team HTC - Columbia    
33 Bert Scheirlinckx (Bel) Landbouwkrediet    
34 Maxime Monfort (Bel) Team HTC - Columbia 0:00:39  
35 Cyril Gautier (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom 0:00:41  
36 Sander Armee (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator 0:00:42  
37 Yury Trofimov (Rus) Bbox Bouygues Telecom    
38 Andrea Masciarelli (Ita) Acqua & Sapone 0:00:45  
39 Rémi Cusin (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne    
40 Leonardo Bertagnolli (Ita) Androni Giocattoli    
41 Kristijan Koren (Slo) Liquigas-Doimo 0:00:47  
42 Fränk Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank    
43 Johan Coenen (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator    
44 Ben Hermans (Bel) Team Radioshack    
45 John Gadret (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale    
46 Christian Knees (Ger) Team Milram    
47 Marcel Wyss (Swi) Cervelo Test Team 0:00:53  
48 Peter Stetina (USA) Garmin - Transitions 0:00:56  
49 Dirk Bellemakers (Ned) Landbouwkrediet    
50 Geert Verheyen (Bel) Landbouwkrediet    
51 Johannes Fröhlinger (Ger) Team Milram    
52 Tony Martin (Ger) Team HTC - Columbia    
53 Serguei Ivanov (Rus) Team Katusha    
54 Juan Jose Oroz (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi    
55 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Caisse d'Epargne    
56 Simon Gerrans (Aus) Sky Professional Cycling Team    
57 Xavier Tondo Volpini (Spa) Cervelo Test Team    
58 Bram Tankink (Ned) Rabobank    
59 Daniele Pietropolli (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini 0:01:03  
60 Francesco Failli (Ita) Acqua & Sapone    
61 Sandy Casar (Fra) Française Des Jeux    
62 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom 0:01:06  
63 Inaki Isasi Flores (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi 0:01:07  
64 Kristof Vandewalle (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator    
65 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Omega Pharma-Lotto    
66 Davy Commeyne (Bel) Landbouwkrediet    
67 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Professional Cycling Team    
68 Maxim Iglinskiy (Kaz) Astana    
69 Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quick Step    
70 Sébastien Delfosse (Bel) Landbouwkrediet 0:01:14  
71 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank    
72 Romain Zingle (Bel) Cofidis, le Credit en Ligne 0:01:19  
73 Francis Mourey (Fra) Française Des Jeux 0:01:24  
74 Steven Cummings (GBr) Sky Professional Cycling Team    
75 Dominique Nerz (Ger) Team Milram 0:01:29  
76 Alexandr Kolobnev (Rus) Team Katusha    
77 Nicki Sörensen (Den) Team Saxo Bank    
78 Christophe Riblon (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale    
79 Carlos Barredo Llamazales (Spa) Quick Step    
80 Alessandro Spezialetti (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini 0:01:36  
81 Maxime Bouet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale    
82 Ivan Santaromita (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo    
83 Manuele Mori (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini    
84 Paul Martens (Ger) Rabobank    
85 Michel Kreder (Ned) Garmin - Transitions    
86 Steve Morabito (Swi) BMC Racing Team    
87 Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne    
88 Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi    
89 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank    
90 David Loosli (Swi) Lampre-Farnese Vini 0:01:44  
91 Alan Perez Lezaun (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi 0:02:05  
92 Matteo Bono (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini 0:02:23  
93 Benoït Vaugrenard (Fra) Française Des Jeux 0:02:30  
94 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas-Doimo 0:02:39  
95 David Lopez Garcia (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne 0:03:02  
96 Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) Omega Pharma-Lotto 0:04:23  
97 Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana 0:05:23  
98 Oscar Pereiro Sio (Spa) Astana    
99 André Steensen (Den) Team Saxo Bank    
100 Jens Voigt (Ger) Team Saxo Bank    
101 Luca Mazzanti (Ita) Team Katusha    
102 Volodymir Gustov (Ukr) Cervelo Test Team    
103 Jurgen Van De Walle (Bel) Quick Step    
104 Dimitri Champion (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale    
105 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Rabobank    
106 Bart Dockx (Bel) Landbouwkrediet    
107 Stéphane Auge (Fra) Cofidis, le Credit en Ligne 0:05:28  
108 Mathias Frank (Swi) BMC Racing Team    
109 Dmitriy Fofonov (Kaz) Astana 0:05:31  
110 Sylvain Calzati (Fra) Sky Professional Cycling Team 0:07:51  
111 Vasil Kiryienka (Blr) Caisse d'Epargne    
112 Mickaël Buffaz (Fra) Cofidis, le Credit en Ligne 0:08:10  
113 Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Quick Step    
114 Anthony Roux (Fra) Française Des Jeux 0:08:15  
115 Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Rabobank 0:08:21  
116 Blel Kadri (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:10:55  
117 Laurent Didier (Lux) Team Saxo Bank    
118 Grischa Niermann (Ger) Rabobank 0:11:00  
119 Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Professional Cycling Team    
120 Martin Velits (Svk) Team HTC - Columbia    
121 Craig Lewis (USA) Team HTC - Columbia    
122 Wesley Sulzberger (Aus) Française Des Jeux    
123 Christian Meier (Can) Garmin - Transitions 0:11:42  
124 Serguei Klimov (Rus) Team Katusha    
125 Laurent Lefevre (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom    
126 Luis Pasamontes Rodriguez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne    
127 Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC Racing Team    
128 Hubert Dupont (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale    
129 Imanol Erviti Ollo (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne    
130 Rubens Bertogliati (Swi) Androni Giocattoli    
131 Mikel Nieve Ituralde (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi    
132 Paolo Ciavatta (Ita) Acqua e Sapone 0:11:48  
133 Nico Sijmens (Bel) Cofidis, le Credit en Ligne 0:11:51  
134 Preben Van Hecke (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator 0:11:54  
135 Pieter Vanspeybrouck (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator 0:11:56  
136 Francis De Greef (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto    
137 Peter Wrolich (Aut) Team Milram    
138 Davide Appollonio (Ita) Cervelo TestTeam    
139 Matthieu Sprick (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom    
140 Reinier Honig (Ned) Acqua & Sapone    
141 Daniele Righi (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini 0:12:00  
142 Benjamin Gourgue (Bel) Landbouwkrediet 0:12:12  
DNF Fabrice Piemontesi (Ita) Androni Giocattoli    
DNF Fabian Wegmann (Ger) Team Milram    
DNF Gianni Meersman (Bel) Française Des Jeux    
DNF Steven Cozza (USA) Garmin - Transitions    
DNF Trent Lowe (Aus) Garmin - Transitions    
DNF Danny Pate (USA) Garmin - Transitions    
DNF Gorazd Stangelj (Slo) Astana    
DNF Thomas Bertolini (Ita) Androni Giocattoli    
DNF Luis Angel Mate Mardones (Spa) Androni Giocattoli    
DNF Artur Gajek (Ger) Team Milram    
DNF Luca Solari (Ita) Androni Giocattoli    
DNF Anthony Charteau (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom    
DNF Francesco Bellotti (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo    
DNF Mauro Finetto (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo    
DNF Frederik Willems (Bel) Liquigas-Doimo    
DNF Tristan Valentin (Fra) Cofidis, le Credit en Ligne    
DNF Alessandro Donati (Ita) Acqua & Sapone    
DNF Alessandro Fantini (Ita) Acqua & Sapone    
DNF Damiano Margutti (Ita) Androni Giocattoli    
DNF Kim Kirchen (Lux) Team Katusha    
DNF Giuseppe Palumbo (Ita) Acqua & Sapone    
DNF Jonas Jorgensen (Den) Saxo Bank    
DNF Aitor Galdos Alonso (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi    
DNF Jackson Stewart (USA) BMC Racing Team    
DNF Simon Zahner (Swi) BMC Racing Team    
DNF Mario Aerts (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto    
DNF Christophe Brandt (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto    
DNF José Vicente Garcia Acosta (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne    
DNF Paul Voss (Ger) Team Milram    
DNF Ben Gastauer (Lux) AG2R La Mondiale    
DNF Dominik Roels (Ger) Team Milram    
DNF Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) Team Katusha    
DNF Jérôme Baugnies (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator    
DNF Pieter Jacobs (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator    
DNF Addy Engels (Ned) Quick Step    
DNF Francesco Reda (Ita) Quick Step    
DNF Kevin Seeldrayers (Bel) Quick Step    
DNF Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Team Radioshack    
DNF Ivan Rovny (Rus) Team Radioshack    
DNF Kjell Carlström (Fin) Sky Professional Cycling Team    


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