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Valverde fought his way up the climb making two big accelerations but it wasn't enough to catch the Frenchman and he finished second. Jelle Vanendert (Lotto Soudal) was third.
Held Wednesday in the middle of 'Ardennes Week' – following the Amstel Gold Race in the build-up to Liège-Bastogne-Liège – La Flèche Wallonne is a race for pure climbers. The race finishes atop one of cycling's most iconic ascents: the Mur de Huy.
Alejandro Valverde had won the last four editions and started as the overwhelming favourite for an incredible fifth straight and sixth career victory, which Alaphilippe's victory ended.
The 2017 edition of La Flèche Wallonne was 198.5km through the Belgian Ardennes with a hilly second half that inevitably wore away at the legs. The addition of Côte de la Redoute was designed to add a new element to the race and shake up the format.
A dangerous breakaway that include Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain Merdia) went clear in the final 50km and forced teams to chase before the Mur.
The final climb up the Mur de Huy was, as always, the battleground that decided La Flèche Wallonne. It is less than two kilometres in length, but the Mur's average gradient nears 10 per cent, with some stretches kicking up to nearly 20 per cent.
With the field back together, Alaphilippe accelerated clear near the summit of the Mur de Huy, coming around Jelle Vanendert (Lotto Soudal), and then kicked again for the victory. Valverde responded too late but finished second.
For the Complete Guide to the 2018 Ardennes Classics - Click here.
2018 Feche Wallonne - Brief Results
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick-Step Floors||4:53:37|
|2||Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team||0:00:04|
|3||Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Lotto Soudal||0:00:06|
|4||Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Mitchelton-Scott|
|5||Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb|
|6||Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo|
|7||Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|8||Maximilian Schachmann (Ger) Quick-Step Floors|
|9||Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale|
|10||Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe||0:00:12|
La Fleche Wallonne 201818 April 2018 | Wallonia | WorldTour
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Mur de Huy to remain Fleche Wallonne finish for next six yearsReturn to city centre for Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 2019 could be confirmed next week
Former Fleche Wallonne winner Gilbert pays tribute to teammate AlaphilippeBelgian all but rules himself out of contention for Liège-Bastogne-Liège
Kwiatkowski rues lack of success after fighting hard at Flèche WallonneTeam Sky rider hopes for better luck at Liège-Bastogne-Liège
Valverde vows to return to Fleche Wallonne fray for sixth titleSpaniard predicts more battles with Alaphilippe in years to come
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