Gilbert takes audacious victory atop Mur de Huy

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) TeamResult
1Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto4:54:57 
2Joaquím Rodríguez Olivier (Spa) Katusha0:00:03 
3Samuel Sánchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi0:00:05 
4Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Pro Team Astana0:00:06 
5Igor Anton Hernandez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi  
6Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto  
7Fränk Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek  
8Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha Team0:00:09 
9Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) Team Garmin-Cervelo0:00:12 
10Paul Martens (Ger) Rabobank Cycling Team  
11Alberto Contador (Spa) Saxo Bank Sungard0:00:15 
12Michael Albasini (Swi) HTC-Highroad0:00:17 
13Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Team Garmin-Cervelo0:00:18 
14Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team0:00:20 
15Bert De Waele (Bel) Landbouwkrediet  
16Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team  
17Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto0:00:23 
18Ben Hermans (Bel) Team RadioShack0:00:26 
19Rigoberto Uran (Col) Sky Procycling0:00:28 
20Beñat Intxausti Elorriaga (Spa) Movistar Team  
21Rémy Di Gregorio (Fra) Pro Team Astana  
22Simon Gerrans (Aus) Sky Procycling  
23Philip Deignan (Irl) Team RadioShack  
24Chris Sörensen (Den) Saxo Bank Sungard  
25Kanstantsin Sivtsov (Blr) HTC-Highroad  
26Alexandre Geniez (Fra) Skil - Shimano  
27Jérôme Baugnies (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator  
28Rob Ruijgh (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team  
29Jonathan Hivert (Fra) Saur - Sojasun0:00:33 
30Julien El Fares (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne0:00:34 
31Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale0:00:36 
32Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Movistar Team  
33Wout Poels (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team  
34Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team  
35Thomas Degand (Bel) Veranda's Willems - Accent  
36Eduard Vorganov (Rus) Katusha Team  
37Arnold Jeannesson (Fra) FDJ  
38Marc De Maar (AHo) Quickstep Cycling Team  
39Cédric Pineau (Fra) FDJ0:00:42 
40Maxim Iglinskiy (Kaz) Pro Team Astana0:00:43 
41Tom Jelte Slagter (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team0:00:49 
42Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Team RadioShack  
43Nicki Sörensen (Den) Saxo Bank Sungard  
44Andy Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek  
45Francesco Bellotti (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale  
46Mickaël Buffaz (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne  
47Pieter Serry (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator0:00:53 
48Johnny Hoogerland (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team0:00:54 
49Ivan Santaromita (Ita) BMC Racing Team  
50Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale  
51Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Quickstep Cycling Team  
52Marco Pinotti (Ita) HTC-Highroad0:01:00 
53Fredrik Kessiakoff (Swe) Pro Team Astana  
54Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team0:01:04 
55Kristof Vandewalle (Bel) Quickstep Cycling Team0:01:09 
56David Moncoutie (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne0:01:10 
57Geert Verheyen (Bel) Landbouwkrediet  
58Pierrick Fedrigo (Fra) FDJ  
59Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) Team RadioShack0:01:14 
60Marco Marcato (Ita) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team  
61Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre - ISD0:01:19 
62Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Pro Team Astana0:01:20 
63Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quickstep Cycling Team  
64Fabian Wegmann (Ger) Leopard Trek  
65Christian Vande Velde (USA) Team Garmin-Cervelo  
66Vasili Kiryienka (Blr) Movistar Team0:01:24 
67Jesus Herrada Lopez (Spa) Movistar Team  
68Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team  
69Pim Ligthart (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team  
70Dario Cataldo (Ita) Quickstep Cycling Team  
71Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Leopard Trek0:01:30 
72Blel Kadri (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
73Johannes Fröhlinger (Ger) Skil - Shimano  
74John Gadret (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale0:01:38 
75Francesco Reda (Ita) Quickstep Cycling Team  
76Christian Knees (Ger) Sky Procycling0:01:40 
77Matthieu Sprick (Fra) Skil - Shimano  
78Bram Tankink (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team0:01:42 
79Addy Engels (Ned) Quickstep Cycling Team  
80Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Katusha Team0:01:44 
81Ludovic Turpin (Fra) Saur - Sojasun0:01:49 
82Alexandr Kolobnev (Rus) Katusha Team0:01:55 
83Craig Lewis (USA) HTC-Highroad0:02:06 
84Thomas Lövkvist (Swe) Sky Procycling0:02:13 
85Jonathan Castroviejo Nicolas (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi0:02:18 
86Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Lampre - ISD0:02:20 
87Sébastien Joly (Fra) Saur - Sojasun0:02:23 
88Jerome Coppel (Fra) Saur - Sojasun0:02:28 
89Tony Martin (Ger) HTC-Highroad  
90Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi0:02:34 
91Iván Velasco Murillo (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi  
92Gorka Verdugo Marcotegui (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi  
93Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Pro Team Astana0:02:37 
94Serguei Ivanov (Rus) Katusha Team0:02:44 
95Jean Marc Marino (Fra) Saur - Sojasun0:02:58 
96Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale0:04:12 
97Dirk Bellemakers (Ned) Landbouwkrediet0:04:17 
98Pieter Jacobs (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator  
99Daniele Pietropolli (Ita) Lampre - ISD0:04:34 
100Yuriy Trofimov (Rus) Katusha Team  
101David Loosli (Swi) Lampre - ISD  
102Kjell Carlström (Fin) Sky Procycling  
103Bert Scheirlinckx (Bel) Landbouwkrediet0:04:38 
104Thierry Hupond (Fra) Skil - Shimano0:04:45 
105Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) BMC Racing Team0:04:55 
106Simone Ponzi (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale  
107Amaël Moinard (Fra) BMC Racing Team  
108Ion Izagirre Insausti (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi0:04:59 
109Simon Geschke (Ger) Skil - Shimano  
110Geert Steurs (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator0:05:02 
111Mathias Frank (Swi) BMC Racing Team0:05:07 
112Staf Scheirlinckx (Bel) Veranda's Willems - Accent0:05:40 
113Anthony Geslin (Fra) FDJ0:06:16 
114Gianni Meersman (Bel) FDJ  
115Michal Golas (Pol) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team  
116Matthew Busche (USA) Team RadioShack  
117Maxime Monfort (Bel) Leopard Trek  
118David Lelay (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
119Paolo Longo Borghini (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale  
120Yannick Talabardon (Fra) Saur - Sojasun  
121Peter Stetina (USA) Team Garmin-Cervelo0:06:22 
122Maciej Paterski (Pol) Liquigas-Cannondale  
123Pieter Weening (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team0:06:26 
124Maxime Vantomme (Bel) Katusha Team0:06:28 
125Assan Bazayev (Kaz) Pro Team Astana  
126Dmitriy Fofonov (Kaz) Pro Team Astana  
127Tejay Van Garderen (USA) HTC-Highroad0:07:01 
128David Millar (GBr) Team Garmin-Cervelo  
129Preben Van Hecke (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator0:07:22 
130Alan Perez Lezaun (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi0:09:58 
131Francis De Greef (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto  
132Jurgen Van De Walle (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto  
133Martin Kohler (Swi) BMC Racing Team  
134Markel Irizar Aranburu (Spa) Team RadioShack  
135Sébastien Delfosse (Bel) Landbouwkrediet0:10:03 
136Matti Helminen (Fin) Landbouwkrediet  
137Rafal Majka (Pol) Saxo Bank Sungard0:10:05 
138Gert Dockx (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto0:10:12 
139Jan Bakelants (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto  
DNFRoy Curvers (Ned) Skil - Shimano  
DNFFabrice Jeandesboz (Fra) Saur - Sojasun  
DNFBenjamin Gourgue (Bel) Landbouwkrediet  
DNFEdwig Cammaerts (Bel) Landbouwkrediet  
DNFWesley Sulzberger (Aus) FDJ  
DNFMickael Delage (Fra) FDJ  
DNFLaurent Mangel (Fra) Saur - Sojasun  
DNFAlbert Timmer (Ned) Skil - Shimano  
DNFJurgen Van Goolen (Bel) Veranda's Willems - Accent  
DNFThomas Bonnin (Fra) Skil - Shimano  
DNFNico Sijmens (Bel) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne  
DNFAleksejs Saramotins (Lat) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne  
DNFLuis Angel Mate Mardones (Spa) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne  
DNFArnaud Gerard (Fra) FDJ  
DNFGregory Habeaux (Bel) Veranda's Willems - Accent  
DNFBram Schmitz (Ned) Veranda's Willems - Accent  
DNFNick Nuyens (Bel) Saxo Bank Sungard  
DNFAnders Lund (Den) Leopard Trek  
DNFArnoud Van Groen (Ned) Veranda's Willems - Accent  
DNFJacobus Venter (RSA) Veranda's Willems - Accent  
DNFSander Armee (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator  
DNFLaurens De Vreese (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator  
DNFStijn Neirynck (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator  
DNFJeffry Louder (USA) BMC Racing Team  
DNFJohann Tschopp (Swi) BMC Racing Team  
DNFMads Christensen (Den) Saxo Bank Sungard  
DNFJesus Hernandez Blazquez (Spa) Saxo Bank Sungard  
DNFRémi Cusin (Fra) Cofidis, le Credit en Ligne  
DNFSven Van Den Houte (Bel) Veranda's Willems - Accent  
DNFRui Costa (Por) Movistar  
DNFBrian Vandborg (Den) Saxo Bank Sungard  
DNFNelson Oliveira (Spa) Team RadioShack  
DNFSergio Miguel Moreira Paulinho (Por) Team RadioShack  
DNFCaleb Fairly (USA) HTC-Highroad  
DNFPatrick Gretsch (Ger) HTC-Highroad  
DNFCarlos Barredo Llamazales (Spa) Rabobank Cycling Team  
DNFMichel Kreder (Ned) Team Garmin-Cervelo  
DNFDaniel Martin (Irl) Team Garmin-Cervelo  
DNFStefan Denifl (Aut) Leopard-Trek  
DNFJens Voigt (Ger) Leopard Trek  
DNFManuele Mori (Ita) Lampre - ISD  
DNFLeonardo Bertagnolli (Ita) Lampre - ISD  
DNFDiego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre - ISD  
DNFJussi Veikkanen (Fin) Omega Pharma-Lotto  
DNFLieuwe Westra (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team  
DNFNicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale  
DNFChristophe Riblon (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
DNFSébastien Minard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
DNFAlessandro Spezialetti (Ita) Lampre - ISD  
DNFDamiano Caruso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale  
DNFRein Taaramae (Est) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne  
DNFXabier Zandio Echaide (Spa) Sky Procycling  
DNFStephen Cummings (GBr) Sky Procycling  
DNFDavide Appollonio (Ita) Sky Procycling  
DNFJulien Vermote (Bel) Quickstep Cycling Team  
DNFIgnatas Konovalovas (Ltu) Movistar Team  
DNFJosé Vicente Garcia Acosta (Spa) Movistar  
DNFTimothy Duggan (USA) Liquigas-Cannondale  
DNSDominik Nerz (Ger) Liquigas-Cannondale  
DNSXavier Tondo Volpini (Spa) Movistar  


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