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Valverde wins his record fifth Fleche Wallonne

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Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Dan Martin, Alejandro Valverde and Dylan Teuns on the podium

Dan Martin, Alejandro Valverde and Dylan Teuns on the podium (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Dan Martin (Quick-Step Floors)

Dan Martin (Quick-Step Floors) (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Fleche Wallonne winners Anna van der Breggen and Alejandro Valverde

Fleche Wallonne winners Anna van der Breggen and Alejandro Valverde (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Dylan Teuns (BMC Racing)

Dylan Teuns (BMC Racing) (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Dan Martin (Quick-Step Floors) trails in for second

Dan Martin (Quick-Step Floors) trails in for second (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Dylan Teuns (BMC Racing) rounded out the podium

Dylan Teuns (BMC Racing) rounded out the podium (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale)

Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Pierre Latour (AG2R La Mondiale)

Pierre Latour (AG2R La Mondiale) (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Sergio Henao (Sky) is edged out by Dylan Teuns (BMC) for third

Sergio Henao (Sky) is edged out by Dylan Teuns (BMC) for third (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) wins Flèche Wallonne for the fifth time

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) wins Flèche Wallonne for the fifth time (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) wins Flèche Wallonne for the fifth time

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) wins Flèche Wallonne for the fifth time (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Nils Politt (Katusha-Alpecin)

Nils Politt (Katusha-Alpecin) (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal)

Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Valverde wins his record fifth Fleche Wallonne

Valverde wins his record fifth Fleche Wallonne (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Michael Albasini (Orica Scott)

Michael Albasini (Orica Scott) (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Romain Bardet at La Flèche Wallonne

Romain Bardet at La Flèche Wallonne (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Rui Costa at La Flèche Wallonne

Rui Costa at La Flèche Wallonne (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Samuel Sánchez mugs for the camera at La Flèche Wallonne.

Samuel Sánchez mugs for the camera at La Flèche Wallonne. (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Tim Wellens ahead of La Flèche Wallonne

Tim Wellens ahead of La Flèche Wallonne (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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The pack makes its way up the iconic Mur de Huy

The pack makes its way up the iconic Mur de Huy (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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The bunch climbs the Mur de Huy

The bunch climbs the Mur de Huy (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Riverside riding at La Flèche Wallonne

Riverside riding at La Flèche Wallonne (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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The Flèche Wallonne peloton rolling through the countryside

The Flèche Wallonne peloton rolling through the countryside (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Movistar at the head of the Flèche Wallonne peloton

Movistar at the head of the Flèche Wallonne peloton (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Andre Cardoso at La Flèche Wallonne

Andre Cardoso at La Flèche Wallonne (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Laurens De Plus in the peloton at La Flèche Wallonne

Laurens De Plus in the peloton at La Flèche Wallonne (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Bob Jungels off the front at La Flèche Wallonne

Bob Jungels off the front at La Flèche Wallonne (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Off the front at La Flèche Wallonne

Off the front at La Flèche Wallonne (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Former Flèche Wallonne winner Joaquím Rodríguez at the start

Former Flèche Wallonne winner Joaquím Rodríguez at the start (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Bob Jungels on the move at La Flèche Wallonne

Bob Jungels on the move at La Flèche Wallonne (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Samuel Sánchez gearing up for La Flèche Wallonne

Samuel Sánchez gearing up for La Flèche Wallonne (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Bob Jungels ahead of La Flèche Wallonne

Bob Jungels ahead of La Flèche Wallonne (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Dan Martin at La Flèche Wallonne

Dan Martin at La Flèche Wallonne (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Romain Bardet ahead of La Flèche Wallonne

Romain Bardet ahead of La Flèche Wallonne (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Katusha-Alpecin on stage at the Flèche Wallonne teams presentation

Katusha-Alpecin on stage at the Flèche Wallonne teams presentation (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Samuel Sánchez sporting a few bandages at La Flèche Wallonne

Samuel Sánchez sporting a few bandages at La Flèche Wallonne (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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The bunch at La Flèche Wallonne

The bunch at La Flèche Wallonne (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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The peloton rides a calm pace for a while in the early goings of La Flèche Wallonne

The peloton rides a calm pace for a while in the early goings of La Flèche Wallonne (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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The pack rolling along at La Flèche Wallonne

The pack rolling along at La Flèche Wallonne (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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The Flèche Wallonne peloton

The Flèche Wallonne peloton (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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The early breakaway at La Flèche Wallonne

The early breakaway at La Flèche Wallonne (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Michal Kwiatkowski ahead of La Flèche Wallonne

Michal Kwiatkowski ahead of La Flèche Wallonne (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Early breakers at La Flèche Wallonne

Early breakers at La Flèche Wallonne (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)

La Flèche Wallonne is a simple race. The peloton races for 204.5 kilometres over three ascents of the Mur de Huy, and in the end, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) wins. For the fourth year in succession and the fifth time in total, Valverde triumphed atop the Mur de Huy, and, once again, it all looked so disarmingly easy for the veteran.

From the moment Valverde launched his decisive acceleration inside the final 200 metres, the result was never remotely in doubt, and the riders lined up on his wheel seemed almost resigned to the inevitable. Dan Martin (Quick-Step Floors) produced his by-now traditional late charge to place second, while Dylan Teuns (BMC) held off Sergio Henao (Sky) for third, but Valverde was already sitting up to celebrate his victory as they fought over the scraps.

A week shy of 37th birthday, Valverde is enjoying arguably the most remarkable sequence of a contentious career, which was interrupted by the belated ban he served in 2010 and 2011 following his implication in the Operacion Puerto blood-doping inquiry. Already the winner of the Ruta del Sol, Volta a Catalunya and Tour of the Basque Country this spring, he now eyes a fourth Liège-Bastogne-Liège victory on Sunday.

As he waited to mount the podium, Valverde was asked the secret of his success. "Confidence and strength," Valverde said, before paying tribute to the efforts of his Movistar team. "They worked a lot for me from kilometre zero. It was hard but we had the confidence that we could win. This race is made for me."

Movistar's task was arguably facilitated by the preference of so many other teams to take their chances on the Mur de Huy rather than attempt to pry the race open before the final climb, with Sky and Orica-Scott among the teams to help clip back the solo effort of Bob Jungels (Quick-Step) in the finale.

Jungels led at the base of the Mur de Huy, but with a lead of just a handful of seconds, his was always likely to be a forlorn effort. Diego Rosa set the tempo on the lower slopes of the Mur, with Michal Kwiatkowski on his wheel, but the expected acceleration from the former world champion never materialised and riders fanned across the road as they emerged from the famous S-bend midway up the climb.

Valverde was guided at this point by Dani Moreno, and he maintained a watching brief as Michael Woods (Cannondale-Drapac) and David Gaudu (FDJ) moved alongside him to the front row of the leading group.

The deadlock was eventually broken with 250 metres to go when the highly-rated Gaudu – still only 20 years old and in his first season as a professional – launched a fine acceleration. Valverde was live to the threat and quickly tracked the Frenchman, before launching a stinging attack of his own.

Dylan Teuns was tucked onto Valverde's rear wheel when he attacked and could not have been better positioned, but the Belgian was simply unable to match the ferocity of the acceleration. Henao tried to get on terms, but he, too, was powerless.

"I was a bit boxed-in by Kwiatkowski and Henao at one point but with a top favourite like Valverde, it's just waiting until he goes," Teuns said. "I tried to follow but he quickly was a bike-length away."

Dan Martin was three rows back coming out of the S-bend, and the Irishman left himself with too much ground to make up in the final 200 metres, though he has made a habit of late surges over the years on the Mur de Huy. After a second place in 2014 and third a year ago, Martin had to settle for another podium finish here, and a grim realisation about his prospects in this race.

"Maybe I've got to wait until Alejandro retires to win Flèche Wallonne…" Martin said. "Obviously I hope I can beat him one day. It was a strange race today, with a strong headwind. 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."

How it unfolded

After a flurry attack and counter-attack on leaving the start in Binche, a group of six riders eventually established itself as the morning break, as early escapees Yoann Bagot (Cofidis), Nils Politt (Katusha Alpecin) and Olivier Pardini (WB Veranclassic Protect) were joined by Fabien Doubey (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Romain Guillemois (Direct Energie) and Daniel Pearson (Aqua Blue Sport).

This sextet established a maximum lead of six minutes over the peloton before Movistar set to work paring down their advantage. Come the first of three ascents of the Mur de Huy, which came with 60 kilometres to race, their lead was down to just 1:35, and shortly afterwards, only Pardini, Guillemois and Doubey remained in front.

Alessandro De Marchi (BMC) went on the offensive on the Côte d'Ereffe, and though he was brought to heel by Carlos Betancur (Movistar), the attack had the end result of lifting the intensity in the peloton still further. Pardini was the last survivor from the break, but he was caught on the Cote de Cherave with 34 kilometres remaining, where De Marchi launched another attack, this time forging clear alone.

De Marchi had a margin of 20 seconds as he led over the second ascent of the Mur de Huy, and he was joined over the top by Jungels, who impressed in bridging across after the descent. Together, they maintained a lead of 30 seconds over the peloton, before Jungels opted to try his luck alone with 12 kilometres remaining, quickly stretching his lead out to 50 seconds.

Not since Igor Astarloa's 2003 triumph has the winning move at Flèche Wallonne gone clear before the final haul up the Mur de Huy, and the penultimate ascent, the Cote de Cherave, confirmed that the sequence would not end now. An acceleration from Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe), allied to the forcing of Team Sky, cut Jungels' advantage back down to within 30 seconds. Although Jungels managed to dangle out in front until the lower slopes of the Mur de Huy, he was swept up as Rosa set the tempo on the climb.

From there, the script reverted to the familiar. Eleven years after his first triumph, Valverde had his fifth Flèche Wallonne. "I'll definitely be back next year," he said.

Revivez le dernier kilomètre ! / Relive the last kilometer! #FlecheWallonne pic.twitter.com/QsyCEophRt

Full Results

#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team5:15:37
2Daniel Martin (Irl) Quick-Step Floors0:00:01
3Dylan Teuns (Bel) BMC Racing Team
4Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky
5Michael Albasini (Swi) Orica-Scott
6Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Sunweb
7Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Team Sky
8Rudy Molard (Fra) FDJ
9David Gaudu (Fra) FDJ
10Diego Ulissi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
11Michael Woods (Can) Cannondale-Drapac
12Jon Izaguirre (Spa) Bahrain-Merida
13Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale0:00:08
14Pierre Roger Latour (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
15Robert Gesink (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo
16Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe
17Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Lotto Soudal0:00:13
18Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal
19Jay McCarthy (Aus) Bora-Hansgrohe
20Jonathan Hivert (Fra) Direct Energie0:00:16
21Tom-Jelte Slagter (Ned) Cannondale-Drapac
22Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team
23Rigoberto Uran (Col) Cannondale-Drapac0:00:21
24Eduardo Sepulveda (Arg) Fortuneo - Vital Concept
25Maurits Lammertink (Ned) Katusha-Alpecin0:00:24
26Alexis Vuillermoz (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
27Mathias Frank (Swi) AG2R La Mondiale0:00:29
28Igor Anton (Spa) Dimension Data
29Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe0:00:35
30Diego Rosa (Ita) Team Sky
31Rui Costa (Por) UAE Team Emirates0:00:37
32Georg Preidler (Aut) Team Sunweb0:00:39
33Pavel Kochetkov (Rus) Katusha-Alpecin0:00:42
34Arthur Vichot (Fra) FDJ
35Elie Gesbert (Fra) Fortuneo - Vital Concept0:00:45
36Nathan Haas (Aus) Dimension Data
37Jarlinson Pantano (Col) Trek-Segafredo0:00:48
38Paul Martens (Ger) Team LottoNl-Jumbo0:00:50
39Bob Jungels (Lux) Quick-Step Floors0:00:53
40Xandro Meurisse (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert0:00:54
41Thomas Sprengers (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise
42Thomas Degand (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert
43Rúben Guerreiro (Por) Trek-Segafredo
44Mikael Cherel (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
45Louis Meintjes (RSA) UAE Team Emirates
46Samuel Sanchez (Spa) BMC Racing Team0:01:01
47Ben Hermans (Bel) BMC Racing Team
48Julien Simon (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
49Daniel Moreno (Spa) Movistar Team
50Guillaume Martin (Fra) Wanty - Groupe Gobert
51Laurens De Plus (Bel) Quick-Step Floors
52Cyril Gautier (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
53Simone Petilli (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
54Eliot Lietaer (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise
55Michael Gogl (Aut) Trek-Segafredo0:01:13
56Maxime Vantomme (Bel) WB Veranclassic Aqua Protect
57Pello Bilbao (Spa) Astana Pro Team
58Jacques Janse Van Rensburg (RSA) Dimension Data0:01:17
59Floris De Tier (Bel) Team LottoNl-Jumbo0:01:21
60Serge Pauwels (Bel) Dimension Data
61Lilian Calmejane (Fra) Direct Energie
62Silvan Dillier (Swi) BMC Racing Team
63Armindo Fonseca (Fra) Fortuneo - Vital Concept0:01:26
64Sebastian Henao (Col) Team Sky
65Bart De Clercq (Bel) Lotto Soudal0:01:34
66Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team Sunweb
67Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb
68Enrico Battaglin (Ita) Team LottoNl-Jumbo
69Jose Rojas (Spa) Movistar Team0:01:38
70Dion Smith (NZl) Wanty - Groupe Gobert0:01:44
71Juan Jose Lobato (Spa) Team LottoNl-Jumbo0:01:52
72Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Orica-Scott0:02:09
73Merhawi Kudus (Eri) Dimension Data
74André Cardoso (Por) Trek-Segafredo
75Carlos Betancur (Col) Movistar Team
76Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Trek-Segafredo
77Luis Angel Mate (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
78Stéphane Rossetto (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits0:02:13
79Jesus Herrada (Spa) Movistar Team
80Ben O'Connor (Aus) Dimension Data
81Sander Armee (Bel) Lotto Soudal
82Dimitri Peyskens (Bel) WB Veranclassic Aqua Protect
83Alex Howes (USA) Cannondale-Drapac
84Simon Clarke (Aus) Cannondale-Drapac
85Brendan Canty (Aus) Cannondale-Drapac
86Maxime Bouet (Fra) Fortuneo - Vital Concept
87Brice Feillu (Fra) Fortuneo - Vital Concept0:02:20
88Alexey Vermeulen (USA) Team LottoNl-Jumbo
89Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Wanty - Groupe Gobert0:02:23
90Perrig Quemeneur (Fra) Direct Energie
91Romain Sicard (Fra) Direct Energie0:02:27
92Nicolas Edet (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
93Nikita Stalnov (Kaz) Astana Pro Team0:02:31
94Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
95Antoine Warnier (Bel) WB Veranclassic Aqua Protect
96Michael Schär (Swi) BMC Racing Team
97Bryan Nauleau (Fra) Direct Energie
98Amael Moinard (Fra) BMC Racing Team
99Sébastien Delfosse (Bel) WB Veranclassic Aqua Protect0:02:41
100Christophe Masson (Fra) WB Veranclassic Aqua Protect
101Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quick-Step Floors0:02:46
102Yukiya Arashiro (Jpn) Bahrain-Merida
103Manuele Mori (Ita) UAE Team Emirates0:02:56
104Gianni Moscon (Ita) Team Sky
105Michel Kreder (Ned) Aqua Blue Sport
106Tosh Van Der Sande (Bel) Lotto Soudal0:03:00
107Guillaume Bonnafond (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits0:03:04
108Lennard Hofstede (Ned) Team Sunweb
109Ángel Vicioso (Spa) Katusha-Alpecin0:03:11
110Fabien Grellier (Fra) Direct Energie0:03:14
111Kevin Reza (Fra) FDJ0:03:19
112Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBr) Team Sky0:03:22
113Franck Bonnamour (Fra) Fortuneo - Vital Concept0:03:30
114Christoph Pfingsten (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe0:03:32
115Maximilian Schachmann (Ger) Quick-Step Floors
116Jenthe Biermans (Bel) Katusha-Alpecin0:03:55
117Preben Van Hecke (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise
118Marco Minnaard (Ned) Wanty - Groupe Gobert0:04:20
119Tomasz Marczynski (Pol) Lotto Soudal0:04:36
120Mark Christian (GBr) Aqua Blue Sport
121Gregor Mühlberger (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe
122Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Quick-Step Floors0:05:51
123Michal Golas (Pol) Team Sky
124Cesare Benedetti (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe
125Jack Haig (Aus) Orica-Scott
126Petr Vakoc (Cze) Quick-Step Floors0:05:54
127Matej Mohoric (Slo) UAE Team Emirates
128Matteo Bono (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
129Jaco Venter (RSA) Dimension Data
130Christopher Juul Jensen (Den) Orica-Scott0:06:09
131Tsgabu Grmay (Eth) Bahrain-Merida0:06:16
132Tanel Kangert (Est) Astana Pro Team0:06:42
133Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica-Scott0:07:04
134Toms Skujins (Lat) Cannondale-Drapac
135Rory Sutherland (Aus) Movistar Team
136Andrey Grivko (Ukr) Astana Pro Team0:07:14
137Damien Howson (Aus) Orica-Scott0:07:16
138Bert-Jan Lindeman (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo0:07:46
139Cedric Pineau (Fra) FDJ0:08:56
140Quentin Jauregui (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
141Axel Domont (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale0:08:59
142Paul Ourselin (Fra) Direct Energie
143Lukas Pöstlberger (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe
144Anthony Perez (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
145Alessandro De Marchi (Ita) BMC Racing Team
146Floris Gerts (Ned) BMC Racing Team
147Grega Bole (Slo) Bahrain-Merida0:09:05
148Simon Geschke (Ger) Team Sunweb
149Sindre Skjøstad Lunke (Nor) Team Sunweb
150Gregory Habeaux (Bel) WB Veranclassic Aqua Protect
151Viacheslav Kuznetsov (Rus) Katusha-Alpecin
152Gregory Daniel (USA) Trek-Segafredo0:12:40
153Fumiyuki Beppu (Jpn) Trek-Segafredo
154Johannes Fröhlinger (Ger) Team Sunweb
155Jesus Hernandez (Spa) Trek-Segafredo
156Jens Wallays (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise0:12:50
157Romain Guillemois (Fra) Direct Energie0:12:52
158Antonio Nibali (Ita) Bahrain-Merida0:12:55
159Johann Van Zyl (RSA) Dimension Data
160Justin Jules (Fra) WB Veranclassic Aqua Protect
161Thomas Scully (NZl) Cannondale-Drapac0:13:00
162Arnaud Courteille (Fra) FDJ
163Koen Bouwman (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo
164Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana Pro Team0:13:15
165Jerome Cousin (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits0:13:41
166Yoann Bagot (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits

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