Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) made history when he won his fourth La Flèche Wallonne on the Mur de Huy on April 20. The Spaniard made his winning late-race attack near the top of the steep final climb to take the historical victory ahead of Etixx-QuickStep teammates Dan Martin and Julian Alaphilippe.
La Flèche Wallonne has acquired a somewhat derisory reputation as one of the most predictable races of the season - though that doesn't make its finale any less exhilarating.
It marked the second of the three Ardennes Classics, and is traditionally all about the finish on the devilishly steep Mur de Huy, a 1.3-kilometre climb that maxes out at a lung-busting 24 per cent through the famous S-bend in the middle.
Valverde, who won the past two editions in 2014 and 2015, and also in 2006, has become a master on such finishes and riders who pack a similar punch are the ones who are able to prevail.
The 2011 winner Philippe Gilbert (BMC) was considered to be a threat at the start but he fell off pace over the penultimate climb, and Etixx-QuickStep duo of Alaphilippe and Dan Martin, who was second to Valverde in 2015 and 2014 respectively, were also tipped as tough opponents.
In a bid to make the race slightly less formulaic, last year the organisers introduced the 1.5km climb of the Cote de Cherave less than three kilometres from the Mur, and duly Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) went on the offensive there in 2015. He made a similar move this year in the same spot, in pursuit of a two-man breakaway, but he did not succeed in holding of the peloton.
2016 La Flèche Wallonne - Top 10
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team||4:43:57|
|2||Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Etixx - Quick-Step|
|3||Daniel Martin (Irl) Etixx - Quick-Step|
|4||Wouter Poels (Ned) Team Sky||0:00:04|
|5||Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Wanty - Groupe Gobert||0:00:05|
|6||Samuel Sánchez Gonzalez (Spa) BMC Racing Team|
|7||Michael Albasini (Swi) Orica-GreenEdge|
|8||Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre - Merida|
|9||Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Giant-Alpecin|
|10||Rui Costa (Por) Lampre - Merida|