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Rodriguez wins La Flèche Wallonne

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Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale) placed 12th.

Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale) placed 12th.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) got all the goodies in Huy

Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) got all the goodies in Huy
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Fans reach out to console Philippe Gilbert on his loss.

Fans reach out to console Philippe Gilbert on his loss.
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha)

Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha)
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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It's been a tough spring for Philippe Gilbert.

It's been a tough spring for Philippe Gilbert.
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Philippe Gilbert (BMC) was denied a repeat victory

Philippe Gilbert (BMC) was denied a repeat victory
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) steps up onto the Fleche Wallonne podium

Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) steps up onto the Fleche Wallonne podium
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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The 2012 Fleche Wallonne podium: Michael Albasini (GreenEdge), Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Philippe Gilbert (BMC)

The 2012 Fleche Wallonne podium: Michael Albasini (GreenEdge), Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Philippe Gilbert (BMC)
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Jelle Vanendert (Lotto-Belisol)

Jelle Vanendert (Lotto-Belisol)
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Philippe Gilbert was mobbed by the press after Fleche Wallonne

Philippe Gilbert was mobbed by the press after Fleche Wallonne
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) wins the Fleche Wallonne

Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) wins the Fleche Wallonne
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Kisses to the crowd as Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) wins the Fleche Wallonne

Kisses to the crowd as Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) wins the Fleche Wallonne
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) wins the Fleche Wallonne

Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) wins the Fleche Wallonne
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) had plenty of room to celebrate his Fleche Wallonne win

Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) had plenty of room to celebrate his Fleche Wallonne win
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Michael Albasini (GreenEdge) took second place in Fleche Wallonne 2012

Michael Albasini (GreenEdge) took second place in Fleche Wallonne 2012
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Michael Albasini (GreenEdge) continued a fine spring with a second place in Fleche Wallonne 2012

Michael Albasini (GreenEdge) continued a fine spring with a second place in Fleche Wallonne 2012
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) celebrates after winning the 2012 Fleche Wallonne

Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) celebrates after winning the 2012 Fleche Wallonne
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Philippe Gilbert (BMC) shows the agony of the Mur de Huy

Philippe Gilbert (BMC) shows the agony of the Mur de Huy
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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The 2012 Fleche Wallonne podium: Michael Albasini (GreenEdge), Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Philippe Gilbert (BMC)

The 2012 Fleche Wallonne podium: Michael Albasini (GreenEdge), Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Philippe Gilbert (BMC)
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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The Fleche Wallonne trophy at the feet of Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha)

The Fleche Wallonne trophy at the feet of Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha)
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) had a big smile after winning Fleche Wallonne 2012

Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) had a big smile after winning Fleche Wallonne 2012
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Philippe Gilbert (BMC) shows the agony of the Mur de Huy

Philippe Gilbert (BMC) shows the agony of the Mur de Huy
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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BMC was denied once again

BMC was denied once again
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Philippe Gilbert (BMC) on the Mur de Huy

Philippe Gilbert (BMC) on the Mur de Huy
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Philippe Gilbert was mobbed by the Belgian press after Fleche Wallonne

Philippe Gilbert was mobbed by the Belgian press after Fleche Wallonne
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) celebrates after winning the 2012 Fleche Wallonne

Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) celebrates after winning the 2012 Fleche Wallonne
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), winner of the 2012 Fleche Wallonne

Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), winner of the 2012 Fleche Wallonne
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) opened up a huge gap with a late burst of speed to win Fleche Wallonne

Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) opened up a huge gap with a late burst of speed to win Fleche Wallonne
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) wins the 2012 Flèche Wallonne

Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) wins the 2012 Flèche Wallonne
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Philippe Gilbert (BMC) after taking third in Fleche Wallonne 2012

Philippe Gilbert (BMC) after taking third in Fleche Wallonne 2012
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) can hardly believe he's finally gotten a Classic

Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) can hardly believe he's finally gotten a Classic
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Philippe Gilbert (BMC) took his first Classics podium of 2012 in Fleche Wallonne

Philippe Gilbert (BMC) took his first Classics podium of 2012 in Fleche Wallonne
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Philippe Gilbert is congratulated by his BMC teammate Greg Van Avermaet on third in Fleche Wallonne

Philippe Gilbert is congratulated by his BMC teammate Greg Van Avermaet on third in Fleche Wallonne
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Dirk Bellemakers (Landbouwkrediet-Euphony)

Dirk Bellemakers (Landbouwkrediet-Euphony)
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Dirk Bellemakers (Landbouwkrediet-Euphony) won the climbing classification.

Dirk Bellemakers (Landbouwkrediet-Euphony) won the climbing classification.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Top 3 at 2012 La Flèche Wallonne: Michael Albasini (GreenEdge), Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Philippe Gilbert (BMC)

Top 3 at 2012 La Flèche Wallonne: Michael Albasini (GreenEdge), Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Philippe Gilbert (BMC)
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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2012 La Flèche Wallonne podium (l-r): Michael Albasini, Joaquim Rodriguez and Philippe Gilbert

2012 La Flèche Wallonne podium (l-r): Michael Albasini, Joaquim Rodriguez and Philippe Gilbert
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Philippe Gilbert (BMC) on the podium

Philippe Gilbert (BMC) on the podium
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Third place finisher Philippe Gilbert (BMC) on the podium.

Third place finisher Philippe Gilbert (BMC) on the podium.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Defending champion Philippe Gilbert shakes hands with 2012 winner Joaquim Rodriguez.

Defending champion Philippe Gilbert shakes hands with 2012 winner Joaquim Rodriguez.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Michael Albasini (GreenEdge) on the podium for his second place finish at La Flèche Wallonne.

Michael Albasini (GreenEdge) on the podium for his second place finish at La Flèche Wallonne.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Second place finisher Michael Albasini (GreenEdge)

Second place finisher Michael Albasini (GreenEdge)
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Race winner Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) shakes hands with runner-up Michael Albasini (GreenEdge)

Race winner Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) shakes hands with runner-up Michael Albasini (GreenEdge)
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) on the podium with his winner's trophy.

Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) on the podium with his winner's trophy.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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La Flèche Wallonne winner Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha)

La Flèche Wallonne winner Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha)
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) basks in the glory of winning La Flèche Wallonne.

Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) basks in the glory of winning La Flèche Wallonne.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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2012 La Flèche Wallonne champion Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha)

2012 La Flèche Wallonne champion Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha)
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Defending champion Philippe Gilbert (BMC) recovers from his third-place effort.

Defending champion Philippe Gilbert (BMC) recovers from his third-place effort.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Philippe Gilbert (BMC) after the finish.

Philippe Gilbert (BMC) after the finish.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Mauro Santambrogio (BMC)

Mauro Santambrogio (BMC)
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Frank Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan) finished in 20th place.

Frank Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan) finished in 20th place.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The podium: Michael Albasini (Greenedge Cycling Team), Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Team Katusha - Katuscha), Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing Team)

The podium: Michael Albasini (Greenedge Cycling Team), Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Team Katusha - Katuscha), Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing Team)
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Jelle Vanendert (Lotto) and Philippe Gilbert (BMC)

Jelle Vanendert (Lotto) and Philippe Gilbert (BMC)
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Michael Albasini (Greenedge Cycling Team), Ryder Hesjedahl (Garmin - Barracuda) and Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Team Katusha - Katuscha)

Michael Albasini (Greenedge Cycling Team), Ryder Hesjedahl (Garmin - Barracuda) and Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Team Katusha - Katuscha)
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Frank Schleck (RadioShack) gets some assistance

Frank Schleck (RadioShack) gets some assistance
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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On the climb

On the climb
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Frank Schleck (Team Radioshack - Nissan) and Rob Ruijgh (Team Vacansoleil - DCM)

Frank Schleck (Team Radioshack - Nissan) and Rob Ruijgh (Team Vacansoleil - DCM)
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Robinson Eduardo Chalpud (Colombia - Coldeportes) gets medical attention after a frightening crash

Robinson Eduardo Chalpud (Colombia - Coldeportes) gets medical attention after a frightening crash
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Oscar Freire (Katusha) nears the finish

Oscar Freire (Katusha) nears the finish
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Team Katusha)

Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Team Katusha)
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Fabio Duarte (Colombia - Coldeportes)

Fabio Duarte (Colombia - Coldeportes)
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Michael Albasini (GreenEdge) - Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas - Cannondale) charge toward the finish

Michael Albasini (GreenEdge) - Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas - Cannondale) charge toward the finish
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Michael Albasini (GreenEdge) on the podium

Michael Albasini (GreenEdge) on the podium
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Jelle Vanendert (Lotto Belisol), Michael Albasini (GreenEdge), Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas - Cannondale)

Jelle Vanendert (Lotto Belisol), Michael Albasini (GreenEdge), Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas - Cannondale)
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Philippe Gilbert (BMC)

Philippe Gilbert (BMC)
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Frank Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan) at the finish atop the Mur de Huy.

Frank Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan) at the finish atop the Mur de Huy.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Frank Schleck (RadioShack - Nissan)

Frank Schleck (RadioShack - Nissan)
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Enrico Gasparotto (Astana)

Enrico Gasparotto (Astana)
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Federico Canuti and Maciej Paterski (Liquigas - Cannondale)

Federico Canuti and Maciej Paterski (Liquigas - Cannondale)
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Daniele Righi (Lampre - ISD)

Daniele Righi (Lampre - ISD)
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Angel Madrazo (Movistar)

Angel Madrazo (Movistar)
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Federico Canuti and Maciej Paterski (Liquigas - Cannondale)

Federico Canuti and Maciej Paterski (Liquigas - Cannondale)
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The peloton climbs the Mur de Huy for the second time.

The peloton climbs the Mur de Huy for the second time.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Jelle Vanendert (Lotto Belisol) leads Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) on their second ascent of the Mur de Huy.

Jelle Vanendert (Lotto Belisol) leads Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) on their second ascent of the Mur de Huy.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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After finishing as runner-up the previous two years, Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) has now won La Flèche Wallonne.

After finishing as runner-up the previous two years, Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) has now won La Flèche Wallonne.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) launched a powerful attack on the Mur de Huy and rode away for victory.

Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) launched a powerful attack on the Mur de Huy and rode away for victory.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Defending champion Philippe Gilbert (BMC) finished on third place.

Defending champion Philippe Gilbert (BMC) finished on third place.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Belgian champion Philippe Gilbert (BMC) crossed the finish line in third place.

Belgian champion Philippe Gilbert (BMC) crossed the finish line in third place.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The late breakaway Anthony Roux (FDJ-BigMat) and Dirk Bellemakers (Landbouwkrediet-Euphony)

The late breakaway Anthony Roux (FDJ-BigMat) and Dirk Bellemakers (Landbouwkrediet-Euphony)
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Joaquím Rodríguez Oliver (Katusha)

Joaquím Rodríguez Oliver (Katusha)
(Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Podium: Michael Albasini (Greenedge Cycling Team), Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Team Katusha - Katuscha) and Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing Team)

Podium: Michael Albasini (Greenedge Cycling Team), Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Team Katusha - Katuscha) and Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing Team)
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Philippe Gilbert (BMC)

Philippe Gilbert (BMC)
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Philippe Gilbert (BMC)

Philippe Gilbert (BMC)
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Bram Tankink (Team Rabobank)

Bram Tankink (Team Rabobank)
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Wout Poels (Team Vacansoleil - DCM), Frank Schleck and Jens Voigt (RadioShack)

Wout Poels (Team Vacansoleil - DCM), Frank Schleck and Jens Voigt (RadioShack)
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha)

Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha)
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Wout Poels (Team Vacansoleil - DCM) and Jelle Vanendert (Lotto-Belisol)

Wout Poels (Team Vacansoleil - DCM) and Jelle Vanendert (Lotto-Belisol)
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Wout Poels (Team Vacansoleil - DCM), Frank Schleck and Jens Voigt (RadioShack)

Wout Poels (Team Vacansoleil - DCM), Frank Schleck and Jens Voigt (RadioShack)
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) looks back to check his gap

Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) looks back to check his gap
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) raises his arm to celebrate

Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) raises his arm to celebrate
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha)

Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha)
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) powers to the finish

Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) powers to the finish
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) pushes toward the finish

Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) pushes toward the finish
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) attacks toward the finish

Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) attacks toward the finish
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) heads toward victory

Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) heads toward victory
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) is almost there

Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) is almost there
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Philippe Gilbert (BMC) races toward the finish

Philippe Gilbert (BMC) races toward the finish
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) celebrates a win

Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) celebrates a win
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) seems to have trouble believing he's won.

Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) seems to have trouble believing he's won.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Oscar Freire (Katusha)

Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Oscar Freire (Katusha)
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Philippe Gilbert (BMC) was crushed to finish third.

Philippe Gilbert (BMC) was crushed to finish third.
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Julien Vermote (Omega Pharma Quickstep)

Julien Vermote (Omega Pharma Quickstep)
(Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Two Colombia Coldesportes racers at the start

Two Colombia Coldesportes racers at the start
(Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Michael Schär

Michael Schär
(Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Jelle Vanendert (Lotto Belisol)

Jelle Vanendert (Lotto Belisol)
(Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Julien Simon (Saur Sojasun)

Julien Simon (Saur Sojasun)
(Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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The peloton

The peloton
(Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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The first climb in the Mur

The first climb in the Mur
(Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Two riders

Two riders
(Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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An Accent Jobs - Willems Veranda's rider

An Accent Jobs - Willems Veranda's rider
(Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Racers after the start

Racers after the start
(Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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The peloton

The peloton
(Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) and Philippe Gilbert (BMC)

Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) and Philippe Gilbert (BMC)
(Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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It was a colorful peloton despite the gray weather

It was a colorful peloton despite the gray weather
(Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Philippe Gilbert (BMC)

Philippe Gilbert (BMC)
(Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Movistar)

Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Movistar)
(Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Jérôme Pineau (Omega Pharma Quickstep)

Jérôme Pineau (Omega Pharma Quickstep)
(Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Oscar Freire Gomez (Katusha)

Oscar Freire Gomez (Katusha)
(Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Christian Vande Velde (Garmin Barracuda)

Christian Vande Velde (Garmin Barracuda)
(Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Romain Sicard (Euskaltel)

Romain Sicard (Euskaltel)
(Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Romain Sicard, Igor Anton Hernandez and Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Euskaltel)

Romain Sicard, Igor Anton Hernandez and Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Euskaltel)
(Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Christian Vande Velde (Garmin Barracuda)

Christian Vande Velde (Garmin Barracuda)
(Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Rui Alberto Faria da Costa (Movistar)

Rui Alberto Faria da Costa (Movistar)
(Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)
(Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)
(Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Igor Anton Hernandez (Euskaltel)

Igor Anton Hernandez (Euskaltel)
(Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Philippe Gilbert (BMC)

Philippe Gilbert (BMC)
(Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)
(Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Greg Van Avermaet (BMC)

Greg Van Avermaet (BMC)
(Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Julien Simon (Saur Sojasun) and Enrico Gasparotto (Astana)

Julien Simon (Saur Sojasun) and Enrico Gasparotto (Astana)
(Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)

Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) stormed up the Mur de Huy to claim the victory at the 76th La Flèche Wallonne, overcoming wet and windy conditions to prevail in the middle race of the three Ardennes Classics.

Rodriguez, who had finished second in the previous two years, was part of a large chasing group that engulfed breakaway leaders Lars Petter Nordhaug (Team Sky) and Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda) on the final gruelling climb, and the Spaniard held off the challenge of Michael Albasini (GreenEdge) and defending champion Philippe Gilbert (BMC) for what was in the end a commanding victory.

Rodriguez was overcome with emotion after crossing the winning line, having erased the pain of 2010 and 2011 by finally getting his hands on the prize. He becomes the third Spaniard to win the race in the last ten years, following wins by Igor Astarloa (2003) and Alejandro Valverde (2006).

“It’s the best and most incredible victory of my whole career,” Rodriguez said. “Today is definitely one of the best days of my life. I’ve always been in love with these Classic races, and a victory in these competitions has always been one of my main goals: finally, after many good results, I managed to win.

"Obviously I have to thank my teammates: all of them did a great job from the beginning to the end. It’s true that Mur de Huy was a more suitable final part to my characteristics than Cauberg, but I have to admit it was really hard: it looked like an easy victory, but I did a strong effort in order to defeat my rivals.

"Now I can get ready for Liege-Bastogne-Liege with high motivations. I don’t think this victory will change anything, I’m not the only forerunner, there are many strong riders with chances to win. Everything changed from the Amstel Gold Race to Fleche Wallonne and everything can change on Sunday too. So we have to pay a lot of attention and work at our best if we want to take this legendary double”.

It never looked like the fanatical home fans were going to celebrating a local winner, though the supporters in the Ardennes will have been encouraged by Gilbert’s performance. He has failed to fully live up to expectations in the colours of his new team so far this season, but a sixth place in the Amstel Gold Race last Sunday followed by his podium finish here suggests that he is slowly edging towards his best form.

"I've come from a long way down, so I am satisfied to be back at this level," Gilbert said. "Being on the podium is nice, but most important is a victory. Today, Rodriguez was the deserving winner."

Wild weather in Wallonie

Wind and rain greeted the riders at the start of the 194km race in Charleroi, further dampening the spirits of the supporters who were disappointed by the withdrawals of 2010 winner Cadel Evans (BMC), Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Thomas Voeckler (Europcar). But with the race underway the Belgians’ indomitable passion for professional road cycling took over, the atmosphere building with each passing kilometre.

An early breakaway saw Daniele Ratto (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Mads Christiensen (Saxo Bank) take 12 seconds out of the field, before a crash split the chasing peloton into two groups. The first group of chasers, led by Katusha, caught up and it was left to Dirk Bellemakers (Landbouwkrediet) to make the next significant move, 55km into the race.

Bellemakers was soon joined by Anthony Roux (FDJ-Big Mat) and the two men worked tirelessly to build up a yawning gap of 2:25 from Sjef De Wilde (Accent.Jobs-Willems Verandas) as they passed over the Mur de Huy for the first time in worsening rain. The first main chasing pack, led by Andy Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan), were roughly a further minute behind as the riders hurtled towards the halfway point.

With De Wilde unable to maintain his solo chase, the gap between the two leaders and the initial pack stretched to just under eight minutes at its peak, before Katusha and Lotto-Belisol traded turns on the front end to begin reducing the deficit. Sander Armee’s brave bid to bridge the gap on his own eventually ended in a stalemate, with the Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator rider unable to get any nearer that 2:40 down as Bellemakers and Roux closed in on the final crucial 50km.

With 40km to go Andy Schleck launched an attack from the main chasing pack, as the riders approached the Mur for the second time. The deficit between the leaders and the chasing pack was halved on the Mur second time round, offering further evidence of that its final ascent in the finale would probably prove decisive. With 30km left the pack caught the breakaway and the final phase of the race was set to play itself out.

Just as Robinson Chalapud (Colombia-Coldportes) suffered a horrific-looking crash, landing face-down on the tarmac, Tom Slagter (Rabobank) and Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) broke clear, building up a 14-second advantage. The closer the riders got to the final climb of the Mur, the heavier the rain came down, and as Frank Schleck suffered a puncture at a critical stage, Hesjedal and Nordhaug made their move, attacking with 7.5km to go.

It took the chasing pack what seemed like an eternity to close them down, but eventually the final 1km climb up the Mur – a gradient of 20-25% in places – drained the strength from the legs of the breakaway duo as the walls caved in around them. Rodriguez pounced, taking 15 metres out of the chasing pack in a show of rare power. His decisive burst left him clear and gave him time to acknowledge the crowd as he crossed the line for a well deserved victory that has been a long time coming.

Full Results
1Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha Team4:45:41
2Michael Albasini (Swi) GreenEdge Cycling Team0:00:04
3Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing Team
4Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team
5Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) Astana Pro Team0:00:07
6Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin - Barracuda0:00:09
7Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team
8Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale
9Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre - ISD
10Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team0:00:11
11Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Astana Pro Team
12Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale
13Maxim Iglinskiy (Kaz) Astana Pro Team
14Sergio Luis Henao Montoya (Col) Sky Procycling
15Wout Poels (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
16Paul Martens (Ger) Rabobank Cycling Team
17Igor Anton Hernandez (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi
18Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa (Por) Movistar Team0:00:18
19Julien Simon (Fra) Saur - Sojasun
20Frank Schleck (Lux) RadioShack-Nissan
21Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin - Barracuda
22Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team0:00:23
23Arthur Vichot (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat
24Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha Team0:00:26
25Alexandre Geniez (Fra) Argos - Shimano
26Fabian Wegmann (Ger) Garmin - Barracuda
27Bert De Waele (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Euphony0:00:29
28Brice Feillu (Fra) Saur - Sojasun0:00:31
29Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
30Maxime Monfort (Bel) RadioShack-Nissan
31Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) Garmin - Barracuda
32Fabio Andres Duarte Arevalo (Col) Colombia - Coldeportes
33Nicki Sörensen (Den) Team Saxo Bank
34Daniele Pietropolli (Ita) Lampre - ISD
35Manuele Mori (Ita) Lampre - ISD
36Dries Devenyns (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quickstep
37Pieter Serry (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator0:00:37
38Rob Ruijgh (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
39Guillaume Levarlet (Fra) Saur - Sojasun
40Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team
41Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quickstep0:00:43
42Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack-Nissan
43Karsten Kroon (Ned) Team Saxo Bank0:00:47
44Peio Bilbao (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi
45Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Movistar Team0:00:51
46Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team
47Tom Jelte Slagter (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team
48Bruno Pires (Por) Team Saxo Bank
49Jan Bakelants (Bel) RadioShack-Nissan
50Vasili Kiryienka (Blr) Movistar Team0:00:58
51Romain Sicard (Fra) Euskaltel - Euskadi
52Pierrick Fedrigo (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat
53Lars Petter Nordhaug (Nor) Sky Procycling0:01:02
54Mikael Cherel (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
55Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Movistar Team0:01:05
56Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team0:01:09
57Simon Geschke (Ger) Argos - Shimano
58Sergey Lagutin (Uzb) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
59Salvatore Puccio (Ita) Sky Procycling0:01:13
60Benoît Vaugrenard (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat0:01:19
61Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) BMC Racing Team0:01:23
62Kevin De Weert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quickstep0:01:24
63Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team0:01:27
64Maciej Paterski (Pol) Liquigas-Cannondale0:01:30
65Jerome Coppel (Fra) Saur - Sojasun0:01:34
66Anthony Delaplace (Fra) Saur - Sojasun
67Simone Stortoni (Ita) Lampre - ISD0:01:48
68Chris Anker Sörensen (Den) Team Saxo Bank
69Laurens De Vreese (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator
70Simon Clarke (Aus) GreenEdge Cycling Team0:01:55
71Thomas Dekker (Ned) Garmin - Barracuda0:01:57
72Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC Racing Team
73Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team
74Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team
75Francis De Greef (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team
76Vegard Stake Laengen (Nor) Team Type 1 - Sanofi
77Pieter Jacobs (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator
78Dominik Nerz (Ger) Liquigas-Cannondale0:02:10
79Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi0:02:13
80Gaetan Bille (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team0:02:20
81Andy Schleck (Lux) RadioShack-Nissan0:02:25
82Michal Golas (Pol) Omega Pharma-Quickstep
83Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Katusha Team0:02:28
84Yury Trofimov (Rus) Katusha Team0:02:35
85Angel Vicioso Arcos (Spa) Katusha Team0:02:37
86Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana Pro Team0:02:39
87Pablo Lastras Garcia (Spa) Movistar Team
88Eduard Vorganov (Rus) Katusha Team
89Tomasz Marczynski (Pol) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
90Frederik Veuchelen (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team0:03:10
91Maxime Bouet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale0:03:26
92Dirk Bellemakers (Ned) Landbouwkrediet-Euphony0:03:28
93Federico Canuti (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale0:03:55
94Moreno Moser (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale
95Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin - Barracuda0:04:07
96Michael Schär (Swi) BMC Racing Team
97Bram Tankink (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team0:04:32
98Thierry Hupond (Fra) Argos - Shimano
99Christian Meier (Can) GreenEdge Cycling Team0:04:39
100Yukihiro Doi (Jpn) Argos - Shimano0:05:04
101Johannes Fröhlinger (Ger) Argos - Shimano
102Jorge Azanza Soto (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi
103Jonathan Hivert (Fra) Saur - Sojasun0:05:20
104Michel Kreder (Ned) Garmin - Barracuda0:05:39
105Anthony Roux (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat0:05:49
106Dmitriy Fofonov (Kaz) Astana Pro Team0:07:06
107Sergio Miguel Moreira Paulinho (Por) Team Saxo Bank0:07:50
108Martin Velits (Svk) Omega Pharma-Quickstep
109Stefan Denifl (Aut) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team0:08:09
110Wilson Alexander Marentes Torres (Col) Colombia - Coldeportes0:09:29
111Gregory Habeaux (Bel) Accent Jobs - Willems Veranda's0:09:31
112Jeffry Johan Romero Corredor (Col) Colombia - Coldeportes0:09:36
113Kurt Hovelynck (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Euphony
114Laurent Didier (Lux) RadioShack-Nissan0:09:39
115Mads Christensen (Den) Team Saxo Bank0:09:41
116Imanol Erviti Ollo (Spa) Movistar Team0:09:46
117Fumiyuki Beppu (Jpn) GreenEdge Cycling Team0:09:50
118Xabier Zandio Echaide (Spa) Sky Procycling
119Klaas Lodewyck (Bel) BMC Racing Team0:09:57
120Martin Kohler (Swi) BMC Racing Team
121Georg Preidler (Aut) Team Type 1 - Sanofi
122David Tanner (Aus) Team Saxo Bank
123Tobias Ludvigsson (Swe) Argos - Shimano
124Sander Armee (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator
125Travis Meyer (Aus) GreenEdge Cycling Team
126Alessandro Spezialetti (Ita) Lampre - ISD
127Johan Esteban Chaves Rubio (Col) Colombia - Coldeportes
128Leonardo Bertagnolli (Ita) Lampre - ISD
129Stefano Agostini (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale
130Alex Howes (USA) Garmin - Barracuda
131Angel Madrazo Ruiz (Spa) Movistar Team
132Arnoud Van Groen (Ned) Accent Jobs - Willems Veranda's
133David Lelay (Fra) Saur - Sojasun
134Rubens Bertogliati (Swi) Team Type 1 - Sanofi
135Julien Vermote (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quickstep
136Matthieu Sprick (Fra) Argos - Shimano
137Reinier Honig (Ned) Landbouwkrediet-Euphony0:10:04
138Luke Rowe (GBr) Sky Procycling0:10:17
139Jelle Wallays (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator0:10:24
140Jérémie Galland (Fra) Saur - Sojasun0:11:02
141Ricardo Garcia Ambroa (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi0:11:10
142Gilles Devillers (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Euphony0:11:17
143Arthur Van Overberghe (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator0:12:27
DNFXavier Florencio Cabre (Spa) Katusha Team
DNFAlberto Losada Alguacil (Spa) Katusha Team
DNFGorka Izagirre Insausti (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi
DNFRuben Perez Moreno (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi
DNFMarco Bandiera (Ita) Omega Pharma-Quickstep
DNFMichal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma-Quickstep
DNFDamiano Caruso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale
DNFDaniele Ratto (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale
DNFRigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky Procycling
DNFDavide Appollonio (Ita) Sky Procycling
DNFThomas Löfkvist (Swe) Sky Procycling
DNFDaryl Impey (RSA) GreenEdge Cycling Team
DNFWesley Sulzberger (Aus) GreenEdge Cycling Team
DNFBen Hermans (Bel) RadioShack-Nissan
DNFJens Voigt (Ger) RadioShack-Nissan
DNFMartijn Keizer (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
DNFBert-Jan Lindeman (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
DNFYuriy Krivtsov (Fra) Lampre - ISD
DNFOleksandr Kvachuk (Ukr) Lampre - ISD
DNFJulien El Fares (Fra) Team Type 1 - Sanofi
DNFDaniele Colli (Ita) Team Type 1 - Sanofi
DNFAlexander Efimkin (Rus) Team Type 1 - Sanofi
DNFJure Kocjan (Slo) Team Type 1 - Sanofi
DNFJavier Megias Leal (Spa) Team Type 1 - Sanofi
DNFFrancesco Gavazzi (Ita) Astana Pro Team
DNFEvgeny Petrov (Rus) Astana Pro Team
DNFSimone Ponzi (Ita) Astana Pro Team
DNFBen Gastauer (Lux) AG2R La Mondiale
DNFSébastien Minard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
DNFJean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
DNFChristophe Riblon (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
DNFAlbert Timmer (Ned) Argos - Shimano
DNFTim Declercq (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator
DNFPreben Van Hecke (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator
DNFBrian Bulgac (Ned) Lotto Belisol Team
DNFBart De Clercq (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team
DNFJurgen Van De Walle (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team
DNFDennis Vanendert (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team
DNFSandy Casar (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat
DNFSteve Chainel (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat
DNFKenny Elissonde (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat
DNFCédric Pineau (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat
DNFDavy Commeyne (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Euphony
DNFSébastien Delfosse (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Euphony
DNFEgidijus Juodvalkis (Ltu) Landbouwkrediet-Euphony
DNFStaf Scheirlinckx (Bel) Accent Jobs - Willems Veranda's
DNFSteven Caethoven (Bel) Accent Jobs - Willems Veranda's
DNFOleg Chuzhda (Ukr) Accent Jobs - Willems Veranda's
DNFSjef De Wilde (Bel) Accent Jobs - Willems Veranda's
DNFKevin Ista (Bel) Accent Jobs - Willems Veranda's
DNFJurgen Van Goolen (Bel) Accent Jobs - Willems Veranda's
DNFTroels Ronning Vinther (Den) Team Saxo Bank
DNFRobinson Eduardo Chalapud Gomez (Col) Colombia - Coldeportes
DNFVictor Hugo Pena Grisales (Col) Colombia - Coldeportes
DNFJuan Pablo Suarez Suarez (Col) Colombia - Coldeportes

 

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