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The profile of the 2020 men's Fleche Wallonne

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Hello and welcome to the Cyclingnews of the men's Fleche Wallonne.

As the Cyclingnews blimp takes flight, the riders have just rolled out of the start.

The men rolled out from Herve in the dry but the roads are wet in Huy.  

We quickly have a first attack: Mauri Vansevenant (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Aaron Van Poucke (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise), Mathijs Paasschens (WB Bingoal) and Marlon Gaillard (Total Direct Energie). 

They have a 20-second gap on the peloton.

Tom Dumoulin is also racing today with Jumbo-Visma. 

On the early rolling roads, the peloton seems happy to let the breakaway go clear.

They lead by 1:00 now.

The race is east of Liege at the moment, deep in the Wallonne area of Belgium. They will head west towards Huy for three laps of the final circuit. 

The 2020 Ardennes Classics – as with many races this season – come in a wildly unfamiliar spot on this year's calendar, and in an unfamiliar order to boot. 

La Flèche Wallonne kicks off the week this year, sticking with its usual midweek slot before Liège-Bastogne-Liège, but also before Amstel Gold Race.

To read our full race preview, click below.

La Flèche Wallonne 2020 – Preview - An open battle on the Mur de Huy with no past winners to start

Several riders tried to form a counter-attack but they have been caught. The four still stay out front but their gap is down to 30 seconds. 

Here is Tadej Pogacar at the sign-on.

And this was the roll out. 

As the race nears the Côte de Trasenster climb, the elastic has snapped and the four attackers have opened a 4:00 lead. 

The four are: Mauri Vansevenant (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Aaron Van Poucke (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise), Mathijs Paasschens (WB Bingoal) and Marlon Gaillard (Total Direct Energie)

The UAE Team Emirates is leading the peloton but the break has extended their lead to over 6:00.   

It's time for CCC to grab a bidon. 

New world champion Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) will not make his debut in the rainbow stripes at La Flèche Wallonne, despite having previously been named in the Belgian squad's team for the race.

The Frenchman wanted more time to savour his world title win and so will race next at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the race he finished second at in 2015. 

It begins to sink in for France’s Julian Alaphilippe at the post-race press conference that he’s become the 2020 road race world champion

(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

"It is true that it will be a little bit complicated," he told RMC Sport.

"It will be a little bit borderline. In terms of physical and emotional recovery, it's not necessarily the right choice to be at Flèche Wallonne."

Alaphilippe was set to close his 2020 campaign out with the full complement of Ardennes Classics before riding the Tour of Flanders.

However, now his focus will be from Liège-Bastogne-Liège onwards, he said. 

He has won La Flèche Wallonne in each of the past two seasons but is still looking for his first win at La Doyenne.

The women's  Fleche Wallonne has ended on the Mur de Huy. 

We will not reveal the result here but if you want to read our report and see the results and a growing photo gallery, click here. 

With both Alaphilippe and Alejandro Valverde absent from this year's race, there are no previous winner's in action today. 

These are the likely favourites for the crown. 

150km to go

After 50km of racing, the four breakaways lead the peloton by a huge margin of 9:00. 

UAE are leading the chase but other teams will soon have to start helping.

There is racing virtually every day in the final part of the rescheduled season. 

Stage 2 of the BinckBank Tour should have been held today but a late change in COVID-19 rules in the Netherlands forced the organisers to cancel today's TT stage and try to reschedule other stages on Dutch roads. 

Click below for the full story. 

Dutch BinckBank Tour stages cancelled due to coronavirus surge

Jasper Philipsen (UAE Team Emirates) won the opening stage in Ardooie on Tuesday and leads the overall classification ahead of Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) and Mike Teunissen (Jumbo-Visma).

Here is our stage 1 report: Philipsen takes sprint on BinckBank Tour stage 1

BinckBank Tour 2020 - 16th Edition - 1st stage Blankenberge - Ardooie 132,1 km - 29/09/2020 - Mads Pedersen (DEN - Trek - Segafredo) - Pascal Ackermann (GER - Bora - Hansgrohe) - Jasper Philipsen (BEL - UAE - Team Emirates) - photo Tim van Wichelen/CV/BettiniPhoto©2020

(Image credit: Bettini Photo)

The days are also counting down to the start of the Giro d'Italia, with riders and the Cyclingnews journalists Barry Ryan and Alasdair Fotheringham gathering in Palermo for the Grande Partenza.

To read our detail race preview, click below.

Giro d'Italia 2020 – Preview 

(Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Who is your overall favourite to win the Maglia rosa at the 2020 Giro d'Italia. 

Editor Daniel Benson picked these ten to watch. 

Giro d’Italia: 10 favourites to watch on GC

(Image credit: Bettini)

Back to Fleche Wallonne and these are the four attackers. 

They face 130km of hilly roads in the West of the Wallonne area but the rain is starting to fall now, making for an even harder day in the saddle.   

The peloton is lined out as it makes a steady chase on wet roads. UAE have two riders on the front and the gap is down to 7:30. 

The riders face three climbs of the Muy de Huy. This is what it looks like from a team car.

Mauri Vansevenant (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Aaron Van Poucke (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise), Mathijs Paasschens (WB Bingoal) and Marlon Gaillard (Total Direct Energie) are working together to hold onto their lead. 

Indeed they have pushed their lead up to 7:50.  

If Gent-Wevelgem is the middle child of the cobbled Classics, then Flèche Wallonne is its counterpart for the final week of the spring Classics. Flèche Wallonne's accent-grave older sibling, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and the much younger stepchild, Amstel Gold Race, now make up the Ardennes Classics.

Before Amstel was created in 1966, the Ardennes were just the mid-week Flèche and La Doyenne – which was already 44 when Flèche came along in 1936. In its younger years, Flèche was unsettled, and bounced around the calendar with different starts and finishes in search of a home.

The first edition of the Belgian race started in Tournai, before moving to Mons and then on to Charleroi, with distances varying from 205km to 280km. In 1951, it settled in next to its older sister as the Ardennes Weekend – back-to-back days of racing around Liège – and settled on a roughly 220km course.

For a few years in the 1960s, Flèche was a post-script for Liège-Bastogne-Liège, flipping directions from a Liège start and a Charleroi finish. In 1965, it was uprooted from the weekend slot and went adrift again both on the calendar and with its route before growing up and setting down roots with the current Huy finale in 1983.

Since then, the start cities have changed, and the route has been slightly tinkered with, but the steep pitches of the finishing climb of the Mur de Huy have determined the winner every year.

Michal Kwiatkowski leads Ineos Grenadiers team at Fleche Wallonne after finishing fourth at the World Championships on Sunday.

Meanwhile Geraint Thomas has been confirmed as the leader of the British team for the Giro d'Italia. Click below for the full story and full Inoes line-up for the Corsa Rosa.

Geraint Thomas and Rohan Dennis headline Ineos Grenadiers at the Giro d’Italia

SAN BENEDETTO DEL TRONTO ITALY SEPTEMBER 14 Geraint Thomas of The United Kingdom and Team INEOS Grenadiers during the 55th TirrenoAdriatico 2020 Stage 8 a 101km Individual Time Trial in San Benedetto del Tronto ITT TirrenAdriatico on September 14 2020 in San Benedetto del Tronto Italy Photo by Justin SetterfieldGetty Images

(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Most teams have three different programmes running at the moment and Cameron Wurf is upfront at Fleche Wallonne, riding to help the chase.

The peloton passes through the feed zone now, with riders grabbing their musettes and quickly seeing what is for lunch.

Marc Hirschi (Team Sunweb) is at the back and is working his way back, perhaps after a natural break. 

He impressed at the Tour de France and at the world championships but will he have the power to conquer the Mur de Huy today? He is perhaps more suited to Liege-Bastogne-Liege but is a huge talent.

SARRAN CORRZE FRANCE SEPTEMBER 10 Arrival Marc Hirschi of Switzerland and Team Sunweb Celebration during the 107th Tour de France 2020 Stage 12 a 218km stage from Chauvigny to Sarran Corrze 658m TDF2020 LeTour on September 10 2020 in Sarran Corrze France Photo by Sebastien Nogier

Marc Hirschi celebrates his stage win at the Tour (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

100km to go

The break crosses into the Liege province now and is speeding towards the finishing circuit around Huy. 

The  final 85km will be ridden on a 32km circuit that includes three climbs: the Côte d’Ereffe (-19km), the Côte du Chemin des Gueuses (-9,5km) and, of course, the Mur de Huy.

Mauri Vansevenant is flying the flag for Deceuninck-QuickStep in the break in the absence of Alaphilippe. 

 The Belgian rider is son of Wim Vansevenant, a pro for 14 seasons and the lanterne rouge’ of the Tour de France three times in a row. 

Mauri is considered a huge talent. He is only 21 but won the extremely mountainous Giro della Valle d’Aosta and placed sith at the Tour de l’Avenir before joining Deceuninck-Quick Step in 2020. 

As we enter the final 100km the roads are rolling much more, with some exposed roads too. 

The break leads the peloton by 6:30 but the speed is up.  

Other teams are moving to the front of the peloton as the race nears the start of the 32km circuits. They turn left soon and climb the Côte d'Ereffe first.   

UAE racwe in white but Tadej Pogacar is wearing a black jacket in the peloton.  

The break of four riders lead the peloton by 5:40 with 86km to go.

The Côte d'Ereffe is 2.1km long and climbs at 5%.  

As the roads steepen, a chase group forms off the front of the peloton. The race is coming alive on the first of the three circuits. 

The peloton crests the summit of the Côte d'Ereffe at 5:00 down on the break. 

The roads are dry and a timid sun is warming the riders. 

Alessandro de Marchi (CCC Team) and Ide Schelling (Bora-Hansgrohe) have surged away from the peloton as the speed rises. 

The two are on the Côte du Chemin des Gueuses climb, a new climb for this year. it is 1.8km long but will probably  hurt the riders' legs without splitting the peloton.

De Marchi and Schelling have opened a 1:00 lead on the peloton but are 4:10 behind the break. They are clearly riding to be up the road for their team leaders after the first climb of the Mur du Huy.

Ineos move to the front to position Kwiatkowski for the descent towards Huy. 

It was just the right time as a squeeze in the road forces part of the peloton to break and lose position. 

Here we go. The break hits the Mur de Huy for the first time. 

Crowds are not allowed on the climb today but there are some people at the foot of the climb. 

Mauri Vansevenant (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Aaron Van Poucke (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise), Mathijs Paasschens (WB Bingoal) and Marlon Gaillard (Total Direct Energie) climb together, with Gaillard first through the finish area. 

They face two more 32km laps before the decisive climb up the finish.   

Here comes the peloton. The classic shot of the riders on the steep can be seen from the back. 

Sunweb and UAE lead the peloton as De  Marchi and Schilling pass through the finish.

For the peloton, the first time over the Huy is a  real test of how they are feeling.  

Over the top of the Huy and riders grab bidons and try to move up. 

50km to go

As the riders descend through the Wallonne countryside, the gap between the break and the chasers is down to 3:15.  The peloton is at 5:30.

UAE are riding up front for Pogacar, with EF riding to set-up Michael Woods and Ineos for Kwiatkowski.

We are expecting attacks on the late climbs but these three climbs and others will surely chase them down for a classic race up the Mur de Huy. 

Surprisingly Tom Dumoulin is at the back of the lined-out peloton. We will soon see if he is here to race or already thinking about his home race: Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

The attackers are back on the Côte du chemin des Gueuses and the gap continues to fall as the peloton surges in pursuit. 

The peloton is 4:00 behind with 40km to race. The climbs should mean the attackers quickly lose time but they have ridden hard today. 

Dumoulin slips off the back of the peloton and answers our question. He has raced for 150km and will now ease up and rest up for Liege-Bastogne-Liege. 

The break approaches the Mur de Huy for a second time with the two chasers at 2:00 and the peloton at 3:00.

This second climb of the Wall will shake-up the race yet again.

The Mur de Huy is 1.3km long, with an average of 9.6%. However the final part is steeper, with the gradient in double digits.

Behind the break, De Marchi surges and distances Schelling. 

Upfront Van Poucke is also dropped from the break as the bell rings out.  

As the peloton reaches the summit, some riders edge away. Others are suffering and distanced. Their race is probably over. 

Rui Costa kicks up the pace. UAE seem keen to make it a hard race and so set-up Pogacar for the finish.

Up front only Mauri Vansevenant (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Mathijs Paasschens (WB Bingoal) are together now. but their lead is down to 1:00 to De Marchi, with the peloton at 1:45.

The peloton is down to 160 riders, with EF, Sunweb and Lotto driving the chase.

It's time for the final climb of the Côte d'Ereffe, with just 22km to race.

If anyone wants to attack before the Mur de Huy, it is almost time to make a move and commit. However it will be difficult.

As the peloton starts the climb, Tim Wellens ups the pace. 

Pogacar is well placed up front, as is Marc Hirschi. 

Richie Porte has eased up, as Dumoulin did, no doubt saving his legs for Liege-Basotgne-Liege.

Mauri Vansevenant (Deceuninck-Quick Step) still leads alone but De Marchi has been swept up. 

The young Belgian is trying to stay away and show his talents but his lead is fading fast. 

Lone chasers Rui Costa is at 45 seconds but the peloton is at 55 seconds. 

Costa is swept up as Omar Fraille needs a bike change.

He should get back on but it will soon be time for the Côte du chemin des Gueuses.

Mauri Vansevenant (Deceuninck-Quick Step) is leaving it all out there, as he tries to stay away as long as possible. 

It's a brave ride by the 21-year-old Belgian. He's been on the attack from the start.

Behind Mikal Landa has freed himself from any responsibility and risks. He sits up and is also thinking about LBL.

Rigoberto Uran is doing the opposite and attacks as the Côte du Chemin des Gueuses begins.

10km to go!

Nobody is chasing Uran for now but it will be hard for him to do anything alone. 

Uran has committed to his attack, forcing UAE and others to chase behind. That helps Woods for the Mur de Huy. 

Over the top of the climb, its now a fast ride to Huy for the blast up the Mur. 

Mauri Vansevenant (Deceuninck-QuickStep) leads Uran by 15 seconds but the peloton is at 40 seconds. The team are trying to position their leaders on the fast descent to Huy.

5km to go! 

Crash! 

Vansevenant went off the road into the deep grass at high speed. He is not hurt and quickly gets going again.

He is joined by Uran with 3km to go. 

The peloton can see Vansevenant and Uran now and will soon be swallowed up. 

It was a brave, brave attack by Vansevenant and Uran but we are about to enjoy a classic Fleche Wallonne finish. 

Here we go! 

UAE and Ineos lead the peloton onto the Mur. 

Pogacar is there.

Kwiatkowski for Ineos.

Bagioli for Deceuninck. Hirschi is there for Sunweb. Woods for EF.

They climb together in the curves as the road steepens.

Porte is back on and on the attack! 

Woods kicks! 

Here comes Hirschi!

Woods looked good but Hirschi came late and more power and more speed. 

He even had time to celebrate. 

He does not even seem tired as other riders congratulate him.

Hirschi is a Fleche Wallonne debutant but rode a perfect finale. 

He jumped on Wood's wheel when the  Canadian jumped early. With 75m to go he surged away on the left to win. 

Behind Benoît Cosnefroy of AG2R came up to snatch second place from Woods. 

This is the top ten: 

1 Marc Hirschi (Swi) Team Sunweb 4:49:17
2 Benoit Cosnefroy (Fra) AG2R la Mondiale
3 Michael Woods (Can) EF Pro Cycling
4 Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic
5 Daniel Martin (Irl) Israel Start-Up Nation
6 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Ineos Grenadiers
7 Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:00:05
8 Richie Porte (Aus) Trek-Segafredo
9 Tadej Pogacar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates
10 Simon Geschke (Ger) CCC Team 0:00:10

Hirschi is still modest despite his great results in recent weeks.

"I had good legs" he said after his win at Fleche Wallonne, simplifying his superb performance. 

Behind the top three, Warren Barguil (Arkea-Samsic) impressed to take fourth.

Daniel Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation) was fifth and Michal Kwiatkowski (Ineos Grenadiers) was sixth. 

Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) attacked early but hung on for eighth place. 

Tour de France winner Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) was ninth.

This is the final kilometre of Fleche Wallonne. 

"It went perfect for us with a small group of four guys and my team did a really good job, we put one of the guys to control the race. In the final laps, it was so fast anyway, that the guys came back, and on the last climb I had the legs," Hirschi said. 

"It was so hard … It’s a steep but steady and you don’t have to go too early, but you are fully lactic acid, and it’s about what’s in the head, you have to be strong in the head to get through the pain.

Hirschi seems able to convince himself to dig extra deep, even when he is not convinced of his chances.

"It’s always hard. I never felt super strong, and mostly I don’t feel so good in the beginning of the race, and today I didn’t feel so good. I just get over it and it’s motivation to get the best out of it," he said. 

"I said to myself that I wanted to be in position. In the last metres, you have the legs or not, and I had the legs. Also, I made no mistakes today and I’m happy with how the team rode, how I rode, because I was always in a good position, and I had the legs today."

His win naturally makes him a contender for Sunday's Liege-Bastogne-Liege, even if it a different race with a different finale. 

"I will enjoy this and it’s just a bonus what ever comes next, but for sure I want to profit from this great shape," Hirschi said. 

"I will take some easy days and we will see on Sunday."

Here's the shot of Hirschi winning Fleche Wallonne.

La Fleche Wallonne 2020 - 84th Edition - Herve - Mur de Huy 202 km - 30/09/2020 - Marc Hirschi (SUI - Team Sunweb) - photo Anton Vos/CV/BettiniPhoto©2020

(Image credit: Bettini Image)

Team Sunweb understandably celebrated Hirschi big moment on the podium. 

This is the men's Fleche Wallonne podium.

La Fleche Wallonne 2020 - 84th Edition - Herve - Mur de Huy 202 km - 30/09/2020 - Marc Hirschi (SUI - Team Sunweb) - Benoit Cosnefroy (FRA - AG2R - La Mondiale) - Michael Woods (CAN - EF Pro Cycling) - photo Vincent Kalut/PN/BettiniPhoto©2020

(Image credit: Bettini Image)

Masks are obligatory on the podium but importantly the race went ahead.

La Fleche Wallonne 2020 - 84th Edition - Herve - Mur de Huy 202 km - 30/09/2020 - Michael Woods (CAN - EF Pro Cycling) - Marc Hirschi (SUI - Team Sunweb) - photo Vincent Kalut/PN/BettiniPhoto©2020

(Image credit: Bettini Image)

Hirschi seems to be smiling here but he is suffering as he kicks away to victory.

La Fleche Wallonne 2020 - 84th Edition - Herve - Mur de Huy 202 km - 30/09/2020 - Marc Hirschi (SUI - Team Sunweb) - Benoit Cosnefroy (FRA - AG2R - La Mondiale) - photo Vincent Kalut/PN/BettiniPhoto©2020

(Image credit: Bettini Image)

Tour de France winner Tadej Pogacar was expected to fight for victory today but lacked a little in the fight for the front on the Mur de Huy.

"The team worked really well today and I arrived to the Mur in a great position. I didn't quite have the legs on the last climb but I'm not too disappointed with the result," he said. 

"I still had a bit of fatigue from the Worlds which was a very hard race. I'll rest a bit and turn my focus to Liege on Sunday, it's a course that suits me a bit better also."

La Flche Wallonne 2020 84th Edition Herve Mur de Huy 202 km 30092020 Tadej Pogacar SLO UAE Team Emirates Jan Polanc SLO UAE Team Emirates photo Vincent KalutPNBettiniPhoto2020

(Image credit: Bettini Image)

To read our full report, study the full results and look at our growing photo gallery, click the link below.

Hirschi conquers Mur de Huy to win La Flèche Wallonne

La Fleche Wallonne 2020 - 84th Edition - Herve - Mur de Huy 202 km - 30/09/2020 - Marc Hirschi (SUI - Team Sunweb) - photo Vincent Kalut/PN/BettiniPhoto©2020

(Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Earlier Anna van der Breggen won the women's Fleche Wallonne. Click below for the full report. 

Anna Van der Breggen wins La Fleche Wallonne Feminine

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Michael Woods (EF) spoke about his third place.

"To finally be in good position and then to have the legs to try and contend for the win, I’m happy," he said. 

"The work of the team was great and Hugh Carthy did good work on the front, and Rigo, just a classy dude, giving that big attack and getting me fired up, and watching him up the road was inspiring and I had no choice but to try and go after the win."

"Hirschi was on another level today and he’s been fun to watch the last few weeks at the Tour and had an incredible performance at the World Championships. I thought I would try to get a jump on him but I couldn’t follow. Cosnefroy had a good race too, he just came by me in the end."  

Woods added: 

"The first two [climbs] I felt comfortable but stayed at the back on those ones and rode my pace. I was in good position for the last climb. Obviously, you always want to win but it was a good race."

Unfortunately the Ardennes Classics will be cut short this year after the Amstel Gold Race was cancelled due to new COVID-19 restrictions in the Nertherlands. 

The men's and women's races were due to be held on Saturday October 10.

Click this link for the full story and UCI reaction: 

Amstel Gold races cancelled due to Dutch coronavirus restrictions

(Image credit: Getty Images)

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