Once again this season, Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) could only watch as Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) accelerated away from him to take another major one-day victory. Fuglsang attacked early on the Mur de Huy but had nothing left as Alaphilippe surged past him to claim his second straight Flèche Wallonne title.
Fuglsang hardly has to even check these days if Alaphilippe is with him when he goes on the attack. For the third time this season, the pair rode clear of the pack in a one-day race after Fuglsang attacked on the Mur de Huy.
Fuglsang completed just two other one-day races this season, at Strade Bianche and Amstel Gold Race, and on both occasions, the duo found themselves in each other's company. It is becoming so common to see the duo together that one journalist asked if Fuglsang was worried that he'd wake up at night and find Alaphilippe in the room with him.
"It is the third time this year, but he is better at one-day races," Fuglsang said in his post-race press conference. "My strength is more the overall at stage races, and that's probably where he has his weak side. But for that he's more explosive, which helps him in these kinds of finishes
"At the end of the day, these are the races that fit the kind of rider that he is. They fit him super good. I'm happy that I'm with the shape that I have and that I can be there to challenge. We still have one to go," Fuglsang said.
"In Amstel, I managed to beat him. I know that it was for the third spot, but I beat him there. If it wasn't for the battle then it wouldn't be as interesting to watch."
Second place is still the best finish for Fuglsang at Flèche Wallonne, with only one other top-10 finish to his name in 2015. Knowing that he lacked the real punch that the likes of Alaphilippe and five-time winner Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) have, Fuglsang decided to make his move as they rounded a bend just inside the final 500 metres. He pulled out a small advantage before Alaphilippe bridged across and the pair rode together for a short while.
As they approached the final 100 metres, Alaphilippe attacked. Fuglsang kept on his wheel but did not have the power to go around the Frenchman. After finishing third at the Amstel Gold Race last Sunday, Fuglsang is heading in the right direction, and he's happy in the knowledge that Liège-Bastogne-Liège is better suited to him.
"I'm getting one step closer to the top step of the podium," he said. "Sunday I was disappointed the way that we finished the race and throwing away the sprint for the victory. Today it was all the way to the line and I gave it my best, and even with 100 metres to go when Julian passed me I managed to get back on him but I had nothing.
"In the end, I think we had a good battle, and I did it the best way that I could: Go from far and try to keep a steady, high pace. Normally, I would say that Flèche Wallonne is not a race that fits me so I can be happy with the podium, and that also shows that I have a really good shape at the moment. I enjoy that and I look forward to Sunday."
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