Alaphilippe wins La Flèche Wallonne
Quick-Step Floors rider breaks Valverde's grip on the Mur de Huy
Julian Alaphilippe ended Alejandro Valverde’s run at La Flèche Wallonne with a virtuoso performance from the Frenchman and his Quick-Step Floors team.
The Quick-Step rider accelerated clear near the summit of the Mur de Huy, coming around Jelle Vanendert (Lotto Soudal) before kicking for a second time as the line approached. There was a late fight-back from Valverde, who was searching for his sixth title, but Alaphilippe's victory was soon assured with France taking their first win at the race for 21 years.
Valverde suffered to the line to take second, with Vanendert sealing a podium place for the first time after four career top-10 finishes including a fourth place in 2012. Meanwhile, Alaphilippe's record in La Flèche Wallonne now stands at two second places and, at last, a victory.
"I believed in myself every time, and I worked hard to find that bit that was missing between the podium and first place," Alaphilippe said. "Honestly, I didn't know I'd won. I couldn't hear the radio, I thought Nibali was still out in front. At the end I just did my effort. I have to thank my teammates who did an amazing job today. I'm super happy.
"I'm going to really enjoy this victory, but I'm very motivated for Liège, I'm ready, and I'm going to give it everything."
The race predictably came down to the final ascent of the Mur but the 80 or kilometres preceding the climb were anything but predictable with several of Valverde's rivals looking to isolate the Spaniard.
Milan-San Remo winner Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) created a dangerous move inside the final hour of racing, while Quick-Step Floors, Mitchelton-Scott and Bora-Hansgrohe all rode aggressively.
Valverde looked to be on the ropes for much of the final 40 kilometres and, but for a sterling ride from Mikel Landa, who singlehandedly kept Nibali's move at bay, the defending champion's race could have been over long before the last drag to the finish.
Nibali's move was snuffed out at the foot of the Mur, with Jack Haig (Mitchelton-Scott) and Maximilian Schachmann (Quick-Step Floors) the last men standing.
Schachmann's job wasn't done when the peloton began breathing down his neck, and he played a pivotal role in keeping the bunch strung out as Lotto Soudal, courtesy of Vanendert, set a furious pace. As the gradient rose on the Mur, rider after rider wilted under the strain.
Schachmann was eventually relieved of his duties on the front when Vanendert came steaming by with just under 150m to go, but Alaphilppe, who had been marshalled to the front by Bob Jungels and Philippe Gilbert, was glued to the Lotto rider's wheel.
When the Frenchman struck for home Valverde had already begun to lose ground. Alaphilppe's first kick ended Vanendert's hopes of victory in a matter of pedal strokes, and when Valverde looked to be closing in, the young Frenchman surged again. As he crossed the line, Valverde, who was for so long the king of the Mur, was forced to humbly hold off Vanendert for second spot.
How it unfolded
After last weekend's Amstel Gold Race, attention turned to the mid-week instalment of the Ardennes with La Flèche Wallonne. Two early groups merged to create an eight-man move that included Cesare Benedetti (Bora-Hansgrohe), Romain Combaud (Delko Marseille Provence KTM), Romain Hardy (Fortuneo-Samsic), Anthony Roux (Groupama-FDJ), Patrick Muller (Vital Concept), Anthony Perez (Cofidis), Kevin Van Melsen (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) and Antoine Warnier (VB Aqua Protect Veranclassic).
The leaders built up an advantage of almost five minutes before Movistar and Dan Martin's UAE Team Emirates squad moved to the front. At the foot of the first of three ascents of the Mur the gap had been reduced to just over two minutes.
The talk leading into the race centred on how the bunch needed to race in order to end Valverde's vice-like grip on the race. The consensus seemed to suggest that pure grunt and aggression would be the two most required ingredients. The intent was visible when a group containing Rob Power (Mitchelton-Scott), Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates), Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky), Mikel Landa (Movistar) and Jelle Vanendert (Lotto Soudal) crested the summit of the Mur with a slight gap over the rest of the field and the break just 1:23 clear.
The counter-attack's time off the front was quickly ended with Movistar shutting down the escape with 55km to go. However, if Valverde and his team were hoping that the hostilities would end they were to be mistaken. Michael Gogl (Trek-Segafredo) jumped clear at the base of the Cote de l'Ereffe, with Enric Mas (Quick-Step Floors) on his wheel. It was Quick-Step's first act in the race.
Gogl's venture off the front proved to be the precursor for Nibali, who accelerated clear over the top of the Cote d'Ereffe with 45km to go. Although he failed to drop the bunch entirely, the Italian did enough damage to scuttle Movistar's vessels and create a dangerous move that briefly included Philippe Gilbert. Nibali and a group of other opportunists united with the day's early break.
By the time the race reached the Cote de Cherave with around 36km to go the make-up of the race had vastly changed. Nibali was still at the head of affairs with a group including Jack Haig, Tanel Kangert, Max Schachmann, and early escapists Anthony Roux and Cesare Benedetti.
Aware of the danger but too slow to react initially, Michal Kwiatkowski jumped clear. The Pole soon realised that his pursuit was futile and sat up, but Nibali's group quickly established a lead of 28 seconds over the Movistar-controlled bunch.
On the second ascent of the Mur and with the break fully committed the gap moved out to 40 seconds. By now Valverde was left with just Landa and the tiring Anacona for company, but Dan Martin, Wout Poels, Rafal Majka and Ion Izagirre were all dropped as the bunch continued to thin out.
Free Landa can't stop the tide from turning
Once over the top of the Mur for a second time, Landa set about holding the leaders at 50 seconds, and although Dimension Data offered a brief respite, the lion-share of the chasing fell on the Movistar rider's shoulders. On the next ascent of the Cote de l'Ereffe with around 20km to go the gap held at 40 seconds, but as the leaders raced towards the final 15km the gap opened up to almost a minute.
Even Landa was feeling the strain at this point as Quick-Step ordered Schachmann to continue working up ahead. Valverde still looked comfortable but with Gilbert, Serry, Jungels and Alaphilippe still in the bunch, the tide was already starting to turn. Help was needed if the leading group was to be caught, and it duly came in the form of Lotto-Soudal and Bora-Hansgrohe – once Benedetti had been caught.
Cobbled classics specialist Tiesj Benoot reduced the gap by 15 seconds on an unclassified climb before Haig attacked from the breakaway. The Australian's move was closed down and with 5.8km to go Nibali threw caution to the wind with an attack over the penultimate climb. By now the gap was down to 10 seconds, and Nibali, riding for teammates as much as his own chances, ran out of gas.
As the final climb came into view Haig and Schachmann remained out front. However, when the Australian looked back, expecting collaboration from his companion, he was met with a shake of the head.
With Lotto-Soudal left with the numbers, and Quick-Step unwilling to chase with a rider up the road, it was left to the team in red to set the pace on the lower slopes of the climb. First came Benoot. Then Vanendert, who was presumably working for Tim Wellens at first.
However, as the road began to rise tactics began to fall by the wayside. The only team left with cards to play were Quick-Step and for the first time this season they made winning look easy. Schachmann edged in front of Haig and became the carrot for Vanendert to chase, but it was Alaphilippe who had the legs, the team, and the game-plan to finally end Valverde's run.
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|#||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||Row 3 - Cell 2|
|5||Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb||Row 4 - Cell 2|
|6||Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo||Row 5 - Cell 2|
|7||Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal||Row 6 - Cell 2|
|8||Maximilian Schachmann (Ger) Quick-Step Floors||Row 7 - Cell 2|
|9||Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||Row 8 - Cell 2|
|10||Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe||0:00:12|
|11||Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky||0:00:15|
|12||Tom-Jelte Slagter (Ned) Dimension Data||0:00:19|
|13||Rudy Molard (Fra) Groupama-FDJ||0:00:21|
|14||Diego Ulissi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates||0:00:25|
|15||Alexis Vuillermoz (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||0:00:28|
|16||Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team||Row 15 - Cell 2|
|17||Serge Pauwels (Bel) Dimension Data||Row 16 - Cell 2|
|18||Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Katusha-Alpecin||0:00:30|
|19||Rui Costa (Por) UAE Team Emirates||0:00:32|
|20||Robert Gesink (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo||0:00:34|
|21||Jay McCarthy (Aus) Bora-Hansgrohe||0:00:36|
|22||Pieter Serry (Bel) Quick-Step Floors||0:00:39|
|23||Jesus Herrada (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits||Row 22 - Cell 2|
|24||Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Quick-Step Floors||0:00:42|
|25||Nicolas Edet (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits||0:00:44|
|26||Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe||0:00:47|
|27||Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Bahrain-Merida||0:00:49|
|28||Rigoberto Uran (Col) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale||0:00:54|
|29||Steff Cras (Bel) Katusha-Alpecin||0:01:05|
|30||Dylan Teuns (Bel) BMC Racing Team||0:01:08|
|31||Sam Oomen (Ned) Team Sunweb||0:01:13|
|32||Alessandro De Marchi (Ita) BMC Racing Team||0:01:18|
|33||Michael Woods (Can) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale||0:01:22|
|34||Jack Haig (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott||Row 33 - Cell 2|
|35||Mathias Frank (Swi) AG2R La Mondiale||0:01:25|
|36||Anthony Roux (Fra) Groupama-FDJ||0:01:27|
|37||Cesare Benedetti (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe||0:01:29|
|38||IZAGUIRRE INSAUSTI Gorka||0:01:34|
|39||Tsgabu Grmay (Eth) Trek-Segafredo||0:01:43|
|40||Tanel Kangert (Est) Astana Pro Team||0:01:46|
|41||Bob Jungels (Lux) Quick-Step Floors||0:01:55|
|42||Mikel Landa (Spa) Movistar Team||0:01:59|
|43||Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Bahrain-Merida||0:02:13|
|44||Daniel Martinez (Col) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale||0:02:23|
|45||Warren Barguil (Fra) Fortuneo-Samsic||Row 44 - Cell 2|
|46||Floris De Tier (Bel) LottoNL-Jumbo||0:02:51|
|47||Omar Fraile (Spa) Astana Pro Team||0:03:01|
|48||Pierre Rolland (Fra) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale||0:03:06|
|49||Laurens ten Dam (Ned) Team Sunweb||0:03:07|
|50||Michael Valgren (Den) Astana Pro Team||Row 49 - Cell 2|
|51||Rob Power (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott||0:03:27|
|52||Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal||0:03:56|
|53||Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier (Eri) Dimension Data||0:04:03|
|54||Damien Howson (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott||0:04:12|
|55||Hermann Pernsteiner (Aut) Bahrain-Merida||0:05:37|
|56||Mauro Finetto (Ita) Delko Marseille Provence KTM||0:07:32|
|57||Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Team Sky||0:07:37|
|58||Thomas Sprengers (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise||0:09:23|
|59||Andrey Grivko (Ukr) Astana Pro Team||0:09:29|
|60||Christopher Hamilton (Aus) Team Sunweb||0:09:37|
|61||Daniel Martin (Irl) UAE Team Emirates||Row 60 - Cell 2|
|62||Daniel Navarro Garcia (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits||Row 61 - Cell 2|
|63||Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo||Row 62 - Cell 2|
|64||Wout Poels (Ned) Team Sky||Row 63 - Cell 2|
|65||Tosh Van Der Sande (Bel) Lotto Soudal||Row 64 - Cell 2|
|66||Xandro Meurisse (Bel) Wanty-Groupe Gobert||Row 65 - Cell 2|
|67||Elie Gesbert (Fra) Fortuneo-Samsic||Row 66 - Cell 2|
|68||Simon Geschke (Ger) Team Sunweb||Row 67 - Cell 2|
|69||Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) Katusha-Alpecin||Row 68 - Cell 2|
|70||Axel Domont (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||0:09:45|
|71||Bjorg Lambrecht (Bel) Lotto Soudal||Row 70 - Cell 2|
|72||Fabien Doubey (Fra) Wanty-Groupe Gobert||Row 71 - Cell 2|
|73||Michael Gogl (Aut) Trek-Segafredo||Row 72 - Cell 2|
|74||Willie Smit (RSA) Katusha-Alpecin||Row 73 - Cell 2|
|75||Romain Seigle (Fra) Groupama-FDJ||0:09:52|
|76||Dario Cataldo (Ita) Astana Pro Team||Row 75 - Cell 2|
|77||Thomas Degand (Bel) Wanty-Groupe Gobert||Row 76 - Cell 2|
|78||Maxime Monfort (Bel) Lotto Soudal||Row 77 - Cell 2|
|79||Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBr) Team Sky||0:09:56|
|80||Alberto Bettiol (Ita) BMC Racing Team||0:10:02|
|81||Manuele Mori (Ita) UAE Team Emirates||Row 80 - Cell 2|
|82||Christopher Juul Jensen (Den) Mitchelton-Scott||Row 81 - Cell 2|
|83||Kevin Reza (Fra) Vital Concept Club||Row 82 - Cell 2|
|84||Paul Martens (Ger) LottoNL-Jumbo||Row 83 - Cell 2|
|85||Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Wanty-Groupe Gobert||Row 84 - Cell 2|
|86||Simon Gerrans (Aus) BMC Racing Team||Row 85 - Cell 2|
|87||José Joaquin Rojas (Spa) Movistar Team||Row 86 - Cell 2|
|88||Alex Howes (USA) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale||Row 87 - Cell 2|
|89||Ben Gastauer (Lux) AG2R La Mondiale||0:10:17|
|90||Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe||0:10:21|
|91||Tomasz Marczynski (Pol) Lotto Soudal||Row 90 - Cell 2|
|92||Aleksandr Riabushenko (Blr) UAE Team Emirates||Row 91 - Cell 2|
|93||Guillaume Martin (Fra) Wanty-Groupe Gobert||Row 92 - Cell 2|
|94||Chad Haga (USA) Team Sunweb||Row 93 - Cell 2|
|95||Stef Clement (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo||Row 94 - Cell 2|
|96||Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Bahrain-Merida||0:10:27|
|97||Benoit Vaugrenard (Fra) Groupama-FDJ||Row 96 - Cell 2|
|98||Jose Herrada (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits||0:10:31|
|99||Anthony Perez (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits||Row 98 - Cell 2|
|100||Amael Moinard (Fra) Fortuneo-Samsic||Row 99 - Cell 2|
|101||Ion Izagirre (Spa) Bahrain-Merida||0:10:44|
|102||Romain Hardy (Fra) Fortuneo-Samsic||0:11:15|
|103||Maurits Lammertink (Ned) Katusha-Alpecin||0:11:18|
|104||Toms Skujins (Lat) Trek-Segafredo||0:11:52|
|105||Kevin Deltombe (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise||0:12:54|
|106||Julien Mortier (Bel) WB Aqua Protect Veranclassic||Row 105 - Cell 2|
|107||Stephen Cummings (GBr) Dimension Data||0:13:06|
|DNF||Quentin Pacher (Fra) Vital Concept Club||Row 107 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Thomas Deruette (Bel) WB Aqua Protect Veranclassic||Row 108 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Maxime Vantomme (Bel) WB Aqua Protect Veranclassic||Row 109 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Julien Simon (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits||Row 110 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Jordi Warlop (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise||Row 111 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Mathias Van Gompel (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise||Row 112 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Dries Van Gestel (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise||Row 113 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Benjamin Declercq (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise||Row 114 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Dion Smith (NZl) Wanty-Groupe Gobert||Row 115 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Kevin Van Melsen (Bel) Wanty-Groupe Gobert||Row 116 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Enric Mas (Spa) Quick-Step Floors||Row 117 - Cell 2|
|DNF||James Knox (GBr) Quick-Step Floors||Row 118 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Rúben Guerreiro (Por) Trek-Segafredo||Row 119 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Gregory Daniel (USA) Trek-Segafredo||Row 120 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Justin Jules (Fra) WB Aqua Protect Veranclassic||Row 121 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Julien Bernard (Fra) Trek-Segafredo||Row 122 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Lucas De Rossi (Fra) Delko Marseille Provence KTM||Row 123 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Luis Angel Mate Mardones (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits||Row 124 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Lawson Craddock (USA) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale||Row 125 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Tanguy Turgis (Fra) Vital Concept Club||Row 126 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Patrick Müller (Swi) Vital Concept Club||Row 127 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Justin Mottier (Fra) Vital Concept Club||Row 128 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Johan Le Bon (Fra) Vital Concept Club||Row 129 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Julien Trarieux (Fra) Delko Marseille Provence KTM||Row 130 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Benoit Cosnefroy (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||Row 131 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Christophe Masson (Fra) WB Aqua Protect Veranclassic||Row 132 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Johannes Fröhlinger (Ger) Team Sunweb||Row 133 - Cell 2|
|DNF||John Anderson Rodriguez Salazar (Col) Delko Marseille Provence KTM||Row 134 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Angel Madrazo Ruiz (Spa) Delko Marseille Provence KTM||Row 135 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Julien El Fares (Fra) Delko Marseille Provence KTM||Row 136 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Romain Combaud (Fra) Delko Marseille Provence KTM||Row 137 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Antoine Warnier (Bel) WB Aqua Protect Veranclassic||Row 138 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Dimitri Peyskens (Bel) WB Aqua Protect Veranclassic||Row 139 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Yoann Bagot (Fra) Vital Concept Club||Row 140 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Loïc Vliegen (Bel) BMC Racing Team||Row 141 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Bert-Jan Lindeman (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo||Row 142 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Michael Albasini (Swi) Mitchelton-Scott||Row 143 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Vasil Kiryienka (Blr) Team Sky||Row 144 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Lukasz Wisniowski (Pol) Team Sky||Row 145 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Michal Golas (Pol) Team Sky||Row 146 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Franck Bonnamour (Fra) Fortuneo-Samsic||Row 147 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Damiano Caruso (Ita) BMC Racing Team||Row 148 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Kevin Ledanois (Fra) Fortuneo-Samsic||Row 149 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Rory Sutherland (Aus) UAE Team Emirates||Row 150 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Matteo Bono (Ita) UAE Team Emirates||Row 151 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Imanol Erviti (Spa) Movistar Team||Row 152 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Carlos Betancur (Col) Movistar Team||Row 153 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Winner Anacona (Col) Movistar Team||Row 154 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Andrey Amador (CRc) Movistar Team||Row 155 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Kilian Frankiny (Swi) BMC Racing Team||Row 156 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Lars Boom (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo||Row 157 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Nicholas Dlamini (RSA) Dimension Data||Row 158 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Scott Davies (GBr) Dimension Data||Row 159 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Matteo Fabbro (Ita) Katusha-Alpecin||Row 160 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Ian Boswell (USA) Katusha-Alpecin||Row 161 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Hugo Houle (Can) Astana Pro Team||Row 162 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Lucas Hamilton (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott||Row 163 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Gregor Mühlberger (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe||Row 164 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Benjamin King (USA) Dimension Data||Row 165 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Jan Bakelants (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale||Row 166 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Grega Bole (Slo) Bahrain-Merida||Row 167 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Kim Magnusson (Swe) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale||Row 168 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Léo Vincent (Fra) Groupama-FDJ||Row 169 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Valentin Madouas (Fra) Groupama-FDJ||Row 170 - Cell 2|
|DNF||David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ||Row 171 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Florian Vachon (Fra) Fortuneo-Samsic||Row 172 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Pawel Poljanski (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe||Row 173 - Cell 2|
|DNS||Aaron Verwilst (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise||Row 174 - Cell 2|
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Daniel Benson was the Editor in Chief at Cyclingnews.com between 2008 and 2022. Based in the UK, he joined the Cyclingnews team in 2008 as the site's first UK-based Managing Editor. In that time, he reported on over a dozen editions of the Tour de France, several World Championships, the Tour Down Under, Spring Classics, and the London 2012 Olympic Games. With the help of the excellent editorial team, he ran the coverage on Cyclingnews and has interviewed leading figures in the sport including UCI Presidents and Tour de France winners.
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