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Gilbert takes audacious victory atop Mur de Huy

By:
Brecht Decaluwé

Rodríguez, Sánchez round out top three

Three days after a commanding win at the Amstel Gold Race, Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) proved he has no peers on testing uphill finishes with a resounding victory in La Flèche Wallonne.

The 28-year-old Belgian powered off the front of the peloton on the upper slopes of the Mur de Huy and had ample breathing room to celebrate his first victory in the Ardennes mid-week Classic.

Joaquím Rodríguez (Katusha) again finished runner-up to Gilbert, as he did in the Amstel Gold Race, three seconds off the pace while compatriot Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) rounded out the top three a further two seconds back.

Gilbert's victory was the first by a Belgian at Fléche Wallonne since Mario Aerts won in 2002, and the first by a Walloon since Claude Criquielion's triumph in 1989.

"I didn't think I could win a race like this one today," said Gilbert. "It's an extremely hard race that favours the climbers so to me it's a surprise.

"This victory gives me a lot of confidence for the future. I feared a finish like this one and now I can start to think about winning races I've never even thought about. For example, I've never started in Emilia (Giro dell'Emilia) because I thought it was way too hard for me. Now that I've won here a switch has flicked in my head."

Second-placed Joaquím Rodríguez thought the finishing ascent on the Mur de Huy would be more to his liking than the Amstel Gold Race's Cauberg climb, but Gilbert once again surprised the Spaniard.

"I would have liked to win," said Rodríguez. "This course suits me much more than the Amstel Gold Race's one, but it was almost impossible to win against Gilbert.

"Honestly, I didn't expect an attack from him so early [on the Mur de Huy], such an action was more expected from us, while theoretically he would have to wait for a final sprint in order to win this race. Gilbert's in such shape he did what he wanted to and he won easily.

Rodríguez is still hopeful he can pull off a win in the Ardennes with Liège-Bastogne-Liège on tap for Sunday.

"I'm optimistic about Sunday at Liège-Bastogne-Liège," said the Spaniard. "Gilbert is the favorite, that's for sure, but I proved I'm in good shape, too, and I'll try to win on Sunday."

Fränk Schleck talks about timing in the Mur de Huy sprint:

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Video: Stephen Farrand

Classic build-up towards hill zone

Soon after leaving the start town Charleroi a breakaway of four riders wasted no time in going on the attack. The quartet, comprised of Matti Helminen (Landbouwkrediet), Maxime Vantomme (Katusha), Preben Van Hecke (Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator) and Maciej Paterski (Liquigas-Cannondale), quickly opened up an ample gap on the peloton and just before their first passage of the Mur de Huy reached a maximum lead of 17 minutes.

Van Hecke was the first to cross the line on top of the Mur, although sadly enough for the Belgian there were still 131km to race. The Saxo Bank Sungard and Leopard Trek teams of race favourites Alberto Contador and the Schleck brothers started working from there and with 80km to go the gap was reduced to 10 minutes.

Team Sky provided some horsepower to the chasing work and 30km later, at the Côte d'Ahin, less than five minutes separated the leaders and the peloton.

An attack from Blel Kadri (AG2R La Mondiale) after the Ahin lifted the speed in the peloton even more but the French rider's attack was in vain.

Outsiders seize their chances after second ascent of Mur

With 30km remaining the Mur was climbed for a second time with the Omega Pharma-Lotto team pacing their leaders Philippe Gilbert and Jurgen Van Den Broek to the foot of the ascent.

Van Hecke once again led the three remaining escapees over the Mur - Helminen was dropped - but their lead had been reduced to one minute over the peloton.

After the penultimate ascent of the Mur four riders attacked from the peloton, trying to catch the favourites off guard: Enrico Gasparotto (Astana), Russian champion Alexandr Kolobnev (Katusha), Thomas Lövkvist (Sky) and Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Highroad).

Several more riders bridged to the chasing quartet, first Gorka Verdugo (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Vasili Kiryienka (Movistar), then Michal Golas (Vacansoleil-DCM).

With 20km to go the three remaining leaders were caught, creating a new group of 10 off the front; the Omega Pharma-Lotto led peloton with all the favourites followed at 20 seconds.

Countdown to the Mur finale

Soon after the merge was made at the front Thomas Lövkvist went out on the attack and was joined by Vasili Kiryienka. The duo pushed out a lead of 23 seconds while the other escapees were absorbed, but they, too, were brought back with 8km remaining under the impetus of Katusha and Omega Pharma-Lotto.

Immediately after Lövkvist and Kiryienka were caught a counter-attack escaped containing Jérôme Pineau (Quick Step) and Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil-DCM). The pair went under the flamme rouge for the final ascent of the Mur du Huy with a 14-second lead, but the duo were soon swept up by the peloton's heads of state vying for position in the Flèche Wallonne's endgame.

HTC-Highroad's Michael Albasini set a strong tempo early on the climb, closely followed by Andy Schleck (Leopard Trek), while Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) waited patiently in the wings for his moment to strike.

Christophe Le Mevel (Garmin-Cervélo) provided the perfect launch pad for Gilbert, as the Frenchman accelerated with approximately 300m remaining only to have Gilbert counter with his own decisive strike, leaving the other contenders floundering in his wake.

Full Results

# Rider Name (Country) Team Result
1 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto 4:54:57  
2 Joaquím Rodríguez Olivier (Spa) Katusha 0:00:03  
3 Samuel Sánchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:00:05  
4 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Pro Team Astana 0:00:06  
5 Igor Anton Hernandez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi    
6 Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto    
7 Fränk Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek    
8 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha Team 0:00:09  
9 Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) Team Garmin-Cervelo 0:00:12  
10 Paul Martens (Ger) Rabobank Cycling Team    
11 Alberto Contador (Spa) Saxo Bank Sungard 0:00:15  
12 Michael Albasini (Swi) HTC-Highroad 0:00:17  
13 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Team Garmin-Cervelo 0:00:18  
14 Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:00:20  
15 Bert De Waele (Bel) Landbouwkrediet    
16 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team    
17 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto 0:00:23  
18 Ben Hermans (Bel) Team RadioShack 0:00:26  
19 Rigoberto Uran (Col) Sky Procycling 0:00:28  
20 Beñat Intxausti Elorriaga (Spa) Movistar Team    
21 Rémy Di Gregorio (Fra) Pro Team Astana    
22 Simon Gerrans (Aus) Sky Procycling    
23 Philip Deignan (Irl) Team RadioShack    
24 Chris Sörensen (Den) Saxo Bank Sungard    
25 Kanstantsin Sivtsov (Blr) HTC-Highroad    
26 Alexandre Geniez (Fra) Skil - Shimano    
27 Jérôme Baugnies (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator    
28 Rob Ruijgh (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team    
29 Jonathan Hivert (Fra) Saur - Sojasun 0:00:33  
30 Julien El Fares (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne 0:00:34  
31 Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:36  
32 Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Movistar Team    
33 Wout Poels (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team    
34 Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team    
35 Thomas Degand (Bel) Veranda's Willems - Accent    
36 Eduard Vorganov (Rus) Katusha Team    
37 Arnold Jeannesson (Fra) FDJ    
38 Marc De Maar (AHo) Quickstep Cycling Team    
39 Cédric Pineau (Fra) FDJ 0:00:42  
40 Maxim Iglinskiy (Kaz) Pro Team Astana 0:00:43  
41 Tom Jelte Slagter (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:00:49  
42 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Team RadioShack    
43 Nicki Sörensen (Den) Saxo Bank Sungard    
44 Andy Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek    
45 Francesco Bellotti (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale    
46 Mickaël Buffaz (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne    
47 Pieter Serry (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator 0:00:53  
48 Johnny Hoogerland (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team 0:00:54  
49 Ivan Santaromita (Ita) BMC Racing Team    
50 Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale    
51 Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Quickstep Cycling Team    
52 Marco Pinotti (Ita) HTC-Highroad 0:01:00  
53 Fredrik Kessiakoff (Swe) Pro Team Astana    
54 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:01:04  
55 Kristof Vandewalle (Bel) Quickstep Cycling Team 0:01:09  
56 David Moncoutie (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne 0:01:10  
57 Geert Verheyen (Bel) Landbouwkrediet    
58 Pierrick Fedrigo (Fra) FDJ    
59 Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) Team RadioShack 0:01:14  
60 Marco Marcato (Ita) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team    
61 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre - ISD 0:01:19  
62 Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Pro Team Astana 0:01:20  
63 Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quickstep Cycling Team    
64 Fabian Wegmann (Ger) Leopard Trek    
65 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Team Garmin-Cervelo    
66 Vasili Kiryienka (Blr) Movistar Team 0:01:24  
67 Jesus Herrada Lopez (Spa) Movistar Team    
68 Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team    
69 Pim Ligthart (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team    
70 Dario Cataldo (Ita) Quickstep Cycling Team    
71 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Leopard Trek 0:01:30  
72 Blel Kadri (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale    
73 Johannes Fröhlinger (Ger) Skil - Shimano    
74 John Gadret (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:01:38  
75 Francesco Reda (Ita) Quickstep Cycling Team    
76 Christian Knees (Ger) Sky Procycling 0:01:40  
77 Matthieu Sprick (Fra) Skil - Shimano    
78 Bram Tankink (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:01:42  
79 Addy Engels (Ned) Quickstep Cycling Team    
80 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Katusha Team 0:01:44  
81 Ludovic Turpin (Fra) Saur - Sojasun 0:01:49  
82 Alexandr Kolobnev (Rus) Katusha Team 0:01:55  
83 Craig Lewis (USA) HTC-Highroad 0:02:06  
84 Thomas Lövkvist (Swe) Sky Procycling 0:02:13  
85 Jonathan Castroviejo Nicolas (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:02:18  
86 Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Lampre - ISD 0:02:20  
87 Sébastien Joly (Fra) Saur - Sojasun 0:02:23  
88 Jerome Coppel (Fra) Saur - Sojasun 0:02:28  
89 Tony Martin (Ger) HTC-Highroad    
90 Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:02:34  
91 Iván Velasco Murillo (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi    
92 Gorka Verdugo Marcotegui (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi    
93 Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Pro Team Astana 0:02:37  
94 Serguei Ivanov (Rus) Katusha Team 0:02:44  
95 Jean Marc Marino (Fra) Saur - Sojasun 0:02:58  
96 Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:04:12  
97 Dirk Bellemakers (Ned) Landbouwkrediet 0:04:17  
98 Pieter Jacobs (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator    
99 Daniele Pietropolli (Ita) Lampre - ISD 0:04:34  
100 Yuriy Trofimov (Rus) Katusha Team    
101 David Loosli (Swi) Lampre - ISD    
102 Kjell Carlström (Fin) Sky Procycling    
103 Bert Scheirlinckx (Bel) Landbouwkrediet 0:04:38  
104 Thierry Hupond (Fra) Skil - Shimano 0:04:45  
105 Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) BMC Racing Team 0:04:55  
106 Simone Ponzi (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale    
107 Amaël Moinard (Fra) BMC Racing Team    
108 Ion Izagirre Insausti (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:04:59  
109 Simon Geschke (Ger) Skil - Shimano    
110 Geert Steurs (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator 0:05:02  
111 Mathias Frank (Swi) BMC Racing Team 0:05:07  
112 Staf Scheirlinckx (Bel) Veranda's Willems - Accent 0:05:40  
113 Anthony Geslin (Fra) FDJ 0:06:16  
114 Gianni Meersman (Bel) FDJ    
115 Michal Golas (Pol) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team    
116 Matthew Busche (USA) Team RadioShack    
117 Maxime Monfort (Bel) Leopard Trek    
118 David Lelay (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale    
119 Paolo Longo Borghini (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale    
120 Yannick Talabardon (Fra) Saur - Sojasun    
121 Peter Stetina (USA) Team Garmin-Cervelo 0:06:22  
122 Maciej Paterski (Pol) Liquigas-Cannondale    
123 Pieter Weening (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:06:26  
124 Maxime Vantomme (Bel) Katusha Team 0:06:28  
125 Assan Bazayev (Kaz) Pro Team Astana    
126 Dmitriy Fofonov (Kaz) Pro Team Astana    
127 Tejay Van Garderen (USA) HTC-Highroad 0:07:01  
128 David Millar (GBr) Team Garmin-Cervelo    
129 Preben Van Hecke (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator 0:07:22  
130 Alan Perez Lezaun (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:09:58  
131 Francis De Greef (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto    
132 Jurgen Van De Walle (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto    
133 Martin Kohler (Swi) BMC Racing Team    
134 Markel Irizar Aranburu (Spa) Team RadioShack    
135 Sébastien Delfosse (Bel) Landbouwkrediet 0:10:03  
136 Matti Helminen (Fin) Landbouwkrediet    
137 Rafal Majka (Pol) Saxo Bank Sungard 0:10:05  
138 Gert Dockx (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto 0:10:12  
139 Jan Bakelants (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto    
DNF Roy Curvers (Ned) Skil - Shimano    
DNF Fabrice Jeandesboz (Fra) Saur - Sojasun    
DNF Benjamin Gourgue (Bel) Landbouwkrediet    
DNF Edwig Cammaerts (Bel) Landbouwkrediet    
DNF Wesley Sulzberger (Aus) FDJ    
DNF Mickael Delage (Fra) FDJ    
DNF Laurent Mangel (Fra) Saur - Sojasun    
DNF Albert Timmer (Ned) Skil - Shimano    
DNF Jurgen Van Goolen (Bel) Veranda's Willems - Accent    
DNF Thomas Bonnin (Fra) Skil - Shimano    
DNF Nico Sijmens (Bel) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne    
DNF Aleksejs Saramotins (Lat) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne    
DNF Luis Angel Mate Mardones (Spa) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne    
DNF Arnaud Gerard (Fra) FDJ    
DNF Gregory Habeaux (Bel) Veranda's Willems - Accent    
DNF Bram Schmitz (Ned) Veranda's Willems - Accent    
DNF Nick Nuyens (Bel) Saxo Bank Sungard    
DNF Anders Lund (Den) Leopard Trek    
DNF Arnoud Van Groen (Ned) Veranda's Willems - Accent    
DNF Jacobus Venter (RSA) Veranda's Willems - Accent    
DNF Sander Armee (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator    
DNF Laurens De Vreese (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator    
DNF Stijn Neirynck (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator    
DNF Jeffry Louder (USA) BMC Racing Team    
DNF Johann Tschopp (Swi) BMC Racing Team    
DNF Mads Christensen (Den) Saxo Bank Sungard    
DNF Jesus Hernandez Blazquez (Spa) Saxo Bank Sungard    
DNF Rémi Cusin (Fra) Cofidis, le Credit en Ligne    
DNF Sven Van Den Houte (Bel) Veranda's Willems - Accent    
DNF Rui Costa (Por) Movistar    
DNF Brian Vandborg (Den) Saxo Bank Sungard    
DNF Nelson Oliveira (Spa) Team RadioShack    
DNF Sergio Miguel Moreira Paulinho (Por) Team RadioShack    
DNF Caleb Fairly (USA) HTC-Highroad    
DNF Patrick Gretsch (Ger) HTC-Highroad    
DNF Carlos Barredo Llamazales (Spa) Rabobank Cycling Team    
DNF Michel Kreder (Ned) Team Garmin-Cervelo    
DNF Daniel Martin (Irl) Team Garmin-Cervelo    
DNF Stefan Denifl (Aut) Leopard-Trek    
DNF Jens Voigt (Ger) Leopard Trek    
DNF Manuele Mori (Ita) Lampre - ISD    
DNF Leonardo Bertagnolli (Ita) Lampre - ISD    
DNF Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre - ISD    
DNF Jussi Veikkanen (Fin) Omega Pharma-Lotto    
DNF Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team    
DNF Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale    
DNF Christophe Riblon (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale    
DNF Sébastien Minard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale    
DNF Alessandro Spezialetti (Ita) Lampre - ISD    
DNF Damiano Caruso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale    
DNF Rein Taaramae (Est) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne    
DNF Xabier Zandio Echaide (Spa) Sky Procycling    
DNF Stephen Cummings (GBr) Sky Procycling    
DNF Davide Appollonio (Ita) Sky Procycling    
DNF Julien Vermote (Bel) Quickstep Cycling Team    
DNF Ignatas Konovalovas (Ltu) Movistar Team    
DNF José Vicente Garcia Acosta (Spa) Movistar    
DNF Timothy Duggan (USA) Liquigas-Cannondale    
DNS Dominik Nerz (Ger) Liquigas-Cannondale    
DNS Xavier Tondo Volpini (Spa) Movistar