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

1Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team4:39:24 
2Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Team Katusha  
3Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana  
4Igor Anton Hernandez (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi0:00:06 
5Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini0:00:09 
6Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto0:00:11 
7Christopher Horner (USA) Team Radioshack  
8Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne  
9Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank  
10Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin - Transitions  
11Michael Albasini (Swi) Team HTC - Columbia  
12Bert De Waele (Bel) Landbouwkrediet  
13Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo  
14Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) Française Des Jeux  
15Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank0:00:19 
16Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini  
17Xavier Florencio Cabre (Spa) Cervelo Test Team  
18Daniel Martin (Can) Garmin - Transitions  
19Sébastien Minard (Fra) Cofidis, le Credit en Ligne0:00:24 
20Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto  
21Jérémy Roy (Fra) Française Des Jeux  
22Leonardo Duque (Col) Cofidis, le Credit en Ligne  
23Thomas Lövkvist (Swe) Sky Professional Cycling Team0:00:27 
24Andreas Klöden (Ger) Team Radioshack  
25Haimar Zubeldia Aguirre (Spa) Team Radioshack  
26Dario Cataldo (Ita) Quick Step0:00:32 
27Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom  
28Marco Pinotti (Ita) Team HTC - Columbia  
29Lars Petter Nordhaug (Nor) Sky Professional Cycling Team  
30Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale  
31Eduard Vorganov (Rus) Team Katusha0:00:36 
32Peter Velits (Svk) Team HTC - Columbia  
33Bert Scheirlinckx (Bel) Landbouwkrediet  
34Maxime Monfort (Bel) Team HTC - Columbia0:00:39 
35Cyril Gautier (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom0:00:41 
36Sander Armee (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator0:00:42 
37Yury Trofimov (Rus) Bbox Bouygues Telecom  
38Andrea Masciarelli (Ita) Acqua & Sapone0:00:45 
39Rémi Cusin (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne  
40Leonardo Bertagnolli (Ita) Androni Giocattoli  
41Kristijan Koren (Slo) Liquigas-Doimo0:00:47 
42Fränk Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank  
43Johan Coenen (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator  
44Ben Hermans (Bel) Team Radioshack  
45John Gadret (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
46Christian Knees (Ger) Team Milram  
47Marcel Wyss (Swi) Cervelo Test Team0:00:53 
48Peter Stetina (USA) Garmin - Transitions0:00:56 
49Dirk Bellemakers (Ned) Landbouwkrediet  
50Geert Verheyen (Bel) Landbouwkrediet  
51Johannes Fröhlinger (Ger) Team Milram  
52Tony Martin (Ger) Team HTC - Columbia  
53Serguei Ivanov (Rus) Team Katusha  
54Juan Jose Oroz (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi  
55Christophe Moreau (Fra) Caisse d'Epargne  
56Simon Gerrans (Aus) Sky Professional Cycling Team  
57Xavier Tondo Volpini (Spa) Cervelo Test Team  
58Bram Tankink (Ned) Rabobank  
59Daniele Pietropolli (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini0:01:03 
60Francesco Failli (Ita) Acqua & Sapone  
61Sandy Casar (Fra) Française Des Jeux  
62Pierre Rolland (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom0:01:06 
63Inaki Isasi Flores (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi0:01:07 
64Kristof Vandewalle (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator  
65Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Omega Pharma-Lotto  
66Davy Commeyne (Bel) Landbouwkrediet  
67Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Professional Cycling Team  
68Maxim Iglinskiy (Kaz) Astana  
69Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quick Step  
70Sébastien Delfosse (Bel) Landbouwkrediet0:01:14 
71Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank  
72Romain Zingle (Bel) Cofidis, le Credit en Ligne0:01:19 
73Francis Mourey (Fra) Française Des Jeux0:01:24 
74Steven Cummings (GBr) Sky Professional Cycling Team  
75Dominique Nerz (Ger) Team Milram0:01:29 
76Alexandr Kolobnev (Rus) Team Katusha  
77Nicki Sörensen (Den) Team Saxo Bank  
78Christophe Riblon (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
79Carlos Barredo Llamazales (Spa) Quick Step  
80Alessandro Spezialetti (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini0:01:36 
81Maxime Bouet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
82Ivan Santaromita (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo  
83Manuele Mori (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini  
84Paul Martens (Ger) Rabobank  
85Michel Kreder (Ned) Garmin - Transitions  
86Steve Morabito (Swi) BMC Racing Team  
87Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne  
88Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi  
89Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank  
90David Loosli (Swi) Lampre-Farnese Vini0:01:44 
91Alan Perez Lezaun (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi0:02:05 
92Matteo Bono (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini0:02:23 
93Benoït Vaugrenard (Fra) Française Des Jeux0:02:30 
94Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas-Doimo0:02:39 
95David Lopez Garcia (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne0:03:02 
96Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) Omega Pharma-Lotto0:04:23 
97Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana0:05:23 
98Oscar Pereiro Sio (Spa) Astana  
99André Steensen (Den) Team Saxo Bank  
100Jens Voigt (Ger) Team Saxo Bank  
101Luca Mazzanti (Ita) Team Katusha  
102Volodymir Gustov (Ukr) Cervelo Test Team  
103Jurgen Van De Walle (Bel) Quick Step  
104Dimitri Champion (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
105Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Rabobank  
106Bart Dockx (Bel) Landbouwkrediet  
107Stéphane Auge (Fra) Cofidis, le Credit en Ligne0:05:28 
108Mathias Frank (Swi) BMC Racing Team  
109Dmitriy Fofonov (Kaz) Astana0:05:31 
110Sylvain Calzati (Fra) Sky Professional Cycling Team0:07:51 
111Vasil Kiryienka (Blr) Caisse d'Epargne  
112Mickaël Buffaz (Fra) Cofidis, le Credit en Ligne0:08:10 
113Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Quick Step  
114Anthony Roux (Fra) Française Des Jeux0:08:15 
115Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Rabobank0:08:21 
116Blel Kadri (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale0:10:55 
117Laurent Didier (Lux) Team Saxo Bank  
118Grischa Niermann (Ger) Rabobank0:11:00 
119Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Professional Cycling Team  
120Martin Velits (Svk) Team HTC - Columbia  
121Craig Lewis (USA) Team HTC - Columbia  
122Wesley Sulzberger (Aus) Française Des Jeux  
123Christian Meier (Can) Garmin - Transitions0:11:42 
124Serguei Klimov (Rus) Team Katusha  
125Laurent Lefevre (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom  
126Luis Pasamontes Rodriguez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne  
127Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC Racing Team  
128Hubert Dupont (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
129Imanol Erviti Ollo (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne  
130Rubens Bertogliati (Swi) Androni Giocattoli  
131Mikel Nieve Ituralde (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi  
132Paolo Ciavatta (Ita) Acqua e Sapone0:11:48 
133Nico Sijmens (Bel) Cofidis, le Credit en Ligne0:11:51 
134Preben Van Hecke (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator0:11:54 
135Pieter Vanspeybrouck (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator0:11:56 
136Francis De Greef (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto  
137Peter Wrolich (Aut) Team Milram  
138Davide Appollonio (Ita) Cervelo TestTeam  
139Matthieu Sprick (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom  
140Reinier Honig (Ned) Acqua & Sapone  
141Daniele Righi (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini0:12:00 
142Benjamin Gourgue (Bel) Landbouwkrediet0:12:12 
DNFFabrice Piemontesi (Ita) Androni Giocattoli  
DNFFabian Wegmann (Ger) Team Milram  
DNFGianni Meersman (Bel) Française Des Jeux  
DNFSteven Cozza (USA) Garmin - Transitions  
DNFTrent Lowe (Aus) Garmin - Transitions  
DNFDanny Pate (USA) Garmin - Transitions  
DNFGorazd Stangelj (Slo) Astana  
DNFThomas Bertolini (Ita) Androni Giocattoli  
DNFLuis Angel Mate Mardones (Spa) Androni Giocattoli  
DNFArtur Gajek (Ger) Team Milram  
DNFLuca Solari (Ita) Androni Giocattoli  
DNFAnthony Charteau (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom  
DNFFrancesco Bellotti (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo  
DNFMauro Finetto (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo  
DNFFrederik Willems (Bel) Liquigas-Doimo  
DNFTristan Valentin (Fra) Cofidis, le Credit en Ligne  
DNFAlessandro Donati (Ita) Acqua & Sapone  
DNFAlessandro Fantini (Ita) Acqua & Sapone  
DNFDamiano Margutti (Ita) Androni Giocattoli  
DNFKim Kirchen (Lux) Team Katusha  
DNFGiuseppe Palumbo (Ita) Acqua & Sapone  
DNFJonas Jorgensen (Den) Saxo Bank  
DNFAitor Galdos Alonso (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi  
DNFJackson Stewart (USA) BMC Racing Team  
DNFSimon Zahner (Swi) BMC Racing Team  
DNFMario Aerts (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto  
DNFChristophe Brandt (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto  
DNFJosé Vicente Garcia Acosta (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne  
DNFPaul Voss (Ger) Team Milram  
DNFBen Gastauer (Lux) AG2R La Mondiale  
DNFDominik Roels (Ger) Team Milram  
DNFStijn Vandenbergh (Bel) Team Katusha  
DNFJérôme Baugnies (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator  
DNFPieter Jacobs (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator  
DNFAddy Engels (Ned) Quick Step  
DNFFrancesco Reda (Ita) Quick Step  
DNFKevin Seeldrayers (Bel) Quick Step  
DNFYaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Team Radioshack  
DNFIvan Rovny (Rus) Team Radioshack  
DNFKjell Carlström (Fin) Sky Professional Cycling Team  


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