Valverde wins the 2014 Flèche Wallonne

Spaniard victorious atop the Mur de Huy

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) showed us why he’s won more races than anyone else this season. Valverde timed his attack to perfection on the Mur de Huy to win his second Flèche Wallonne, ahead of Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) and Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-QuickStep).

Valverde, who won this race in 2006, sat on the front of the peloton unfazed by the little digs off the front happening around him. Kwiatkowski made the first move of the favourites, passing Bauke Mollema (Belkin) who had been marshalling things on the front.

Martin managed to stage a great recovery after being hampered by a crash at the foot of the Mur de Huy. The Garmin rider briefly looked like he might have the legs to make it to the line.

Valverde kept his cool until the climb began to crest, at around 200 metres to go, before launching his attack. Nobody was able to get close to Valverde as he powered away and the Spaniard built up a sizable gap by the time he reached the finish line. The Movistar rider has been on scintillating form this season and Flèche Wallonne is his eighth victory this season.

"The Ardennes have been resisting me in the last few years - always getting podium places, but no victories," Valverde said. "I was coming here a bit frustrated. I felt strong at the Amstel, but not as well as today. I had good legs from the beginning; when you feel well, you have to take all chances. It turned out perfectly well at the end, but sometimes, you're doing well but you run out of luck, which I really had today."

Some of the same protagonists from Amstel Gold Race were near the front at the top of the climb, but Amstel Gold Race winner Philippe Gilbert (BMC) was also caught out by the same crash as Martin. However, the Belgian rider found himself stuck in the middle of the peloton with nowhere to go, the huge crowds preventing him from making it back to the front. He had to settle for 10th place. Defending champion Daniel Moreno (Katusha) could only manage once place better than Gilbert.

"Those who contested the win today were not a surprise at all: all the top guys," Valverde said. "I didn't want to get myself boxed in - I had to get in very, very good position into the final climb. When you're feeling great, you have to start climbs up front not to suffer any misfortune. You can get boxed in, you have to brake, you take bigger efforts, and you don't win.

"I was looking for Dani (Moreno), Purito, Gilbert, Kwiatkowski, Daniel Martin... there were many candidates I was next to the barriers with 300m to go and couldn't get past, but as soon as I saw a gap, I followed it, I jumped away and managed to make a gap and raise my arms at the finish."

How it happened

Perhaps motivated by the much warmer, drier weather than had been forecast and the lack of any classified climbs for the first two fifths of the 199 kilometre route, the peloton roared out of the Flèche Wallonne 2014 start town of Bastogne at an extremely fast pace, averaging 49.4 kilometres in the first hour of racing.

That couldn’t stop three riders going clear very early on: Garmin-Sharp’s Ramunas Navardauskas - who in 2012 became Lithuania’s first ever Giro d’Italia leader after his team won the TTT there - United Healthcare’s Jonathan Clarke and Belgian veteran Preben Van Hecke (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise). Van Hecke had already established his early break credentials for this year’s Ardennes when he took part in a day-long four-man move in the Amstel Gold last Sunday that only fell apart in the last 15 kilometres.

As the trio of early movers headed north towards the Huy circuit, their lead stretched to as much as nine minutes on the rolling farmland before Katusha and BMC opted to begin the process of reeling them back in. At the Côte de Bellaire, the first classified climb of 11, their advantage was down to 6:40 and on the first ascent of the Mur de Huy, as BMC tapped out a steady rhythm behind, the three were now down to an advantage of 5:50.

With a little less than 50 kilometres to go, Clarke found the going too tough on the Cote de Bohissau climb and dropped back, whilst Navardauskas and Van Hecke continued to forge on regardless. BMC and Katusha continued to set a painfully high pace, however, and the lead was falling fast. The remaining two escapees only had 1:18 on the peloton on penultimate ride up the Mur de Huy.

There was a flurry of attacks as the escapees came close, but Katusha looked in control as they sat on the front of the peloton. The Russian team were joined by Astana and AG2R-La Mondiale at the helm in the closing kilometres. One Katusha rider that wasn’t present at the pointy end was Joaquim Rodríguez. The Spaniard could be seen dangling off the back, still suffering from the rib injury he suffered at Amstel Gold.

As the escapees were caught with 12 kilometres to go, Lotto-Belisol began to drive the pace. The result was the peloton stringing out and gaps began to appear near the front. Jérémy Roy (FDJ.fr) saw his opportunity to go and the Frenchman tried to go on a long-range attack.

Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Merida) saw his chances of a good result go up in smoke when he went down with just under three kilometres to go. He fell right into the path of Rodríguez, who found himself on the floor again. The crash also disrupted the run of the likes of Gilbert, Martin and Nibali, as they entered the Mur de Huy.

AG2R-La Mondiale lead the peloton onto the Mur, with Belkin taking up the pace setting soon after. As the favourites assembled on the front of the group, Gilbert found himself only able to watch the action from a distance.

Valverde sat comfortably to one side of the group, allowing the others to show their cards. After his performance on the Mur de Huy, the Spaniard will surely be favourite for victory at Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday.

Full Results

#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team4:36:45 
2Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin Sharp0:00:03 
3Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team0:00:04 
4Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team  
5Tom Jelte Slagter (Ned) Garmin Sharp0:00:06 
6Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Lotto Belisol  
7Michael Albasini (Swi) Orica Greenedge0:00:08 
8Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Tinkoff-Saxo  
9Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Team Katusha0:00:11 
10Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing Team0:00:15 
11Julian David Arredondo Moreno (Col) Trek Factory Racing0:00:17 
12WoutPoels (Ned) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team0:00:19 
13Paul Martens (Ger) Belkin Pro Cycling Team0:00:23 
14Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team0:00:24 
15Mathias Frank (Swi) IAM Cycling0:00:26 
16Simon Clarke (Aus) Orica Greenedge0:00:28 
17Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-Merida  
18Rudy Molard (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits  
19Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team  
20Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto Belisol  
21Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Giant-Shimano  
22Gorka Izaguirre Insausti (Spa) Movistar Team0:00:32 
23Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Giant-Shimano0:00:37 
24Sébastien Reichenbach (Swi) IAM Cycling0:00:40 
25Daan Olivier (Ned) Team Giant-Shimano0:00:43 
26Lars Petter Nordhaug (Nor) Belkin Pro Cycling Team0:00:45 
27Ivan Santaromita (Ita) Orica Greenedge0:00:48 
28Thomas Sprengers (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise0:00:51 
29Thomas Degand (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert0:00:54 
30Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team  
31Cyril Gautier (Fra) Team Europcar  
32Jean-Marc Marino (Fra) Cannondale  
33Giampaolo Caruso (Ita) Team Katusha  
34Samuel Sanchez (Spa) BMC Racing Team  
35Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale0:00:58 
36Carlos Alberto Betancur Gomez (Col) AG2R La Mondiale0:01:00 
37Chris Anker Sörensen (Den) Tinkoff-Saxo0:01:03 
38Alex Howes (USA) Garmin Sharp0:01:04 
39Mikael Cherel (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
40Jerome Coppel (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits0:01:12 
41Jesus Herrada Lopez (Spa) Movistar Team0:01:14 
42Thomas Lövkvist (Swe) IAM Cycling0:01:17 
43Jan Bakelants (Bel) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team  
44Benoît Vaugrenard (Fra) FDJ.fr0:01:23 
45Ben Hermans (Bel) BMC Racing Team0:01:25 
46Jérémy Roy (Fra) FDJ.fr  
47Cameron Meyer (Aus) Orica Greenedge  
48Alexandr Kolobnev (Rus) Team Katusha0:01:30 
49Eduard Vorganov (Rus) Team Katusha  
50Bart De Clercq (Bel) Lotto Belisol0:01:32 
51Romain Sicard (Fra) Team Europcar0:01:40 
52John Gadret (Fra) Movistar Team  
53Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa (Por) Lampre-Merida0:01:44 
54Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team0:01:45 
55Ben Gastauer (Lux) AG2R La Mondiale0:01:51 
56Frank Schleck (Lux) Trek Factory Racing  
57Marco Marcato (Ita) Cannondale  
58Nathan Haas (Aus) Garmin Sharp0:01:54 
59Andres Torres Agudelo (Col) Colombia0:01:56 
60Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto Belisol0:01:57 
61Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Belisol0:02:02 
62Pieter Serry (Bel) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team0:02:08 
63Pierre Rolland (Fra) Team Europcar0:02:13 
64Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Astana Pro Team0:02:30 
65Sébastien Minard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale0:03:01 
66Matteo Montaguti (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale  
67Amaël Moinard (Fra) BMC Racing Team0:03:54 
68Eliot Lietaer (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise0:04:01 
69Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Merida0:04:04 
70Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Team Katusha0:04:06 
71Jon Izaguirre Insausti (Spa) Movistar Team0:04:12 
72Pieter Weening (Ned) Orica Greenedge0:04:14 
73Angel Vicioso Arcos (Spa) Team Katusha0:04:17 
74Merhawi Kudus Ghebremedhin (Eri) MTN - Qhubeka0:05:02 
75Guillaume Levarlet (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits0:05:12 
76Francis De Greef (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert  
77Fabian Wegmann (Ger) Garmin Sharp  
78Simon Yates (GBr) Orica Greenedge  
79Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana Pro Team  
80Victor Campenaerts (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise  
81Natnael Berhane (Eri) Team Europcar  
82Luis Angel Mate Mardones (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits  
83Laurent Pichon (Fra) FDJ.fr  
84Reto Hollenstein (Swi) IAM Cycling  
85Ramunas Navardauskas (Ltu) Garmin Sharp  
86Darwin Atapuma Hurtado (Col) BMC Racing Team  
87Robinson Eduardo Chalapud Gomez (Col) Colombia  
88Pieter Jacobs (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise  
89Maxim Iglinskiy (Kaz) Astana Pro Team  
90Stef Clement (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team  
91Romain Zingle (Bel) Cofidis, Solutions Credits  
92Edwin Alcibiades Avila Vanegas (Col) Colombia  
93Serge Pauwels (Bel) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team0:05:19 
94Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Astana Pro Team0:05:23 
95Karsten Kroon (Ned) Tinkoff-Saxo  
96Linus Gerdemann (Ger) MTN - Qhubeka  
97Adam Yates (GBr) Orica Greenedge  
98Alberto Bettiol (Ita) Cannondale  
99Davide Villella (Ita) Cannondale  
100Carlos Verona Quintanilla (Spa) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team  
101Marcel Wyss (Swi) IAM Cycling0:05:28 
102Tanel Kangert (Est) Astana Pro Team0:05:30 
103Thierry Hupond (Fra) Team Giant-Shimano0:05:32 
104Thomas Damuseau (Fra) Team Giant-Shimano  
105Rein Taaramae (Est) Cofidis, Solutions Credits  
106Dennis Vanendert (Bel) Lotto Belisol  
107Jaco Venter (RSA) MTN - Qhubeka  
108Jesper Hansen (Den) Tinkoff-Saxo0:05:35 
109Rory Sutherland (Aus) Tinkoff-Saxo  
110Alberto Losada Alguacil (Spa) Team Katusha  
111Perrig Quemeneur (Fra) Team Europcar  
112Matthew Busche (USA) Trek Factory Racing  
113Rafael Valls Ferri (Spa) Lampre-Merida0:05:42 
114Kristijan Durasek (Cro) Lampre-Merida  
115Matteo Bono (Ita) Lampre-Merida  
116Jonathan Hivert (Fra) Belkin Pro Cycling Team0:05:47 
117Jérôme Baugnies (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert  
118Kevin Seeldraeyers (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert0:05:49 
119Michal Golas (Pol) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team  
120Daniele Ratto (Ita) Cannondale0:05:51 
121Benat Intxausti Elorriaga (Spa) Movistar Team0:05:59 
122Marcus Burghardt (Ger) BMC Racing Team0:06:04 
123Preben Van Hecke (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise0:06:05 
124Anthony Roux (Fra) FDJ.fr0:06:06 
125Alessandro De Marchi (Ita) Cannondale  
126David Lopez Garcia (Spa) Team Sky0:06:18 
127Julien Simon (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits0:07:52 
128Edward Beltran (Col) Tinkoff-Saxo  
129Alessandro Bazzana (Ita) UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team0:09:21 
130Gustav Larsson (Swe) IAM Cycling  
131Guillaume Bonnafond (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
132Jay Robert Thomson (RSA) MTN - Qhubeka  
133Dennis Van Niekerk (RSA) MTN - Qhubeka  
134Jonathan Fumeaux (Swi) IAM Cycling  
135Danny Pate (USA) Team Sky  
136Jussi Veikkanen (Fin) FDJ.fr  
137Matej Mohoric (Slo) Cannondale  
138Mattia Cattaneo (Ita) Lampre-Merida0:09:27 
139Lucas Euser (USA) UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team  
140Michel Koch (Ger) Cannondale  
141Pieter Vanspeybrouck (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise0:09:35 
142Davide Frattini (Ita) UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team0:10:07 
143Bob Jungels (Lux) Trek Factory Racing  
144David Tanner (Aus) Belkin Pro Cycling Team  
145Fabio Felline (Ita) Trek Factory Racing0:10:22 
DNFDarwin Ferney Pantoja Tobar (Col) Colombia  
DNFNico Sijmens (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert  
DNFMirko Selvaggi (Ita) Wanty - Groupe Gobert  
DNFMarco Minnaard (Ned) Wanty - Groupe Gobert  
DNFGregory Habeaux (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert  
DNFGert Dockx (Bel) Lotto Belisol  
DNFSander Armee (Bel) Lotto Belisol  
DNFJuan Pablo Valencia (Col) Colombia  
DNFBryan Coquard (Fra) Team Europcar  
DNFFelipe Paredes (Col) Colombia  
DNFJonathan Clarke (Aus) UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team  
DNFFabian Diaz Cardenas (Col) Colombia  
DNFJeffry Johan Romero Corredor (Col) Colombia  
DNFChristophe Kern (Fra) Team Europcar  
DNFAngelo Tulik (Fra) Team Europcar  
DNFKenny De Ketele (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise  
DNFMartijn Maaskant (Ned) UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team  
DNFMarc de Maar (AHo) UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team  
DNFChristopher Jones (USA) UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team  
DNFNathan Earle (Aus) Team Sky  
DNFKiel Reijnen (USA) UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team  
DNFDaniel Navarro Garcia (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits  
DNFIgnatas Konovalovas (Ltu) MTN - Qhubeka  
DNFYoucef Reguigui (Alg) MTN - Qhubeka  
DNFAlexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana Pro Team  
DNFArthur Vanoverberghe (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise  
DNFAndy Schleck (Lux) Trek Factory Racing  
DNFDmitry Kozontchuk (Rus) Team Katusha  
DNFPeter Kennaugh (GBr) Team Sky  
DNFJohann Van Zyl (RSA) MTN - Qhubeka  
DNFJoshua Edmondson (GBr) Team Sky  
DNFChristophe Riblon (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
DNFThomas Dekker (Ned) Garmin Sharp  
DNFRyder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin Sharp  
DNFImanol Erviti Ollo (Spa) Movistar Team  
DNFJosé Ivan Gutierrez Palacios (Spa) Movistar Team  
DNFJack Bobridge (Aus) Belkin Pro Cycling Team  
DNFNelson Simoes (Por) Lampre-Merida  
DNFBen Swift (GBr) Team Sky  
DNFDanilo Wyss (Swi) BMC Racing Team  
DNFThomas Peterson (USA) Team Giant-Shimano  
DNFBoy Van Poppel (Ned) Trek Factory Racing  
DNFCalvin Watson (Aus) Trek Factory Racing  
DNFMichael Valgren Andersen (Den) Tinkoff-Saxo  
DNFBruno Pires (Por) Tinkoff-Saxo  
DNFPierrick Fedrigo (Fra) FDJ.fr  
DNFArnold Jeannesson (Fra) FDJ.fr  
DNFLaurent Mangel (Fra) FDJ.fr  

 

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