Valverde's Flèche Wallonne formula doesn't work for Van Vleuten

Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) leads on the Mur de Huy
Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) leads on the Mur de Huy (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

For the third time in her career, Annemiek van Vleuten was consigned to second-best atop the Mur de Huy at the end of La Flèche Wallonne Féminine on Wednesday, with Marta Cavalli (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope) coming from behind to surge to victory at the line.

Van Vleuten had twice previously been beaten to the win at the race by Anna van der Breggen, and Flèche remains one of the few major races missing from the 88 wins on her glittering palmarès.

Speaking after the race, Van Vleuten said that she has raced the final ascent of the Mur de Huy according to plan, having received advice from her Movistar teammate Alejandro Valverde, a five-time winner of the race.

"I always started it too much behind in the past," she said after the race. "Here, I just rode to the plan, a plan I made yesterday with help from Alejandro. I did exactly what he told me.

"Superhard tempo, especially after the two hardest corners; keeping the tempo even higher after those if I had good legs, as he told me; and then with 150 meters to go, trying to go all out, just like he told me. I saw 'black stars', everything was 'black' in my face, because of Cavalli coming I had to give my absolute everything. I didn't leave any fireworks unused on this climb.

"I can't feel disappointed today," she added. "I had one moment when I thought I could win it, with 200 meters to go, then Cavalli was still able to jump. It's not something I can control."

Van Vleuten had put clear space between her and the rest of what passed as a peloton in the final 500 metres of the brutally steep 1.3km ascent to the finish. While the likes of Demi Vollering (SD Worx) and Liane Lippert (Team DSM) were left unable to match her pace, Cavalli was able to make her way across.

The Italian stuck dutifully to Van Vleuten's wheel up the final inclines of the climb before eventually making her decisive move once the road flattened in the shadow of the Notre Dame de la Sarte church.

Despite missing out on the win once again, Van Vleuten said that she and her team had ridden more or less a perfect race.

"I didn't spend any energy somewhere on the road. I had all the time perfect lead-outs into Côte de Cherave, which was really important. And then, also, in the final, having Arlenis Sierra and Paula Patiño with me for a perfect leadout into the Mur. It was the first time in my life – and you're never too old to learn – that I did the Mur perfectly.

"It was a perfect race from our team," she concluded. "Super good to see everyone 100 per cent committed to ride for me, I feel super honoured also with that, but also everyone contributed to this."

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