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.
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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Daniel Ostanek is production editor at Cyclingnews, having joined in 2017 as a freelance contributor and later being hired as staff writer. Before Cyclingnews, he was published in numerous publications around the cycling world, including Procycling, CyclingWeekly, CyclingTips, Cyclist, and Rouleur, among others. As well as reporting and writing news and features, Daniel runs the 'How to watch' content throughout the season.
Daniel has reported from the world's top races, including the Tour de France, and has interviewed a number of the sport's biggest stars, including Egan Bernal, Wout van Aert, Remco Evenepoel, Mark Cavendish, and Anna van der Breggen. Daniel rides a 2002 Landbouwkrediet Colnago C40 and his favourite races are Strade Bianche and the Vuelta a España.
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