Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans) won her third successive Flèche Wallonne Féminine after soloing clear on the approach to the Mur de Huy. In a repeat of Amstel Gold Race, the Dutchwoman claimed victory ahead of her teammate Lizzie Deignan, with Katarzyna Niewiadoma (WM3 Pro Cycling) placing third.
"I'm really tired but really happy," said Van der Breggen in her first post-race interview. "After Sunday last week and my birthday yesterday, it's a whole party week."
Niewiadoma opened the race with an attack on the Côte de Cherave. Deignan marked the move and Van der Breggen bridged across before the summit.
"On the flat section between Côte de Cherave and the Mur, I put in attack," Deignan explained to Cyclingnews. "Kasia followed and Anna countered. I saw Kasia's face and I thought: 'Right. I think we've won this one.' "
Van der Breggen hit the base of the Mur de Huy with a five-second advantage. Deignan marked Niewiadoma up the summit finish before jumping away 150 metres from the top.
"We had a plan and we did it like the plan was – wait for the last two hard climbs because they are really tough in this race," said Van der Breggen. "We waited for it. Kasia was really strong today. She attacked and only we two could follow. It was a perfect situation to be away with three and to have two teammates."
"I have to say thanks to Lizzie," Van der Breggen added. "She is riding great at the moment. I have two great victories now, and Lizzie is in great shape also. A big thanks to Lizzie and the rest of the team. I can do this because the whole team is strong."
How It Happened
A 139-rider peloton lined up for the 20th edition of Flèche Wallonne Femme. Blue skies and sun belied the cold. Temperatures were in the low single digits throughout the race.
Several early attackers were neutralised in the opening 20 kilometers, and a largely intact peloton crested the top of the Côte d'Ereffe, the first of seven climbs on the 2017 Flèche Wallonne menu.
Katia Ragusa (BePink) and Sofie de Vuyst (Lares Waowdeals) were the first two riders to gain a sizeable gap. Sensing an opportunity, Allie Dragoo (Cérvelo Bigla) and Anisha Vekemans (Alé Cipollini) bridged across. The quartet cooperated well to grow their advantage to three minutes at the mid-point of the 120-kilometre day.
"It was a strange race," said Van der Breggen. "The beginning was really quiet and a little hectic but nothing happened that much. You know it's going to explode, and you're waiting for it."
The first signs of the fireworks came when Boels-Dolmans and Sunweb sent riders to the front of the peloton. Their combined efforts saw the gap tumble from more than three minutes to less than one minute in only 13 kilometres. By the time the race reached the Côte d'Amay, the second climb, the leaders had only 17-seconds
Ragusa and Vekemans lost contact with Dragoo and de Vuyst up the Amay. The remaining duo stretched out their advantage again on the run-in to the Cote de Villers-le-Bouillet. Up the third ascent, Ashleigh Moolman-Paiso (Cérvelo Bigla) attacked from the peloton, giving Cérvelo Bigla two riders up the road.
The trio had a 20-second advantage at the foot of the Mur de Huy. Dragoo put in one final effort for Moolman on the lower slopes before falling off the pace. Moolman's acceleration's dispatched de Vuyst, and the South African reached the summit of the Mur alone.
Just beyond the first passage of the finish line, a 35-rider leading group caught Moolman. Thirty kilometres and three climbs remained.
Marie Vilmamn (Cèrvelo-Bigla) countered her teammate's catch. The young Dane was joined by Tatiana Riabchenko (Lensworld-Kuota). The pair reached the top of the Côte d'Ereffe, the third from last climb, with a 32-second advantage over an attacking group of favourites.
"[Karol-Ann Canuel and Megan Guarnier] would make it really hard but when someone else would attack, they'd get dropped," said Deignan. "They'd claw their way back, put on the pressure and get dropped. It was brutal. They led us into the second to last climb and roughly 25 riders were left."
Riabchenko and Villman started the Côte de Cherave with a slim advantage. Van der Breggen was the first to attack on the penultimate climb. Niewiadoma countered her former teammate's move. Deignan immediately jumped on Niewiadoma's wheel.
The pair had only gained a hundred metres before Van der Breggen bridged across.
Van der Breggen and Deignan bided their time on the descent of Cherave and played off each other on the flat run-in to the Mur. The one-two punch from first Deignan and then Van der Breggen proved too much for Niewiadoma, who has repeatedly been left without teammates in the decisive moments this spring.
"It was the perfect situation to be away with three and to have two teammates," said Van der Breggen. "It might have looked easy, but it was not. It was a really hard race."
With a win at Amstel Gold Race and Flèche Wallone, Van der Breggen and her Boels-Dolmans teammates now look toward Liège-Bastogne-Liège. The Dutch-registered squad has made no secret of its ambitions for the three Ardennes races.
"it's an important week for the team," Boels-Dolmans Cycling Team sport director Danny Stam told Cyclingnews. "This is a race sponsored by Boels and that makes it pretty clear that it's a target for the team. We've been looking forward to this week all season. Until now we can't complain.
"We have to celebrate this one now and have an easy day tomorrow," Stam added. "Then it's back with the foot to the floor for Liège."
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Anna Van Der Breggen (Ned) Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam||3:21:06|
|2||Elizabeth Deignan (GBr) Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam||0:00:16|
|3||Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Pol) WM3 Pro Cycling||0:00:25|
|4||Annemiek Van Vleuten (Ned) Orica Scott Women||0:00:43|
|5||Shara Gillow (Aus) FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope||0:00:49|
|6||Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (RSA) Cervelo Bigla Pro Cycling Team||0:00:54|
|7||Coryn Rivera (USA) Team Sunweb Women||0:00:56|
|8||Janneke Ensing (Ned) Alé Cipollini||0:00:58|
|9||Katrin Garfoot (Aus) Orica Scott Women||0:01:00|
|10||Flavia Oliveira (Bra) Lares-Waowdeals||0:01:02|
|11||Audrey Cordon Ragot (Fra) Wiggle High5||0:01:09|
|12||Marie Vilmann (Den) Cervelo Bigla Pro Cycling Team|
|13||Tetiana Riabchenko (Ukr) Lensworld-Kuota||0:01:21|
|14||Claudia Lichtenberg (Ger) Wiggle High5||0:01:27|
|15||Polona Batagelj (Slo) BTC City Ljubljana|
|16||Ellen Van Dijk (Ned) Team Sunweb Women||0:01:32|
|17||Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Den) Cervelo Bigla Pro Cycling Team||0:01:34|
|18||Eugenia Bujak (Pol) BTC City Ljubljana|
|19||Hanna Nilsson (Swe) BTC City Ljubljana|
|20||Danielle King (GBr) Cylance Pro Cycling|
|21||Katrine Aalerud (Nor) Hitec Products|
|22||Tatiana Guderzo (Ita) Lensworld-Kuota||0:01:37|
|23||Sheyla Gutierrez (Spa) Cylance Pro Cycling||0:01:42|
|24||Sofia Beggin (Ita) Astana Women's Team||0:01:44|
|25||Lara Vieceli (Ita) Astana Women's Team||0:01:51|
|26||Roxane Knetemann (Ned) FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope||0:01:55|
|27||Megan Guarnier (USA) Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam||0:01:59|
|28||Pauline Ferrand-Prevot (Fra) Canyon SRAM Racing||0:02:02|
|29||Alena Amialiusik (Blr) Canyon SRAM Racing||0:02:06|
|30||Sabrina Stultiens (Ned) Team Sunweb Women||0:02:21|
|31||Leah Kirchmann (Can) Team Sunweb Women||0:04:06|
|32||Sofia Bertizzolo (Ita) Astana Women's Team|
|33||Lorena Llamas (Spa) Bizkaia-Durango|
|34||Moniek Tenniglo (Ned) WM3 Pro Cycling||0:04:11|
|35||Kelly Van Den Steen (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Etixx||0:04:13|
|36||Amelie Rivat (Fra) Lares-Waowdeals|
|37||Marion Sicot (Fra) France|
|38||Juliette Labous (Fra) Team Sunweb Women|
|39||Anna Christian (GBr) Drops Cycling Team|
|40||Sofie De Vuyst (Bel) Lares-Waowdeals|
|41||Agnieszka Skalniak (Pol) Astana Women's Team||0:04:17|
|42||Camilla Pedersen (Den) Team Veloconcept Women||0:04:18|
|43||Riejanne Markus (Ned) WM3 Pro Cycling|
|44||Valentina Scandolara (Ita) WM3 Pro Cycling|
|45||Lena Gerault (Fra) France|
|46||Rossella Ratto (Ita) Cylance Pro Cycling||0:04:23|
|47||Susanna Zorzi (Ita) Drops Cycling Team||0:04:24|
|48||Elise Delzenne (Fra) Lotto Soudal Ladies|
|49||Pauline Clouard (Fra) France|
|50||Amanda Spratt (Aus) Orica Scott Women||0:04:27|
|51||Eri Yonamine (Jpn) FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope|
|52||Laura Camila Lozano (Col) Servetto Giusta|
|53||Georgia Williams (NZl) Orica Scott Women|
|54||Karol-Ann Canuel (Can) Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam|
|55||Anna Potokina (Rus) Servetto Giusta|
|56||Jip Van Den Bos (Ned) Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam|
|57||Martina Ritter (Aut) Drops Cycling Team|
|58||Clara Koppenburg (Ger) Cervelo Bigla Pro Cycling Team|
|59||Urša Pintar (Slo) BTC City Ljubljana|
|60||Elizabeth Holden (GBr) Drops Cycling Team||0:04:35|
|61||Soraya Paladin (Ita) Alé Cipollini||0:04:37|
|62||Jenelle Crooks (Aus) Orica Scott Women||0:04:41|
|63||Katarzyna Pawlowska (Pol) Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam||0:04:43|
|64||Anabelle Dreville (Fra) FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope||0:04:45|
|65||Valerie Demey (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Etixx||0:04:56|
|66||Alison Jackson (Can) BePink Cogeas||0:04:58|
|67||Malgorzata Jasinska (Pol) Cylance Pro Cycling||0:05:03|
|68||Rozanne Slik (Ned) Team Sunweb Women||0:05:13|
|69||Elena Cecchini (Ita) Canyon SRAM Racing||0:05:16|
|70||Hannah Barnes (GBr) Canyon SRAM Racing|
|71||Lauren Kitchen (Aus) WM3 Pro Cycling|
|72||Kseniia Dobrynina (Rus) Servetto Giusta||0:05:21|
|73||Charlotte Bravard (Fra) FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope||0:05:26|
|74||Olga Zabelinskaya (Rus) BePink Cogeas||0:05:29|
|75||Aude Biannic (Fra) FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope||0:05:33|
|76||Alice Maria Arzuffi (Ita) Lensworld-Kuota||0:07:22|
|77||Annette Edmondson (Aus) Wiggle High5||0:09:01|
|78||Allie Dragoo (USA) Cervelo Bigla Pro Cycling Team||0:09:20|
|79||Daniela Reis (Por) Lares-Waowdeals||0:09:23|
|80||Lourdes Oyarbide (Spa) Bizkaia-Durango||0:09:42|
|81||Margarita Victoria Garcia (Spa) Bizkaia-Durango||0:10:28|
|82||Olena Pavlukhina (Aze) Astana Women's Team||0:11:14|
|83||Iraida Garcia (Cub) S.C. Michela Fanini||0:11:29|
|84||Jessy Druyts (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Etixx||0:11:33|
|85||Sara Penton (Swe) Team Veloconcept Women||0:11:41|
|86||Wubbigje Regina Knol (Ned) Cylance Pro Cycling||0:11:46|
|87||Thalita De Jong (Ned) Lares-Waowdeals||0:11:51|
|88||Anisha Vekemans (Bel) Alé Cipollini||0:11:53|
|89||Susanne Andersen (Nor) Hitec Products||0:11:56|
|90||Amber Leone Neben (USA) Team Veloconcept Women|
|91||Nathalie Verschelden (Bel) Lensworld-Kuota||0:11:57|
|92||Lucie Lahaye (Fra) France||0:11:59|
|93||Katia Ragusa (Ita) BePink Cogeas||0:12:03|
|94||Emilie Moberg (Nor) Hitec Products|
|95||Sara Mustonen Lichan (Swe) Team Veloconcept Women|
|96||Miriam Bjørnsrud (Nor) Hitec Products|
|97||Roos Hoogeboom (Ned) Bizkaia-Durango|
|98||Mia Radotic (Cro) BTC City Ljubljana||0:12:12|
|99||Abigail Van Twisk (GBr) Drops Cycling Team|
|100||Mayuko Hagiwara (Jpn) Wiggle High5||0:12:19|
|101||Annelies Dom (Bel) Lotto Soudal Ladies|
|102||Sarah Rijkes (Aut) Lares-Waowdeals|
|103||Ilona Hoeksma (Ned) Hitec Products|
|104||Jessica Allen (Aus) Orica Scott Women|
|105||Anna Trevisi (Ita) Alé Cipollini||0:12:41|
|DNF||Natalie Kerwin (NZl) Team Veloconcept Women|
|DNF||Marjolaine Bazin (Fra) SAS - MACOGEP|
|DNF||Jelena Eric (Srb) BTC City Ljubljana|
|DNF||Daiva Tuslaite (Ltu) Alé Cipollini|
|DNF||Ingvild Gåskjenn (Nor) Hitec Products|
|DNF||Kseniya Tuhai (Blr) BePink Cogeas|
|DNF||Annalisa Cucinotta (Ita) Lensworld-Kuota|
|DNF||Demmy Druyts (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Etixx|
|DNF||Lierni Lekuona Etxebeste (Spa) Bizkaia-Durango|
|DNF||Carlee Taylor (Aus) Alé Cipollini|
|DNF||Doris Schweizer (Swi) Team Veloconcept Women|
|DNF||Anna Ceoloni (Ita) S.C. Michela Fanini|
|DNF||Mónika Kiraly (Hun) S.C. Michela Fanini|
|DNF||Francesca Balducci (Ita) S.C. Michela Fanini|
|DNF||Valeriya Kononenko (Ukr) S.C. Michela Fanini|
|DNF||Jutatip Maneephan (Tha) S.C. Michela Fanini|
|DNF||Miho Yoshikawa (Jpn) Bizkaia-Durango|
|DNF||Ilaria Sanguineti (Ita) BePink Cogeas|
|DNF||Giorgia Bronzini (Ita) Wiggle High5|
|DNF||Emilia Fahlin (Swe) Wiggle High5|
|DNF||Trixi Worrack (Ger) Canyon SRAM Racing|
|DNF||Tiffany Cromwell (Aus) Canyon SRAM Racing|
|DNF||Ting Ying Huang (Tpe) Servetto Giusta|
|DNF||Anna Plichta (Pol) WM3 Pro Cycling|
|DNF||Chantal Hoffmann (Lux) Lotto Soudal Ladies|
|DNF||Puck Moonen (Ned) Lotto Soudal Ladies|
|DNF||Maria Vittoria Sperotto (Ita) BePink Cogeas|
|DNF||Marie Gielen (Fra) France|
|DNF||Marta Tagliaferro (Ita) Cylance Pro Cycling|
|DNF||Fien Delbaere (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Etixx|
|DNF||Abby-Mae Parkinson (GBr) Drops Cycling Team|
|DNF||Alice Gasparini (Ita) Servetto Giusta|
|DNF||Anna Kiesenhofer (Aut) Lotto Soudal Ladies|
|DNF||Isabelle Beckers (Bel) Lotto Soudal Ladies|