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La Fleche Wallonne 2017

Welcome one, welcome all. It's Fleche Wallonne day and the riders are getting themselves ready for the off in Binche. Meanwhile, the women's peloton is just minutes away from starting their race in Huy. 

The riders are signing on at the moment. It's a bit fresh out there but at least it is dry. The riders are better off than those competing elsewhere in Europe as they've had their days disrupted by yet more snow. 

The women are underway. There's been one non-starter in that bunch with Kaat Hannes not rolling out with her team this morning. 

 

Alejandro Valverde is the defending champion here at Fleche Wallonne and the Spaniard is aiming for his fifth title today. However his Movistar team says there's no pressure on him to achieve that record. Movistar's line-up also includes another former winner of the race in Daniel Moreno. 

 

1 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa)
2 Carlos Alberto Betancur Gomez (Col)
3 Imanol Erviti Ollo (Spa)
4 Jesus Herrada Lopez (Spa)
5 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa)
6 Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa)
7 Marc Soler (Spa)
8 Rory Sutherland (Aus)

 

#FlecheWallonne: Smiles and interviews ahead of racing. https://t.co/dnxPyPuu30

@OricaScott Wed, 19th Apr 2017 09:03:22

Orica-Scott will be looking to Michael Albasini for the win today. Albasini finished second here back in 2012 and third in 2015.

51 Michael Albasini (Swi)
52 Sam Bewley (NZl)
53 Alexander Edmondson (Aus)
54 Jack Haig (Aus)
55 Damien Howson (Aus)
56 Daryl Impey (RSA)
57 Christopher Juul Jensen (Ded)
58 Roman Kreuziger (Cze)

 

Greetings from Belgium

The men's peloton is now also on the move and making their way through the neutralised section. It's a long one and it'll be another 15 minutes before they hit the real start of today's racing. 

Michal Kwiatkowski is arguably Valverde's biggest challenger for the victory today. The Polish rider finished second at Amstel Gold on Sunday and has been on the podium in Huy before. Team Sky also has Sergio Henao as a potential challenger. 

 

21 Michał Kwiatkowski (Pol)
22 Owain Doull (GBr)
23 Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBr)
24 Michał Gołaś (Pol)
25 Sebastian Henao Gomez (Col)
26 Sergio Luis Henao Montoya (Col)
27 Gianni Moscon (Ita)
28 Diego Rosa (Ita)

 

Over in the women's race, the peloton has raced 23km and there are four riders out in the lead. They are Anisha Vekemans, Allie Dragoo, Sophie De Vuyst and Katia Ragusa.

 

Nathan Haas was one of the select few who made it clear with Philippe Gilbert towards the end of the Amstel Gold Race. The Australian came close to the podium and while he's very much the underdog today, he's got the smell of the podium and he'd like to get there this week. 

 

The flag has finally been dropped for racing. We are off!

 

Today's race includes 9 climbs, including three ascents of the Mur de Huy. Read our full preview of today's race right here

 

There have been a number of attacks off the front but the pace is very high and nothing has stuck just yet. 

 

Meanwhile in Fleche Wallonne Feminine, the leaders now have a gap of 1:15 over the peloton after 30km. 

 

A group of six managed to get a small gap on the peloton, who were clearly not pleased with its complexion and immediately brought it to heel. At this speed, it's going to take a while for something to form. 

 

Politt, Bagot and Pardini have a small advantage now. Can they make it work?

 

The gap is 20 seconds at the moment, far from a certainty just yet. 

 

It sounds like there is a bit of wind near Huy and it's having an impact on the women's peloton as riders are dispatched out the back. We'll wait and see if it does some damage in the men's race too. 

 

The trio out front has 40 seconds on the bunch and there are two Sport Vlaanderen riders trying to chase them down. This is Politt leading the escape a little while ago. 

 

 

The chasers have been brought back but the three out front are ploughing along and now have a minute on the bunch after 16km of racing. 

 

It looks like the peloton may allow this to go but the gap is not growing that quickly at the moment and there may be a few teams who want to try their hand and get across the gap. 

 

AG2R La Mondiale are a solid outside bet for today with Romain Bardet and Alexis Vuillermoz in their Fleche line-up. Bardet has traditionally skipped Fleche Wallonne in favour of the Giro del Trentino (now the Tour of the Alps) but has decided to give it a shot this year. Vuillermoz has form here and finished in the top 10 a couple of years ago.

 

121 Alexis Vuillermoz (Fra)
122 Romain Bardet (Fra)
123 Mickael Cherel (Fra)
124 Axel Domont (Fra)
125 Mathias Frank (Swi)
126 Cyril Gautier (Fra)
127 Quentin Jauregui (Fra)
128 Pierre Latour (Fra)

 

Another counter attack has formed with Fabien Doubey (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Romain Guillemois (Direct Energie) and Daniel Pearson (Aqua Blue Sport). They are 35 seconds behind the three leaders at the moment while the peloton is now 2:20 behind the head of the race. 

 

It's a similar sized gap over in the women's race with 2:15 splitting the bunch and the four leaders. They've got around 80 kilometres still to go. 

 

The two leading groups have joined forces and with that the advantage has jumped up to four minutes after almost 30 kilometres of racing. A quick reminder of the six riders out front: Fabien Doubey (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Romain Guillemois (Direct Energie) and Daniel Pearson (Aqua Blue Sport) join Yoann Bagot (Cofidis), Nils Politt (Katusha Alpecin) and Olivier Pardini (WB Veranclassic Protect).

 

This is the moment that the two groups came together. 

 

 

#FWwomen Big crash at the back, a number of riders hit the deck including Plichta, Taylor, Eric and Guderzo

@flechewallonne Wed, 19th Apr 2017 10:11:44

Movistar are manning the front of the bunch at the moment. They seem happy with the way things are progressing for now. 

 

The gap continues to climb towards the 5-minute mark with 33km under the belt. 

 

It's a pretty young breakaway out there with most of the riders either 22 or 23. Yoann Bagot is the oldest of the six men up front at 29. The Frenchman turned pro in 2011 with Cofidis and has been there ever since. Cofidis has no outright favourite here today. 

 

Away from racing and Mark Cavendish's former teammate Michael Rogers has told Cyclingnews that he believes the Manxman will be back to his best despite coming down with the Epstein Barr virus. Read the full story here

 

News coming in from the women's race is that Carlee Taylor, Jelena Eric, Demmy Druyts and Ingvlid Gaskjenn have abandoned after that heavy crash earlier on. The four leaders a still clear with an advantage of 2:50 over the peloton after 60km of racing. 

 

Movistar continue to set the pace in the bunch, allowing the gap to grow out to 5:45. The team have high hopes for today, despite missing out at Sunday's Amstel Gold. 

 

"[Valverde has] got lots of love for these races and he will give his all. We hope it will bring us to the same successful outcome as the previous years", Movistar DS Jose Luis Arrieta told the race website. "The Amstel usually is a touchstone for these classics and the other day, Alejandro waited a little bit too much to go for the attacking group and the victory got away from us. We need to learn from these small mistakes so it won't happen again today or on Sunday. Alejandro is always good, and when he's not, he's very good. He gave us bad habits."

 

Apologies for some miscalculations earlier, it's actually Olivier Pardini who is the eldest of the escapees today. Pardini is 31 years old, so a couple more than Bagot, and has been racing with continental teams since 2008. He finally stepped up to Pro Continental this season with WB Veranclassic Aqua Protect.

 

In Fleche Wallonne Feimine, Boels Dolmans and Team Sunweb are driving the chase of the four escapees. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio hit the deck a short while ago but got back on and is now with the bunch again. 

 

Another non-Fleche Wallonne related plug, this one is for Matteo Trentin. We have the latest blog from the Italian as he reflects on a the cobbled Classics and saying goodbye to Tom Boonen. Read what he has to say here

 

#FlecheWallonne: Dans le peloton, 8 coureurs sont déjà montés sur le podium / 8 podium finishers in the pack today… https://t.co/bUvuXujgfD

@flechewallonne Wed, 19th Apr 2017 10:44:27

As the break holds steady at 5:50 following 70km of racing, things are exploding in the women's race. That effort from Boels Dlmans and Sunweb has cut the gap to just 40 seconds and has had the added bonus of shedding some riders from the peloton. Less than 50km to go. 

 

The race is heading over undulating terrain at the moment. There's still around 80km until the climbs begin. 

 

Quick-Step Floors is without their in-form rider Philippe Gilbert. The Belgian won the Amstel Gold Race but crashed en-route and was diagnosed with a tear to his kidney after paying a visit to the hospital. The injury has ruled him out of the rest of the Ardennes races and it's now down to former Liege-Bastogne-Liege winner Dan Martin to carry the torch for the team. 

 

11 Daniel Martin (Irl)
12 Gianluca Brambilla (Ita)
13 Laurens De Plus (Bel)
14 Dries Devenyns (Bel)
15 Bob Jungels (Lux)
16 Maximilian Schachmann (Ger)
17 Petr Vakoc (Cze)
18 Martin Velits (Svk)

 

Samuel Sanchez was a surprise addition to the BMC Racing line-up for today's race. Sanchez suffered a heavy crash during the Vuelta al Pais Vasco and had to have surgery to re-attach a tendon. Even he has been surprised by his recovery. 

 

"My sensations on the bike are good and I would like to use la Flèche wallonne to check my physical condition, in particular the recovery of my hand," he told the race website. "My recovery has been a miracle but very laboured, both physically and mentally. I love the Ardennes and I really wanted to come back for them, so la Flèche wallonne will be a good opportunity to see where I am at now at this point in the season."

 

40km to go in the women's race. They've lost two riders from the breakaway with just Dragoo and De Vuyst remaining. The pair have 45 seconds on the fast approaching bunch. 

 

Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, who crashed earlier, has gone on the attack. 

 

On the Mur, getting close now. #FWwomen https://t.co/4hN3UJqXqJ

@mazzok Wed, 19th Apr 2017 11:08:43

The organisers note that none of the six escapees has finished this race before, with Bagot and Guillemois the only ones to have a previous participation. 

 

Back to the women's race and Moolman-Pasio has joined forces with De Vuyst her teammate Dragoo. Dragoo slowed the pace out front to give the South African the chance to bridge the gap. It's worth remembering that Moolman-Pasio broke her pelvis at the end of last season. 

 

Moolman Pasio kicks again and she drops her companions. It's just her alone out front now. She only has 11 seconds though. 

 

News from the finish is that the wind from earlier in the day has died down. It's nice and sunny but at only eight degrees it's a little nippy. 

 

130km remaining from 200km

In the men's race, Movistar continues to keep the six escapees well under control. There has been very little fluctuation in the gap, which stands at 5:55. That's unlikely to change for some time, not until we start closing in on those first climbs that will be when the pace really ramps up. 

 

Moolman Pasio was caught and her teammate Marie Vilmann has gone now. Cervelo Bigla is riding aggressively today. 

 

A note on the finish to today's race from our reporter on the ground, Alasdair Fortheringham: The finishing circuit is slightly different to other years, in that although the final loop of roughly 23-24 kilometres is essentially the same, the three ascents of the Mur are all much closer together in the finale. In 2016, the Mur summit came at km 101, 167 and 196, this time round its at km 146, 169 and 204.

 

Will this make a difference to how things play out?

 

120km remaining from 200km

Movistar has begun to reel in the leaders now, slowly but surely. After peaking at about six minutes, the gap has dropped to 5:20. 

 

As mentioned earlier, Alejandro Valverde is looking for a record fifth win today. We caught a few words with the Spaniard and his teammate ahead of the start. 

 

“It’ll be hard to take a fifth Fleche Wallonne, but it won’t be impossible. I know how to do it, I’ve had a very good season so far and I’m very confident in my team.”

His teammate Dani Moreno, the only other winner in la Flèche Wallonne to be present at the startline of this year’s race, predicted that “there will be a lot of attacks from much further out than usual. The slightly changed finishing circuit will help that, too. But waiting for the summit finish will play into Alejandro’s hands.” His own role, he says, is clear: “100 percent for Alejandro.”

 

20km to go in Fleche Wallonne Feminine and Vilmann has 40 seconds on the group of chasers. All the big players are in that second group so she's going to have a tough time holding them off. What she is doing is giving her team a bit of a rest and a chance to recoup for the climbs to come. 

 

It was announced on Monday that Philippe Gilbert would miss the rest of the Ardennes but his kidney injury will also keep him out of the Giro d'Italia. Read the full story here

 

The pace is ramping up in the women's race. Riabchenko is with Vilmann up front and they have 30 seconds on the bunch. Behind them things have broken the peloton up and former winner Pauline Ferrand-Prevot lost out. She's having to work hard to get back on. 

 

Bahrain-Merida is helping out Movistar at the front of the peloton. They've got Enrico Gasparotto in the mix, despite the Italian suffering a horrible crash during the Amstel Gold Race. 

 

191 Enrico Gasparotto (Ita)
192 Yukiya Arashiro (Jpn)
193 Grega Bole (Slo)
194 Tsgabu Grmay (Eth)
195 Jon Izagirre Insausti (Spa)
196 Antonio Nibali (Ita)
197 Giovanni Visconti (Ita)
198 Wang Meiyin (Chn)

 

After Philippe Gilbert’s injuries on Sunday and Julian Alaphilippe’s knee injury laid both the Belgian and the Frenchman low for the Ardennes, Dan Martin (Quick Step) is the sole leader for Quick Step Floors. Third in 2016, and second in 2014 in the mid-week Classic, Martin says he will be hoping for a top performance in la Fleche Wallonne.

 

“I’m in really good condition and we’ve still got a strong team, with different options despite there being no Philippe or Julian,” Martin said at the start. Asked pointblank by one reporter what his chances of victory could be, the Irishman responded “I’m going to do my best and if my best is better than the other guys, then I will win.”

 


Winning breaks have been going much earlier than usual in some of the Classics, but Martin does not expect that to be the case for him. “I think the last 60 kilometres is so hard, particularly with the new course, that it could well lead to aggressive racing. But my strength is on the Mur, so you won’t be seeing me til the last kilometre. The team is not as strong as I could have been, it was definitely a blow and I’d have loved to have raced this with Philippe because of his experience. But fortunately we’ve got a good team, everything went perfect in the first half of the year for me in terms of training. But it’s still a bit of an incognito because I wasn’t feeling great in Amstel” - where he abandoned - “but that was because I’ve not really raced for three weeks. That’s actually a good sign - I always feel rubbish in Amstel."

 

10km to go for the women's peloton. Vilmann and Riabchenko still have 35 seconds. Cordon and Van Vleuten have both tried to get across but both were brought back. 

 

Boels Dolmans setting the pace as they head over the penultimate ascent of the Cherave. Can these two hold on? It's going to be tough. 

 

Over in the men's race, Movistar and a few select helpers keep tapping away at the lead of the six out front. It's come down to five minutes and it's still edging down. 40km to the first climbs of the day. 

 

Meanwhile, in Huy, Niewiadoma has attacked from the bunch and passed our intrepid escapees. She takes Deignan and Van der Breggen with her. This is a very dangerous move. 

 

Deignan is also in that move. 

 

The WorldTour leader Coryn Rivera is struggling. She's shown she can climb in the last few weeks but this is a step too far for the American. Her teammate Van Dijk is also in trouble. 

 

Van Der Breggen attacks again. This trio don't hold much of an advantage.

 

Van der Breggen has 38 seconds on the main group, no word on her gap to the other two escapees. Can she take her third straight win at Fleche and second win in four days?

 

19 seconds is the reported gap between Van der Breggen and the chasers Deignan and Niewiadoma. 

 

Not long now. Van der Breggen still out front. it looks like she might do it. She has 20 seconds now. 

 

Van der Breggen solos to victory. That's three straight wins for the European champion. Deignan comes over the line in second place and Niewiadoma lost a little ground in the finale but help on for third. 

 

Well, what a finale to that race and what a run of success for Van der Breggen. She should climb the WorldTour rankings after that, while Rivera may well lose her lead. We'll have to wait and see. 

 

100km remaining from 200km

While we were focusing on the finish of the women's race, the men have gone through the feed zone and the advantage of the escapees has bumped out a bit to 5:25. 

 

Result @flechewallonne: 1. @AnnavdBreggen 2. @lizziedeignan 3. @KNiewiadoma 4. @AvVleuten 5. @SharaGillow #UCIWWT #FWWomen

@UCI_WWT Wed, 19th Apr 2017 12:14:08

Second in the Amstel Gold Race, Michal Kwiatkowski’s strong form and win in Milano-Sanremo thus year would make him a top contender for the Ardennes regardless, but the Pole has also garnered some top results in Fleche Wallonne in previous years, with a third place in 2014 and fifth in 2013 . On top of that Kwiatkowski’s team-mate Sergio Henao also has a runner’s up spot in Fleche Wallonne to his name, meaning Sky have at least two options despite Wout Poels’ sitting out the Ardennes Classics.

 


“Compared to Amstel, Gianni Moscon and Diego Rosa have joined the squad’s line-up for Fleche and they’re both really good climbers,” the former World Champion pointed out. “I believe that together with Sergio we can keep on fighting.”
Rather than a long-distance move like in Amstel, Kwiatkowski believes the course in Fleche lends itself to being decided in the last minute - literally. “The last two laps being so close together make it tougher, but I still believe it’s all about the last kilometre. I’ll save as much energy as I can and rock and roll on the last climb.

 


“If you look at the previous winners, Alejandro’s won the last three editions, and the guy before that was Moreno, who’s in the Movistar line-up. So it is up to them to take responsibilty, even though Dan Martin (Quick Step Floors) is another real dangerman on this course.”

 

Van der Breggen wins Flèche Wallonne Féminine https://t.co/SRLhSCeg6W https://t.co/2M6A5pfkxe

@Cyclingnewsfeed Wed, 19th Apr 2017 12:17:52

The gap drops again. It's now just under 5 minute as the leaders quickly encroach on the first ascent of the day. A reminder of who is up front: Fabien Doubey (Wanty-Gobert), Yoann Bagot (Cofidis), Nils Politt (Katusha Alpecin), Romain Guillemois (Direct Energie), Daniel Pearson (Aqua Blue Sport), and Olivier Pardini (WB Veranclassic).

 

Valverde, tapping away near the front of the peloton, has had a relatively uneventful race so far. That's just what he'll want before the race hits the final climb of the day. At the moment his Movistar team, and Orica Scott, are leading the peloton with 90km to go. The gap to the break is at 4'26.

Robert Gesink is drifting near the back of the field and adjusting his shoes. If you're looking for an outsider for today he could be someone to watch. On his day he's a superb climber and he's made the top ten here twice. His best result came in 2008, when he was fourth. Kirchen, Evans and Cunego were on the podium that day.

 

Gasparotto is another rider at the back of the bunch. He crashed out of Amstel but has made it back in time for Fleche. He was fifth here twelve months ago and will be desperate to leave an impression on the Ardennes after his bad luck last weekend. 

 

82km remaining from 200km

Meanwhile the break have lost another chunk of time on the peloton - the gap is down to 3'43 with 82km to go.

 

How well do you know the Ardennes Classics? Well you can find out (sort of) by taking our quiz

 

Over in Italy and Geraint Thomas has taken a huge win in the Tour of the Alps. A huge boost to his confidence ahead of next month Giro d'Italia. The Welsh rider now leads the race. Report, results, and photos, just here.

 

Meanwhile Matteo Trentin has penned his latest blog for Cyclingnews. He talks about the Classics, and waving goodbye to his teammate and friend, Tom Boonen. Here's the blog.

 

The break are climbing, an uncategorised climb, with the gap at 3'33. The bunch are in second gear right now, holding the break where they want them before we hit the final 50km.

 

Back in the bunch and Orica and Movistar are leading proceedings. BMC  and Lotto are trying to get in the mix as a number of riders lose their top layer of clothing. Things are slowly starting to warm up. 

 

Two climbs done and dusted for the leaders and they have just 2:50 remaining of their original advantage. Up next is the first ascent of the Mur de Huy. 

A mechanical problem for Wilco Kelderman as it appears on of the Astana riders has gone down quite heavily. 

 

It is Michael Valgren, who was fairly near the front of the bunch. A replay shows him clip something on the road and sends him tumbling down the road. He looks like he's hit his head pretty hard in that crash and while he's sitting up he's not getting up any time soon. A medic has a neck brace ready for him. Let's hope it is just precautionary. 

 

65km remaining from 200km

While the leaders descend, the peloton has just reached the Côte de Villers-le-Bouillet. 2:44 the gap now. 

 

Seventh in Amstel Gold and part of the winning break, after years of riding as a support worker for Alejandro Valverde in Movistar, at Bahrain-Merida Ion Izagirre is finally able to fight for his own corner in the Ardennes Classics.


Amstel Gold was an encouraging result, Izagirre told Cyclingnews at the Flèche Wallonne start in Binche, “and the team was good, too. This isn’t such a good finish for me as Dan Martin (Quick Step Floors) or Alejandro, I’m not so explosive, but when the legs are good, who knows what can happen?


“Changing the route will make it much harder and it could well make for a more open race, with more attacks earlier on. Waiting for the Mur means waiting for Alejandro, and seeing how unstoppable he’s been so far this season, he’s surely going to have a great chance to win.”


Izagirre has an excellent advisor for the race - recent retiree Joaquim Rodriguez, who briefly clambered onto the riders’ signing on podium to wave at the crowds in Binche. Now working with Bahrain-Merida, Rodriguez won Flèche in 2012 and took the Tour de France stage on the same finish in Huy in 2015.

 

A problem for Daniel Moreno. It looks like he's snapped his chain and he has to stop and get a replacement bike. 

 

Moreno is chasing but his team won't be waiting around too much. They've got the bunch strung out as they steam towards Huy. The leaders pass under the flamme rouge. Still 59km to go though until they cross the line for the final time. 

 

Polit has his tongue between his teeth as he leads the escapees up the Mur de Huy. They don't call it Mur for nothing. They've got to do this two more times. 

 

Valgren is an official DNF, his team has confirmed. We'll bring you any more news when we hear. 

 

The peloton are on the Mur de Huy now. The pinch point is so much that most of the riders at the back have to stop and wait to filter into the line. That means they are attacking the climb from a dead start. Up front, Politt quickly went backwards when the road hit its steepest and Bagot now pushes the escapees along. 

 

This first ascent of the Mur de Huy has decimated the peloton. About 30-40 riders remaining in the main group. They're catching the escapees pretty quickly. With just 56km to go, the 5 out front have 1:34 with Politt chasing back on over this flatter section. 

 

It looks like Pearson has also lost touch up there and there's just four riders in that leading group. 

 

Ninth in Fleche Wallonne in 2016, Warren Barguil (Team Sunweb) says he will be looking “for another top ten result this year. It will be hard to beat Valverde, unless he’s not on a good day. The only way to do it is to be faster than he is in Huy. There’s definitely been a trend to attack earlier in other Classics, but I don’t think it’ll happen here. You’d need more than 30 seconds at the bottom and I don’t think that’s going to happen.”

 

Mark Christian and Chris Juul Jensen attack of the front of the peloton but they quickly get brought back to the bunch. 

 

Not long after they are brought back, Christian's teammate Pearson is also reeled in with Politt. 

 

52km remaining from 200km

It's a busy time for Aqua Blue as Connor Dunne gets a front wheel change. He's going to have a tough job getting back on now. 

 

Doubey is the next rider from the breakaway to start struggling. He can see the remaining three up front but he's losing ground on them. 

 

Guillemois is the only rider from the original breakaway remaining. Bagot and Pardini were part of the three-man group that joined up with him and his companions a little later in the race. 

 

There is a wall of blue at the front of the peloton with Orica-Scott and Movistar packing out the first few spots. They absorb Doubey into the peloton and they've got the last three in their sights. Just 57 seconds between the two groups now. 

 

The peloton is on the Côte d'Ereffe. The pace has slowed somewhat and the rest of the escapees are being allowed to dangle off the front for now. 

 

Just as I write that, one of the BMC riders has gone on the attack. It is Alessandro de Marchi. 

 

De Marchi's effort has elicited a response from Orica-Scott in the form of Chris Juul-Jensen. Carlos Betancur of Movistar jumps clear too. Both teams are keen to keep tabs on the attacks. 

 

De Marchi has another dig. He's got six riders in his wheel, but none are giving him any help at the moment and there are more riders trying to jump the gap. 

 

Betancur is glued to the wheel of De Marchi. He's struggling to keep in touch with him but he hangs in nonetheless. 

 

44km remaining from 200km

De Marchi is really eager to drop Betancur as the Colombian won't be in mind to help him at all. There are several riders still in that no man's land between the peloton and De Marchi. All the while, the gap to the three up front is coming down. Just 28 seconds now. 

 

Sky has now come forward to help Movistar. They've missed out on this split so they certainly need it to come back together. 

 

The De Marchi group is back in the peloton. Just 20 seconds for the three at the front of proceedings. 

 

Ninth in Fleche Wallonne in 2016, Warren Barguil (Team Sunweb) says he will be looking “for another top 10 result this year. It will be hard to beat Valverde, unless he’s not on a good day. The only way to do it is to be faster than he is in Huy. There’s definitely been a trend to attack earlier in other Classics, but I don’t think it’ll happen here. You’d need more than 30 seconds at the bottom and I don’t think that’s going to happen.”

 

As the action heats up, the temperatures have dropped. It's a bit chilly at the top of the Mur de Huy. 

 

36km remaining from 200km

Pardini has pushed on alone as Guillemois and Bagot try to chase the Belgian down. 

 

Pardini on the Cote de Cherave. This climb was added to the race a couple of years ago and is likely to be the scene of a few hopeful attacks. 

 

Guillemois and Bagot are back in the bunch now. Just Pardini left out front. It won't be long before he is brought back. 

 

That is it for Pardini. He is reeled back by the Movistar-led bunch. Lots of riders being dropped from the peloton, including some of the former escapees. 

 

The irrepressible De Marchi goes on the attack again at the top of the Cote de Cherave. Riders desperately trying to get onto his wheel. 

 

The descent of the Cherave is generally quite sweeping and quick. A few technical bits to contend with too though. 

 

Nobody has managed to bridge over to De Marchi but he does not have that much of an advantage on the peloton as he rides along the flat section into the center of Huy. 

 

Happy 4th today on Muur of Huy. One of my best results on @flechewallonne Tried to anticipate, but impossible @boelsdolmansct in control

@AvVleuten Wed, 19th Apr 2017 13:56:17

It's just 15 seconds for De Marchi. Not much for the Mur de Huy. He's a good climber but we'll have to wait and see if he can hold the bunch off. 

 

De Marchi actually extending his lead going into the Mur de Huy. The steepest section is ahead though. 20 seconds for the BMC rider. 

 

29km remaining from 200km

Max Schachmann jumps to the front for Quick-Step Floors. This is the first time that we've seen the Belgian team. Their efforts have brought De Marchi into sight. 

 

Mur de Huy, acte II https://t.co/s0L1jEGMNI #FlecheWallonne

@radiotour_fr Wed, 19th Apr 2017 14:03:15

De Marchi has got over the toughest part of the climb and he's still got a small advantage. Quick-Step Floors can still see him though. Sunweb and BMC are also near the front. Movistar has completely disappeared. 

 

Bob Jungels goes on the attack. 

 

Betancur is on the move quickly yet again and there are more riders coming across too. 

 

De Marchi is still at the head of the race. No word on the time gaps though. 

 

Jungels is closing on De Marchi. There's still a few seconds between the two, with some more riders trying to come up behind. 

 

Jungels now up with De Marchi as the rest are brought back. That's two very strong riders up there and it takes the pressure off their respective teams. 

 

This move means that Moivstar have been ofrced ot get up to the front to work again but they've got plenty of help from pretty much every other team. Representatives from Orica, Sky, Katusha, Sunweb and more up there. 

 

21km remaining from 200km

Just 20 seconds for the two out front with 21km to go. It doesn't look like this one will stick, but stranger things have happened. 

 

FDJ putting riders on the front. This is their line-up for today's race. 

 

181 Arthur Vichot (Fra)
182 Arnaud Courteille (Fra)
183 Marc Fournier (Fra)
184 David Gaudu (Fra)
185 Rudy Molard (Fra)
186 Cédric Pineau (Fra)
187 Kevin Reza (Fra)
188 Anthony Roux (Fra)

 

Three climbs left in today's race; the Cote de d'Ereffe, the Cote de Cherave and the Mur de Huy. 

 

16km remaining from 200km

Jungels and De Marchi are working very well togethr. They are managing to push the gap out a little bit but it is hard work with Orica-Scott working hard to shut it down. Juul Jensen is on the front of the bunch. He's done a lot of work in the last little while and he can't have much left in the legs. 

 

Bad luck for Tosh van der Sande. His Lotto-Soudal team says that he has suffered a puncture. It is Tim Wellens that the team will be looking to in the finale though. 

 

The Cote d'Ereffe is done with and the two out front hold an advantage of 25 seconds. They're really trying to make some gains on the descent and into the flat section. Jungels leading the way. 

 

Orica-Scott is giving Movista a bit of a free ride here. They must have a lot of confidence in Albasini. The Swiss man finished third at Amstel Gold and is a former podium finisher at Fleche Wallonne. 

 

No panic in the peloton at the moment. After splitting up drastically earlier on, it has bulked out over the past few kilometres. The Cherave is quickly approaching though and we can expect some more attacks. 

 

11km remaining from 200km

Jungels has dropped De Marchi on a short descent. The Italian has lost several metres on the Luxembourg champion. Jungels has 35 seconds on the peloton. 

 

9km remaining from 200km

Jungels is giving it beans and making the most of his time trialling skills. His advantage has gone up to 43seconds. 

 

At the moment, the gap to Jungels is only going one way and that is up. He'll need a decent gap if he wants to hold off the punchier of climbers. He's a decent climber himself though. 

 

7km remaining from 200km

Orica-Scott is doing their best to pull this back. De Marchi stuck in the middle. About 25 seconds behind Jungels and 25 ahead of the peloton. 

 

Jungels is on the Cherave and he's losing time, but not that much. De Marchi is brought back by the peloton. 

 

Jungels is out of the saddle and he's digging deep as Sky move to the front of the bunch.

 

6km remaining from 200km

Sebastian Henao was the Sky rider that put in that little dig but Rafal Majka now picks things up and he has the peloton in one long line. He's taken big chunks out of Jungels' time too. He's got just 33 seconds. 

 

Jungels is looking over his shoulder. He's over the top of the Cherave and he's got 30 seconds. How much time can he gain here?

 

Team Sky is once again making the chase behind. They've still got decent numbers after keeping their noses clean for most of the race. 

 

2km remaining from 200km

Moscon trying to drag things back. He showed his power when he finished fifth at Paris-Roubaix. He's a good rider to have in your arsenal. 

 

Jungels still plugging along. He's got 24 seconds but we saw how quickly that can disappear on the last climb. 

 

1km remaining from 200km

Our first Cannondale sighting as they try to get to the front. The peloton has about 30 riders remaining. 

 

Jungels under the flamme rouge. Once more unto the breach for the Luxembourg rider. 

 

The peloton can see him though and his gap is almost nothing. 

 

Sky lead the bunch onto the Mur de Huy. This is tense.

 

Jungels has about 20 or 30 metres before the steepest section.

 

Movistar come to the front and bring Jungels back. 

 

Kwiatkowski is in second wheel behind Rosa

 

Valverde up at the front now too.

 

Who will go first?

 

Stalemate for now. Michael Woods up there. 

 

Ulissi is on the front as Woods winds it up. 

 

Gaudu goes for it. 

 

Now its Valvrde followed by Sanchez

 

Valverde winds by a country mile

 

It looks like that BMC rider was actually Teuns not Sanchez. 

 

Valverde is definitely a happy man. He is lifted up in the air by his soigneur and he has claimed his fifth victory at Fleche Wallonne. 

 

It is all about timing on the Mur de Huy and Valverde has perfected that over the years. Nobody had the legs to chase him down. 

 

This is how it finished today. 

1 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team
2 Daniel Martin (Irl) Quick-Step Floors
3 Dylan Teuns (Bel) BMC Racing Team
4 Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky
5 Michael Albasini (Swi) Orica-Scott
6 Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Sunweb
7 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Team Sky
8 Rudy Molard (Fra) FDJ
9 David Gaudu (Fra) FDJ
10 Diego Ulissi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates

 

Asked what was his secret to winning, Valverde said “Confidence, effort, and a great team behind me.”

 

He added: “My rivals are very strong, but I’m in great shape and you have to take advantage of that.”

 

Alejandro Valverde is not the only multiple winner at Fleche Wallonne today. Earlier, Olympic champion Anna van der Breggen stormed to her third straight win. This is what she had to say afterwards. 

 

"Winning here for the third time in a row is really incredible. The race was very fast since the first kilometers. We had a plan, with the team, and it worked to perfection. I was obviously a favourite this year and so I had to change tactics to surprise my opponents and attack earlier than in previous years. But it was even harder and I had to draw from my reserves to win. I’m in good shape and I have an incredible team so I think we have good chances this Sunday in Liège-Bastogne-Liège."

 

This was the moment that Van der Breggen crossed the line for victory. 

 

Valverde is not oldest winner of La Flèche Wallonne. Davide Rebellin won when he was 38

@TheRaceRadio Wed, 19th Apr 2017 14:59:00

Here is the men's podium.

 

If you missed the action earlier today. This is how the women's race finished.  

 

1 Anna Van Der Breggen (Ned) Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam 3:21:06
2 Elizabeth Deignan (GBr) Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam 0:00:16
3 Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Pol) WM3 Pro Cycling 0:00:25
4 Annemiek Van Vleuten (Ned) Orica Scott Women 0:00:43
5 Shara Gillow (Aus) FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope 0:00:49
6 Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (RSA) Cervelo Bigla Pro Cycling Team 0:00:54
7 Coryn Rivera (USA) Team Sunweb Women 0:00:56
8 Janneke Ensing (Ned) Alé Cipollini 0:00:58
9 Katrin Garfoot (Aus) Orica Scott Women 0:01:00
10 Flavia Oliveira (Bra) Lares-Waowdeals 0:01:02

 

Cervélo Bigla were one of the instigators in the women's race and Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio had a go, despite crashing earlier in the race. This is what she had to say afterwards. 

 

“Today was a great effort from the whole team. It was a huge improvement from Amstel Gold Race. Everyone executed the team plan perfectly. Unfortunately for me, I had some bad luck crashing just before some heavy cross winds. That cost me a lot of energy to come back. At one point I thought that was my race done but Clara [Koppenburg] did an exceptional job to be with me all day and help me with the chase,” Moolman-Pasio said.

 

“I managed to re-join at 76km. Thomas encouraged me to give it a go on the climb to put the others under pressure. I felt really good and it was perfect because Allie was up the road. She gave me a lift into the Mur and I rode solo to the top but it was quite windy up there it didn’t make sense for me to keep going solo. After I was caught, Marie then jumped across and put in an exceptional effort. I’m really proud of how she went today. I said to her today was the perfect day for her and the kind of race she can do well in.”
 

 

The pictures are coming in and we've loaded up the full results. A full report is also almost complete. You can find that all here, plus a video recap of the final kilometre.

 

Quick-Step Floors - team of the Spring Classics! Top 3 at #MSR, #DDV, #E3, #RVV, #Scheldeprijs, #ParisRoubaix,… https://t.co/XRHZbLAK8t

@quickstepteam Wed, 19th Apr 2017 15:19:31

Don't forget, there was the Tour of the Alps today as well. Find out how things played out there with out report and results, here

 

Coryn Rivera kept hold of her slim lead in the Women's WorldTour with her seventh place. She had this to say before going up to the podium to collect the jersey once again. 

 

"I’m not a favourite for this kind of finish but everybody was suffering too. The three were off and they were hard to catch. Knowing my strengths and weaknesses, I had to bide my time for the finish. I was in a little group going for fourth, and I ended up in seventh.

 

"Liège-Bastogne-Liège is a war of attrition." @DanMartin86 of @quickstepteam on this Sunday's #LBL

You have to wonder what Quick-Step Floors would have been able to do if they'd had Philippe Gilbert in their ranks. However, they did stay true to form and push an aggressive strategy. Putting Bob Jungels out front was a good way of putting the cat among the pigeons. Unfortunately, he didn't have enough to bring it to the line.  

 

Dan Martin put in a really solid effort to take second place, but he came from a long way back. He was about 10th rider in the group when Valverde launched his attack and he was never going to catch the Spaniard from there. 

 

Dylan Teuns was a surprise third place today. He was right on Valverde's wheel when he went and, while he faded towards the end, he held off Sergio Henao for the final podium spot. That's a 10-place bump from his previous best finish of 13th back on 2015. 

 

“The most important thing here is the positioning on the Mur. You need to be top 10, top 15 maximum at the bottom. I knew that from two years ago, I was 25 or 30 and had to make my effort early. This time, I was with the big favourites: Kwiatkowski, Henao, Valverde… That was the perfect position for me. I was a bit boxed-in by Kwiatkowski and Henao at some point but with a top favourite like Valverde, it’s just waiting until he goes. I tried to follow but he quickly was a bike-length away. The legs hurt and Martin came really fast from behind. I kept going until the line to maintain 20 centimetres over Henao. I’m 25, Alejandro is 37 so I still have a few years to improve and try to win this race one day.”

 

Stage 2 of the Tour of Croatia finished a little earlier on with Kristian Durasek taking the victory. Read all about that here

 

One rider that will be a bit disappointed with how he went today is Michal Kwiatkowski. He was one of the pre-race favourites but only managed seventh in the end. He has said in the past that this is not one of his favourite races and believes himself better suited to Liege-Bastogne-Liege and Amstel Gold. We'll have to wait and see if that holds true. Team Sky almost made the podium, however, with Sergio Henao. He was just pipped by Teuns. 

 

Rigoberto Uran was nowhere to be seen in the finale and it was his teammate Michael Woods that got Cannondale-Drapac's best finish of today with 11th place. Uran lost 21 seconds on the climb and finished 23rd, behind Jakob Fuglsang. 

 

More from Dan Martin and the Quick-Step Floors rider joked that he would have to wait until Alejandro Valverde retires - if that actually ever does happen - before he can win Fleche Wallonne. 

 

“Maybe I got to wait until Alejandro retires to win the Flèche Wallonne… Obviously I hope I can beat him one day. It was a strange race today, with a strong headwind. The speed wasn’t so high in the peloton. All the climbs in last 60 kilometres made for a very nervous race as there were still a lot of riders fresh with 50 kilometres to go. I stayed calm, I knew it was possible to come back with the headwind but I couldn’t take Alejandro’s wheel. He has this explosiveness that is difficult to match. We wanted to make the race harder and then have Bob attack. I’m happy with my second place to a rider like Alejandro. It still hurts to get a third podium and still no victory.”

 

All of this sets us up nicely for Liege-Bastogne-Liege on Sunday. Can Valverde do the Fleche, Liege double again or will we see another rider on the top step of the podium?

 

That is it from us today. Keep tuned to Cyclingnews from the reaction from all of today's races and we'll have live coverage of Liege-Bastogne-Liege right from the start on Sunday. Don't miss it!

 

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