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Can Valverde make history in La Fleche Wallonne?

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The 2015 Fleche Wallonne podium

The 2015 Fleche Wallonne podium
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Alejandro Valverde was the man to beat in the Ardennes this year, At Fleche Wallonne he won a third career title

Alejandro Valverde was the man to beat in the Ardennes this year, At Fleche Wallonne he won a third career title
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) defended his La Flèche Wallonne title against Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-QuickStep) and Michael Albasini (Orica GreenEdge)

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) defended his La Flèche Wallonne title against Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-QuickStep) and Michael Albasini (Orica GreenEdge)
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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The pack climbs the Mur de Huy during Wednesday's Fleche Wallonne.

The pack climbs the Mur de Huy during Wednesday's Fleche Wallonne.
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)

Alejandro Valverde is one of just five riders who have won La Flèche Wallonne three times, but has the chance to make history on Wednesday and top even the great Eddy Merckx and Moreno Argentin to become the first to have four titles in the mid-week Classic.

The 35-year-old is being chased by a host of challengers, including recent Amstel Gold Race winner Enrico Gasparotto (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), and Jelle Vanendert (Lotto Soudal), but there's an entire generation coming behind who have shown the potential to win.

Last year's runner-up Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-Quickstep) has shown strong form after suffering mononucleosis over the winter, and has two solid contenders at his side should he falter - Dan Martin and Brabantse Pijl winner Petr Vakoc.

Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) put in a gutsy attack in the Amstel Gold Race and will line up with fellow contenders Vanendert and Tony Gallopin. Orica-GreenEdge's Michael Matthews is still looking for his first Classic win after a pair of stage victories in Paris-Nice, and has Adam Yates and Michael Albasini to back him up.

Other riders who have shown strong form coming into the final Spring Classics in the Ardennes are Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin), Wilco Kelderman (LottoNl-Jumbo) and Jan Bakelants (AG2R La Mondiale).

After his commanding victory in the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon this weekend, it looks like the race could be Valverde's to lose, but when asked if he would go for the win in Belgium, Valverde said, "Well, we will see. The field of contenders is completely different to what I had to face this weekend. Those are races I’ve really enjoyed for years, but my main goal at the moment is staying safe and keeping my form going up before the biggest goal of the early season for me, which is the Giro.”