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Rodriguez wins La Flèche Wallonne

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Cycling News

Spaniard rockets up the Huy

Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) stormed up the Mur de Huy to claim the victory at the 76th La Flèche Wallonne, overcoming wet and windy conditions to prevail in the middle race of the three Ardennes Classics.

Rodriguez, who had finished second in the previous two years, was part of a large chasing group that engulfed breakaway leaders Lars Petter Nordhaug (Team Sky) and Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda) on the final gruelling climb, and the Spaniard held off the challenge of Michael Albasini (GreenEdge) and defending champion Philippe Gilbert (BMC) for what was in the end a commanding victory.

Rodriguez was overcome with emotion after crossing the winning line, having erased the pain of 2010 and 2011 by finally getting his hands on the prize. He becomes the third Spaniard to win the race in the last ten years, following wins by Igor Astarloa (2003) and Alejandro Valverde (2006).

“It’s the best and most incredible victory of my whole career,” Rodriguez said. “Today is definitely one of the best days of my life. I’ve always been in love with these Classic races, and a victory in these competitions has always been one of my main goals: finally, after many good results, I managed to win.

"Obviously I have to thank my teammates: all of them did a great job from the beginning to the end. It’s true that Mur de Huy was a more suitable final part to my characteristics than Cauberg, but I have to admit it was really hard: it looked like an easy victory, but I did a strong effort in order to defeat my rivals.

"Now I can get ready for Liege-Bastogne-Liege with high motivations. I don’t think this victory will change anything, I’m not the only forerunner, there are many strong riders with chances to win. Everything changed from the Amstel Gold Race to Fleche Wallonne and everything can change on Sunday too. So we have to pay a lot of attention and work at our best if we want to take this legendary double”.

It never looked like the fanatical home fans were going to celebrating a local winner, though the supporters in the Ardennes will have been encouraged by Gilbert’s performance. He has failed to fully live up to expectations in the colours of his new team so far this season, but a sixth place in the Amstel Gold Race last Sunday followed by his podium finish here suggests that he is slowly edging towards his best form.

"I've come from a long way down, so I am satisfied to be back at this level," Gilbert said. "Being on the podium is nice, but most important is a victory. Today, Rodriguez was the deserving winner."

Wild weather in Wallonie

Wind and rain greeted the riders at the start of the 194km race in Charleroi, further dampening the spirits of the supporters who were disappointed by the withdrawals of 2010 winner Cadel Evans (BMC), Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Thomas Voeckler (Europcar). But with the race underway the Belgians’ indomitable passion for professional road cycling took over, the atmosphere building with each passing kilometre.

An early breakaway saw Daniele Ratto (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Mads Christiensen (Saxo Bank) take 12 seconds out of the field, before a crash split the chasing peloton into two groups. The first group of chasers, led by Katusha, caught up and it was left to Dirk Bellemakers (Landbouwkrediet) to make the next significant move, 55km into the race.

Bellemakers was soon joined by Anthony Roux (FDJ-Big Mat) and the two men worked tirelessly to build up a yawning gap of 2:25 from Sjef De Wilde (Accent.Jobs-Willems Verandas) as they passed over the Mur de Huy for the first time in worsening rain. The first main chasing pack, led by Andy Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan), were roughly a further minute behind as the riders hurtled towards the halfway point.

With De Wilde unable to maintain his solo chase, the gap between the two leaders and the initial pack stretched to just under eight minutes at its peak, before Katusha and Lotto-Belisol traded turns on the front end to begin reducing the deficit. Sander Armee’s brave bid to bridge the gap on his own eventually ended in a stalemate, with the Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator rider unable to get any nearer that 2:40 down as Bellemakers and Roux closed in on the final crucial 50km.

With 40km to go Andy Schleck launched an attack from the main chasing pack, as the riders approached the Mur for the second time. The deficit between the leaders and the chasing pack was halved on the Mur second time round, offering further evidence of that its final ascent in the finale would probably prove decisive. With 30km left the pack caught the breakaway and the final phase of the race was set to play itself out.

Just as Robinson Chalapud (Colombia-Coldportes) suffered a horrific-looking crash, landing face-down on the tarmac, Tom Slagter (Rabobank) and Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) broke clear, building up a 14-second advantage. The closer the riders got to the final climb of the Mur, the heavier the rain came down, and as Frank Schleck suffered a puncture at a critical stage, Hesjedal and Nordhaug made their move, attacking with 7.5km to go.

It took the chasing pack what seemed like an eternity to close them down, but eventually the final 1km climb up the Mur – a gradient of 20-25% in places – drained the strength from the legs of the breakaway duo as the walls caved in around them. Rodriguez pounced, taking 15 metres out of the chasing pack in a show of rare power. His decisive burst left him clear and gave him time to acknowledge the crowd as he crossed the line for a well deserved victory that has been a long time coming.

Full Results
1 Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha Team 4:45:41  
2 Michael Albasini (Swi) GreenEdge Cycling Team 0:00:04  
3 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing Team    
4 Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team    
5 Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) Astana Pro Team 0:00:07  
6 Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin - Barracuda 0:00:09  
7 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team    
8 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale    
9 Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre - ISD    
10 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team 0:00:11  
11 Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Astana Pro Team    
12 Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale    
13 Maxim Iglinskiy (Kaz) Astana Pro Team    
14 Sergio Luis Henao Montoya (Col) Sky Procycling    
15 Wout Poels (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team    
16 Paul Martens (Ger) Rabobank Cycling Team    
17 Igor Anton Hernandez (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi    
18 Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa (Por) Movistar Team 0:00:18  
19 Julien Simon (Fra) Saur - Sojasun    
20 Frank Schleck (Lux) RadioShack-Nissan    
21 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin - Barracuda    
22 Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:00:23  
23 Arthur Vichot (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat    
24 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha Team 0:00:26  
25 Alexandre Geniez (Fra) Argos - Shimano    
26 Fabian Wegmann (Ger) Garmin - Barracuda    
27 Bert De Waele (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Euphony 0:00:29  
28 Brice Feillu (Fra) Saur - Sojasun 0:00:31  
29 Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale    
30 Maxime Monfort (Bel) RadioShack-Nissan    
31 Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) Garmin - Barracuda    
32 Fabio Andres Duarte Arevalo (Col) Colombia - Coldeportes    
33 Nicki Sörensen (Den) Team Saxo Bank    
34 Daniele Pietropolli (Ita) Lampre - ISD    
35 Manuele Mori (Ita) Lampre - ISD    
36 Dries Devenyns (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quickstep    
37 Pieter Serry (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator 0:00:37  
38 Rob Ruijgh (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team    
39 Guillaume Levarlet (Fra) Saur - Sojasun    
40 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team    
41 Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quickstep 0:00:43  
42 Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack-Nissan    
43 Karsten Kroon (Ned) Team Saxo Bank 0:00:47  
44 Peio Bilbao (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi    
45 Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:51  
46 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team    
47 Tom Jelte Slagter (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team    
48 Bruno Pires (Por) Team Saxo Bank    
49 Jan Bakelants (Bel) RadioShack-Nissan    
50 Vasili Kiryienka (Blr) Movistar Team 0:00:58  
51 Romain Sicard (Fra) Euskaltel - Euskadi    
52 Pierrick Fedrigo (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat    
53 Lars Petter Nordhaug (Nor) Sky Procycling 0:01:02  
54 Mikael Cherel (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale    
55 Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Movistar Team 0:01:05  
56 Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:01:09  
57 Simon Geschke (Ger) Argos - Shimano    
58 Sergey Lagutin (Uzb) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team    
59 Salvatore Puccio (Ita) Sky Procycling 0:01:13  
60 Benoît Vaugrenard (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat 0:01:19  
61 Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) BMC Racing Team 0:01:23  
62 Kevin De Weert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quickstep 0:01:24  
63 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:01:27  
64 Maciej Paterski (Pol) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:01:30  
65 Jerome Coppel (Fra) Saur - Sojasun 0:01:34  
66 Anthony Delaplace (Fra) Saur - Sojasun    
67 Simone Stortoni (Ita) Lampre - ISD 0:01:48  
68 Chris Anker Sörensen (Den) Team Saxo Bank    
69 Laurens De Vreese (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator    
70 Simon Clarke (Aus) GreenEdge Cycling Team 0:01:55  
71 Thomas Dekker (Ned) Garmin - Barracuda 0:01:57  
72 Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC Racing Team    
73 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team    
74 Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team    
75 Francis De Greef (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team    
76 Vegard Stake Laengen (Nor) Team Type 1 - Sanofi    
77 Pieter Jacobs (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator    
78 Dominik Nerz (Ger) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:02:10  
79 Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi 0:02:13  
80 Gaetan Bille (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team 0:02:20  
81 Andy Schleck (Lux) RadioShack-Nissan 0:02:25  
82 Michal Golas (Pol) Omega Pharma-Quickstep    
83 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Katusha Team 0:02:28  
84 Yury Trofimov (Rus) Katusha Team 0:02:35  
85 Angel Vicioso Arcos (Spa) Katusha Team 0:02:37  
86 Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana Pro Team 0:02:39  
87 Pablo Lastras Garcia (Spa) Movistar Team    
88 Eduard Vorganov (Rus) Katusha Team    
89 Tomasz Marczynski (Pol) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team    
90 Frederik Veuchelen (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team 0:03:10  
91 Maxime Bouet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:03:26  
92 Dirk Bellemakers (Ned) Landbouwkrediet-Euphony 0:03:28  
93 Federico Canuti (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:03:55  
94 Moreno Moser (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale    
95 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin - Barracuda 0:04:07  
96 Michael Schär (Swi) BMC Racing Team    
97 Bram Tankink (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:04:32  
98 Thierry Hupond (Fra) Argos - Shimano    
99 Christian Meier (Can) GreenEdge Cycling Team 0:04:39  
100 Yukihiro Doi (Jpn) Argos - Shimano 0:05:04  
101 Johannes Fröhlinger (Ger) Argos - Shimano    
102 Jorge Azanza Soto (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi    
103 Jonathan Hivert (Fra) Saur - Sojasun 0:05:20  
104 Michel Kreder (Ned) Garmin - Barracuda 0:05:39  
105 Anthony Roux (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat 0:05:49  
106 Dmitriy Fofonov (Kaz) Astana Pro Team 0:07:06  
107 Sergio Miguel Moreira Paulinho (Por) Team Saxo Bank 0:07:50  
108 Martin Velits (Svk) Omega Pharma-Quickstep    
109 Stefan Denifl (Aut) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team 0:08:09  
110 Wilson Alexander Marentes Torres (Col) Colombia - Coldeportes 0:09:29  
111 Gregory Habeaux (Bel) Accent Jobs - Willems Veranda's 0:09:31  
112 Jeffry Johan Romero Corredor (Col) Colombia - Coldeportes 0:09:36  
113 Kurt Hovelynck (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Euphony    
114 Laurent Didier (Lux) RadioShack-Nissan 0:09:39  
115 Mads Christensen (Den) Team Saxo Bank 0:09:41  
116 Imanol Erviti Ollo (Spa) Movistar Team 0:09:46  
117 Fumiyuki Beppu (Jpn) GreenEdge Cycling Team 0:09:50  
118 Xabier Zandio Echaide (Spa) Sky Procycling    
119 Klaas Lodewyck (Bel) BMC Racing Team 0:09:57  
120 Martin Kohler (Swi) BMC Racing Team    
121 Georg Preidler (Aut) Team Type 1 - Sanofi    
122 David Tanner (Aus) Team Saxo Bank    
123 Tobias Ludvigsson (Swe) Argos - Shimano    
124 Sander Armee (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator    
125 Travis Meyer (Aus) GreenEdge Cycling Team    
126 Alessandro Spezialetti (Ita) Lampre - ISD    
127 Johan Esteban Chaves Rubio (Col) Colombia - Coldeportes    
128 Leonardo Bertagnolli (Ita) Lampre - ISD    
129 Stefano Agostini (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale    
130 Alex Howes (USA) Garmin - Barracuda    
131 Angel Madrazo Ruiz (Spa) Movistar Team    
132 Arnoud Van Groen (Ned) Accent Jobs - Willems Veranda's    
133 David Lelay (Fra) Saur - Sojasun    
134 Rubens Bertogliati (Swi) Team Type 1 - Sanofi    
135 Julien Vermote (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quickstep    
136 Matthieu Sprick (Fra) Argos - Shimano    
137 Reinier Honig (Ned) Landbouwkrediet-Euphony 0:10:04  
138 Luke Rowe (GBr) Sky Procycling 0:10:17  
139 Jelle Wallays (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator 0:10:24  
140 Jérémie Galland (Fra) Saur - Sojasun 0:11:02  
141 Ricardo Garcia Ambroa (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi 0:11:10  
142 Gilles Devillers (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Euphony 0:11:17  
143 Arthur Van Overberghe (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator 0:12:27  
DNF Xavier Florencio Cabre (Spa) Katusha Team    
DNF Alberto Losada Alguacil (Spa) Katusha Team    
DNF Gorka Izagirre Insausti (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi    
DNF Ruben Perez Moreno (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi    
DNF Marco Bandiera (Ita) Omega Pharma-Quickstep    
DNF Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma-Quickstep    
DNF Damiano Caruso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale    
DNF Daniele Ratto (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale    
DNF Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky Procycling    
DNF Davide Appollonio (Ita) Sky Procycling    
DNF Thomas Löfkvist (Swe) Sky Procycling    
DNF Daryl Impey (RSA) GreenEdge Cycling Team    
DNF Wesley Sulzberger (Aus) GreenEdge Cycling Team    
DNF Ben Hermans (Bel) RadioShack-Nissan    
DNF Jens Voigt (Ger) RadioShack-Nissan    
DNF Martijn Keizer (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team    
DNF Bert-Jan Lindeman (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team    
DNF Yuriy Krivtsov (Fra) Lampre - ISD    
DNF Oleksandr Kvachuk (Ukr) Lampre - ISD    
DNF Julien El Fares (Fra) Team Type 1 - Sanofi    
DNF Daniele Colli (Ita) Team Type 1 - Sanofi    
DNF Alexander Efimkin (Rus) Team Type 1 - Sanofi    
DNF Jure Kocjan (Slo) Team Type 1 - Sanofi    
DNF Javier Megias Leal (Spa) Team Type 1 - Sanofi    
DNF Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Astana Pro Team    
DNF Evgeny Petrov (Rus) Astana Pro Team    
DNF Simone Ponzi (Ita) Astana Pro Team    
DNF Ben Gastauer (Lux) AG2R La Mondiale    
DNF Sébastien Minard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale    
DNF Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale    
DNF Christophe Riblon (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale    
DNF Albert Timmer (Ned) Argos - Shimano    
DNF Tim Declercq (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator    
DNF Preben Van Hecke (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator    
DNF Brian Bulgac (Ned) Lotto Belisol Team    
DNF Bart De Clercq (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team    
DNF Jurgen Van De Walle (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team    
DNF Dennis Vanendert (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team    
DNF Sandy Casar (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat    
DNF Steve Chainel (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat    
DNF Kenny Elissonde (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat    
DNF Cédric Pineau (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat    
DNF Davy Commeyne (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Euphony    
DNF Sébastien Delfosse (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Euphony    
DNF Egidijus Juodvalkis (Ltu) Landbouwkrediet-Euphony    
DNF Staf Scheirlinckx (Bel) Accent Jobs - Willems Veranda's    
DNF Steven Caethoven (Bel) Accent Jobs - Willems Veranda's    
DNF Oleg Chuzhda (Ukr) Accent Jobs - Willems Veranda's    
DNF Sjef De Wilde (Bel) Accent Jobs - Willems Veranda's    
DNF Kevin Ista (Bel) Accent Jobs - Willems Veranda's    
DNF Jurgen Van Goolen (Bel) Accent Jobs - Willems Veranda's    
DNF Troels Ronning Vinther (Den) Team Saxo Bank    
DNF Robinson Eduardo Chalapud Gomez (Col) Colombia - Coldeportes    
DNF Victor Hugo Pena Grisales (Col) Colombia - Coldeportes    
DNF Juan Pablo Suarez Suarez (Col) Colombia - Coldeportes