The familiar scenario of 100-odd riders battling for position at the foot of the Mur de Huy in next Wednesday’s La Fleche Wallonne may change this year with the addition of a climb, the Cote de Cherave, in the last six kilometres of the mid-week Ardennes Classics.
Whilst the traditional and highly popular three ascents of the Mur de Huy remain, in recent years La Fleche Wallonne has been criticised for a tedious lack of variety in how the WorldTour’s only Classic ending with a summit finish has been won and lost. Only three breakways have culminated in a triumph this side of the millennium, in fact, all of them over a decade ago - for Rik Verbrugghe in 2001, Mario Aerts in 2002, and Igor Astarloa in 2003.
The change makes for a slightly longer circuit of 29 kilometres between the second ascent of the Mur de Huy and the third. However, the Côte de Cherave, a steepish 8.1 per cent climb, just 5.5 kilometres from the finish and followed by a drop back into the finish town of Huy, could cause some drastic alterations to the usual scenario of a mad last-minute scramble for success on the Mur’s 20 percent ‘ramps.’
“I hope this new climb will change things a bit, for sure riders can get away there with a small group and get to the foot of the Mur,” Lotto Soudal’s Jelle Vandendert told Belgian daily La Dernière Heure recently.
Fleche Wallonne has experienced numerous changes in recent years at both ends of its route, which has remained roughly 200 kilometres long. In 2013 the start moved from its longstanding host city of Charlerloi to the southwesterly town of Binche and then on to Bastogne deep in the southern Ardennes in 2014. In 2015, it moves again, to the rural town of Waremme just west of Liege.
2015 will be Fleche Wallonne’s fourth big alteration to the finale in the last decade, which for several years used the Cote de Ahin as the last climb, followed by a long, notoriously dangerous descent into Huy prior to the Mur.
Then in 2012 and 2013, the first change arrived, when the second of Fleche Wallonne’s ascents over the Mur de Huy was followed by the Cote d’Amay climb and the new Cote de Villers-le-Bouillet nine kilometres from the finish.
Next in 2014 another alternation was implemented, with the 2.2 kilometre Cote de Ereffe the new last challenge prior to the Mur, 11 kilometres from the finish. This time in 2015, the Ereffe remains on the program, but is followed by the Cote de Cherave much closer to Huy, and therefore potentially a much more decisive factor in splitting the pack and not allowing them time to regroup.
The new Fleche Wallonne finale will be the same taken by the Tour de France three months later on stage three of the 2015 Tour, which finishes on the Mur de Huy.
La Fleche Wallonne 2015 finale:
Km 176.5 - Mur de Huy
1.3 kilometre-long climb at 9.6%
Km 189.0 - Côte d'Ereffe
2.1 kilometre-long climb at 5%
Km 200.0 - Côte de Cherave
1.3 kilometre-long climb at 8.1%
Km 205.5 - HUY (Mur de Huy)
1.3 kilometre-long climb at 9.6%
Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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