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Hello there and welcome along to our live coverage of La Flèche Wallonne. We've had Brabantse Pijl and Amstel Gold Race but for the purists this is the first of the two true Ardennes Classics.

You know the drill. Lots of hills then a dash up the Mur de Huy to finish it off. 

We start with the news that UAE Team Emirates will not be part of today's race. 

Diego Ulissi and one staff member tested positive for COVID-19 on arrival in Belgium yesterday. Both have since returned negative follow-up tests but they are unable to compete today. That means we're without the defending champion, Marc Hirschi, and the Tour de France champion, Tadej Pogacar.

Full story here.

Pogacar has tweeted, and he's still tweeting, replying to various accounts with the words 'false positive'

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Anyway, we're at the start of the race in Chaleroi, with the riders signing on and being presented inside an empty basketball stadium. The roll-out is coming up at 11:15 local time, so in just under 10 minutes, and it's a lengthy neutral zone so the race proper kicks off at 11:35.

Fleche

(Image credit: ASO)

Now's the time to have a read of our in-depth race preview. Just ignore any references to Pogacar or Hirschi. 

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Tom Pidcock there, who's arguably the top favourite for today. He won Brabantse Pijl and was second at Amstel, and we're still figuring out what kind of rider he is. Although he out-sprinted and then almost out-sprinted Wout van Aert in those two races, he's much smaller and lighter than the Belgian, and so the steep ramps of the Mur de Huy could be well suited to him. More from Pidcock at the link below. 

Tom Pidcock ready to race full gas to avoid a photo finish at La Flèche Wallonne

As for the other contenders, Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) is the strongest on paper. He's the world champion and has won this race twice. In fact, he's never finished lower than 2nd. However, the Frenchman's form is questionable, and he seems a shadow of the rider who won this race in 2019 on the back of Strade Bianche, Milan-San Remo, and stages in Tirreno and Itzulia. 

Alaphilippe himself did not sound confident when he spoke to us yesterday.

As the men's race nears its start, there are 30km to go in the women's race. They've just been up the Mur de Huy for the first time and are onto the finishing circuit now. We have separate live coverage of that one.

Vansevenant certainly continues to catch the eye. He was thrilling to watch at Amstel. But he said yesterday that he doubts whether he's explosive enough to win on the Mur de Huy, and hinted at more long-range aggression - the kind that took him to the base of the climb (with a late crash) from the day's breakaway last year. 

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While we're looking at contenders, we've mentioned Pidcock, Alaphilippe, and Vansevenant, and we've counted out Pogacar and Hirschi. But other candidates include debutant Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma), the resurgent Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), and former runner-up Jakub Fuglsang (Astana), as well as David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ), Michael Woods (Israel Start-Up Nation), Benoit Cosnefroy (AG2R-Citroen), Dylan Teuns (Bahrain Victorious) and Max Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe).

We're off

The flag drops and the race is waved underway.

A couple of early breakaway attempts from Bora and Lotto but it's all together in the opening kilometres.

Three riders with a gap now

Loïc Vliegen (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux)

Petr Rikunov (Gazprom-RusVelo)

Arne Marit (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise)

The gap is just 15 seconds as we head towards Fosses-la-Ville.

Mathijs Paaschens (Bingoal WB) bridges across and more attacks come from behind now.

178km to go

And the peloton comes back. All together after 15km.

Another small group goes off the front now.

A much larger group of around 20 riders has formed behind that small lead group.

That big counter attack is brought back before it gets too dangerous.

The riders in the break up front are:

Alex Howes (EF Education-Nippo)

Sylvain Moniquet (Lotto-Soudal)

Sander Armée (Team Qhubeka Assos)

Maurits Lammertink (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux)

Julian Mertens (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise)

There are now three in the counter-attack behind the leaders: 

Diego Rosa (Arkéa-Samsic)

Louis Vervaeke (Alpecin-Fenix)

Simone Velasco (Gazprom-Rusvelo)

And another one. Niklas Eg (Trek-Segafredo) has jumped from the peloton and is chasing alone.

In the women's race, they're about to hit the Mur de Huy for the final time. Live coverage here.

The peloton stops for a comfort break, the usual sign that they're happy for this to be the day's breakaway.

The gap does indeed go out towards the three-minute mark. The three breakaway groups have not yet come together, though.

Anna van der Breggen has won the women's race for a seventh time. Here's our report page.

155km to go

The front groups do come together now to form an eight-man breakaway

Alex Howes (EF Education-Nippo)

Sylvain Moniquet (Lotto-Soudal)

Sander Armée (Team Qhubeka Assos)

Maurits Lammertink (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux)

Julian Mertens (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise)

Diego Rosa (Arkéa-Samsic)

Louis Vervaeke (Alpecin-Fenix)

Simone Velasco (Gazprom-Rusvelo)

Eg is still chasing on his own, but he's more than a minute down and this will be a huge ask to make it over now.

Eg is back in the peloton, which is being led by Deceuninck-QuickStep. The gap is four minutes.

145km to go

46.7km covered in the first hour. We're almost at the first of the day's 12 climbs, the Côte d'Yvoir.

The breakaway hits it now in fact. It's 2.1km with an average gradient of 6%. 

Over the top of the climb and the gap is up to five minutes

As well as both Flèche Wallonne races, we also have the Tour of the Alps today. It's stage 3, another hilly one, and we have live coverage of that as well. Here's the link you need.

It's all calm in the race at the moment. The gap has stabilised at five minutes and we're on an undulating stretch of road ahead of a trio of climbs that will take us towards the finishing circuit.

Ineos and QuickStep are the teams controlling the peloton. 

Ineos have set Eddie Dunbar to work in these early stages. They've got a really strong team here. Everyone's talking about Pidcock but there's also Adam Yates, Richard Carapaz, Michal Kwiatkowski, and Tao Geoghegan Hart.

QuickStep, meanwhile, have Dries Devenyns back in the fold to support Alaphilippe, who trusts the Belgian as his right-hand man. Vansevenant is obviously a contender in his own right, and they also have a lightweight climber in James Knox, and more rouleur-type riders in Mikkel Honore, Josef Cerny, and Mattia Cattaneo.

Arne Marit has had a tumble in the break. He's back on his bike but his jersey and shorts are slightly ripped. 

AG2R are massed towards the front of the bunch. They have Benoit Cosnefroy, who was second last year but has struggled with injuries this year. Back-ups include Clement Champoussin and Aurelien Paret-Peintre.

Jumbo are also contributing at the head of the peloton. They've put Christoph Pfingsten up there.

The roads on the early portion of the route are narrow and exposed. The bunch is strung out but it doesn't look like the wind is strong enough to cause any drama.

Fleche

(Image credit: Bettini Photo)

110km to go

The gap nudges out to 5:30 as the riders in the bunch stop for another comfort break ahead of this next section of climbs.

The breakaway hit the first climb in this trio. It's the Côte de Thon, and it's 1.2km at 6.9%

Movistar also have a rider working in the peloton, so that's four teams working. 

Armée leads the break over the top of the Côte de Thon.

Philippe Gilbert is here, on the 10th anniversary of his victory and indeed his Ardennes treble. The Belgian has had a difficult season, choosing the skip the Tour of Flanders, and even his modified preparation for the Ardennes was hampered by a recent high-speed training crash. The man himself told us about that, and his hopes for the Ardennes, yesterday, and you can read the full story here

101km to go

Time for the Côte de Groynne - 2.1km at 5%

The same four men from Ineos, Jumbo, QuickStep, and Movistar continue to rotate on the front of the peloton. The gap is back down to 5 minutes

94km to go

The break hit the Côte de Haut-Bois - 1.2km at 7.9%

Alaphilippe dropping back to his team car a little earlier

Alaphilippe

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Alaphilippe is back at the car again. It seems he has a problem with his radio.

86km to go

We've ticked off that trio of climbs and we've now got a short wait until the Côte de Gives, after which we'll be heading onto our finishing circuit and towards the Mur de Huy for the first time.

Gianni Moscon has just won stage 3 of the Tour of the Alps, his second win of the race so far. Here's the link to our report page.

Here's a look at our breakaway

Fleche

(Image credit: Getty Images)

80km to go

The gap is down to 4:15 as we hit the Côte de Gives.

This one is 1.4km at 7.7%, with some double-digits at the top.

Howes is distanced as he slips his gears, but he's on his way back.

The break stick together over the top and Howes is getting back on.

The peloton hit the Gives now and Movistar take it up en masse.

Problems for Jonathan Caicedo, who's grinding off the back on this steep narrow climb. He seems to have problems with his gears as well, and he's having trouble clipping in as well.

Movistar lead the bunch over the top and they're starting to take control now as the race begins to intensify.

We carry on uphill for a few kilometres now, at which point we'll enter the finishing circuit. There's a short descent to Huy before they take on the punishing climb for the first of three times. At the top, they'll cross the finish line for the first time and embark on the first of two full laps of the 32km finishing circuit.

75km to go

The increased urgency in the bunch has brought the gap to the 8 breakaway riders down to 3:30.

Movistar are obviously working for Valverde, a five-time winner here. Age seemed to finally be catching up with the Spaniard last year but he has looked rejuvenated in recent weeks, winning the GP Indurain and taking top 10s in Catalunya and the Basque Country. On Sunday he was 5th at Amstel Gold Race. Can he make it six today?

For Valverde's pre-race thoughts, here's the link you need.

Howes is back in the break but alongside the neutral service car. Not quite sure what problem he has with his bike but it doesn't appear completely resolved.

70km to go

Onto the finishing circuit we go and the break start to zip downhill towards Huy.

Dunbar is back on the front for Ineos. Jumbo have got themselves organised in numbers. AG2R still prominent as well, as are Movistar.

Dunbar is on the nose of the bunch but Luke Rowe is a few places further back, with Pidcock tight to his rear wheel. Meanwhile on the other side of the road, Yates is being piloted by Geoghegan Hart. They appear to be the two main protected riders for Ineos.

Movistar take it up again on the downhill.

The breakaway reach Huy and turn onto the approach road to the Mur. The road begins to drag up even before the climb begins.

Movistar continue to charge towards the foot of the climb.

The breakaway hit the Mur de Huy!

It's 1.3km at 9.6%

Here's a better look at it.

La Fleche Wallonne Feminine 2021

(Image credit: La Fleche Wallonne Feminine 2021 / ASO)

The break stick together on the S-bend, with Velasco taking it up.

63km to go

The peloton reach the base of the climb now and the gap is down to below three minutes. 

Howes runs into those mechanical problems again. His hand goes up on the double digit gradients.

QuickStep move up as the peloton start the climb. 

Vervaeke leads the break to the top and over the finish line for the first time. Howes is 10 metres back.

The peloton climbs en masse, with a line of five riders in the front row - one each from QuickStep, Jumbo, Ineos, Bahrain, and Movistar.

Pidcock, glasses in mouth, looks comfortable as he rides behind Rowe and Kwiatkowski.

The peloton is all together over the top of the climb. No splits or moves this time, but we should see some more action the next time.

Howes has switched bikes. He's on a blue Shimano neutral service bike, and that's not ideal. Not sure where his team car is?

EF don't appear to have a team car up behind the breakaway. Teams usually have two cars - one that stays behind the bunch and the other that can go up to the break. 

58km to go

The gap continues to fall after the Mur - 2:22 now. 

A bit more about this circuit. It's tough terrain after the Mur, before they drop down to tackle the Côte d'Ereffe. Just under 10km later it's the Côte du Chemin des Gueuses, then that downhill into Huy. 

Dunbar takes the reins back in the bunch.

And now we head downhill again, towards the foot of Ereffe.

53km to go

They tick off that descent in no time and it's onto the Côte d'Ereffe - 2.2km at 5.6%.

Howes is still on his neutral bike. It's got a hell of a head tube, and doesn't appear the most aero set-up, but he looks to be pedalling quite fluidly. 

Deceuninck-QuickStep put a man on the front as the bunch hits the Ereffe, but now Dunbar takes it up again.

The gap drops to two minutes on the climb.

Higuita crashes

The Colombian champion is on his feet but clutching his knee. Not sure how that happened but it was towards the back of the bunch going uphill.

Higuita is back on his bike and there's the EF team car. He's also holding his left elbow. 

Higuita is now talking to his team director. He's shaking his head and still climbing. This looks like chances over - if not race over - for EF's leader.

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Howes is distanced now. He's stopping.

He's stopping for another new bike. It's a team Cannondale, so he's back on his bike. But it was delivered by the Shimano neutral support, so they must have gone back to get it from the EF car.

Howes has a short chase to get back to the break, and he has cars to help him on the way, and he's getting back in with fuss now.

Things have eased slightly in the bunch. The gap nudges back up to 2:05.

45km to go

The break are heading downhill again to the foot of the next climb on this circuit, the Côte du Chemin des Gueuses.

Shaky moments in the bunch as they have to swerve in and out of some plastic bollards in the middle of the road.

Vervaeke leads the breakaway onto the climb. It's 1.9km at 6.5%.

Mechanical for Dunbar.

Dunbar's gears are jammed. He has to get a new back, just as the pace lifts in the peloton. He's done a lot of work today but is trying to get back to the bunch to do some more.

It's a fast approach to the climb for the bunch, and Biniam Girmay comes to a stop just as they swing left onto it. That's held a lot of riders up. 

Bahrain are prominent as we head uphill. Ineos have four riders led by Rowe on the right hand side of the road. 

Esteban Chaves (BikeExchange) comes to the fore now.

The peloton has bunched up again and they're riding up here at tempo.

AG2R also have four at the front. They've been well positioned all day but haven't got involved with the pace setting until now.

41km to go

Armée leads the break over the top of the Côte du Chemin des Gueuses. They lead the peloton by two minutes.

Bahrain take it up now over the top. They've put Eros Capecchi on the front.

It's now downhill back to Huy. It's been a quiet race so far but will we see anyone try to open the race on the next ascent of the Mur?

The gap between the eight-man break and the pretty-much full bunch still stands at two minutes.

Bahrain have three on the front. Their leading light is Dylan Teuns, a pure puncheur who finished on the podium in 2016. They also have Matej Mohoric, who might be keen to go on a long-range attack. Wout Poels, who finished right behind Teuns in 2016 before winning Liège, is another option, along with Jack Haig.

The breakaway come off the descent and are riding along the river towards the town centre.

An FDJ rider hits the front of the bunch now. We haven't seen them today but David Gaudu has the ability to be up there today, and they've also got Valentin Madouas, who's an emerging hilly Classics rider.

33km to go

The break head through Huy and onto the Mur. Their lead at the bottom is two minutes.

AG2R take it up now with a five-man lead-out along the riverbank.

AG2R's main card is Cosnefroy but it's unclear if he's fully fit after numerous injury troubles. Clement Champoussin, another emerging French talent, is one to watch. He's been tipped as a Grand Tour contender but is more of an all-rounder than a pure climber and does pack a punch. 

Howes leads the break up through the S-bend this time. 

The break starts to split up on this second ascent.

Mertens is the first to be dropped. Velasco is struggling now.

Rosa loses contact now, too. The rest drive towards the line, led by Vervaeke again.

The peloton remains bunched once more on the climb.

Geoghegan Hart takes it up for Ineos now. 

Attack!

It's Simon Geschke (Cofidis). Geoghegan Hart marks it

Tratnik marks it for Bahrain, Neilands for Israel, and more riders sense an opening here. QuickStep have a rider up there.

Seven riders away over the top, more moves from behind.

It's Vansevenant for QuickStep!

That seven-man group is joined by those accelerating at the head of the bunch. It's coming back together but massively stretched out on the false flat after the Mur.

The breakaway is down to five and their lead is down to 90 seconds now. Velasco and Rosa are chasing together but it looks like it's over for Mertens.

Wellens attacks as the peloton bunches up again.

Wellens doesn't appear committed to this, as no one seems willing to jump with him.

Israel take it up on this nasty drag. It's not the best of places to be shifting the lactic acid from the Mur. 

28km to go

Mertens is caught by the bunch. 1:10 to the leaders.

Israel have been quiet so far but they've now put Impey on the front. Michael Woods is their leader today - a rider who is perfectly suited to this race.

Crash! Pidcock is down

Pidcock appears to be ok. He fell into the grass on the roadside after a touch of wheels towards the back of the bunch. He's back on his way.

Gilbert also involved in that six-man crash.

Pidcock has his shoe off, and tense moments has he tries to put it back on and tighten it up. He's back behind his team car now and calls for a bit more pressure on the accelerator.

No Ineos riders are anywhere near the front of this bunch.

25km to go

Velasco and Rosa are caught now, so five left out front, with a lead of one minute.

Carapaz moves towards the front now. Kwiatkowski is right at the back. Geoghegan Hart has been sent back to help Pidcock.

Pidcock is back. Geoghegan Hart guides him back to the tail of the bunch

23km to go

The leaders take on the descent to the Ereffe. Their lead is down to 50 seconds.

Lammertink leads the break onto the Côte d'Ereffe - 2.2km at 5.6%.

Howes is distanced on the climb

Impey leads the peloton onto the Ereffe. FDJ are organised near the front.

And FDJ take it up now. Gaudu is second wheel. 

It's Bruno Armirail upping the tempo for FDJ. Gaudu and Madouas are in tow.

Howes is clinging on, not letting his former companions out of his sight. He'll hope to get back on on the descent.

Moniquet digs in now and lifts the pace. 

20km to go

The peloton are only around 30 seconds down now as they crest the climb.

Howes is caught as the FDJ charge continues over the top. 

The break are zipping downhill again. There's a brief uphill interruption but it's a fast run down to the Côte du Chemin des Gueuses.

Alaphilippe moves up now onto the FDJ trio. The world champion has kept a low profile so far today.

16.5km to go

The four remaining escapees have 35 seconds in hand.

It starts to drop again as they hit that small kicker.

Ineos have got themselves organised after that Pidcock crash. They have five men in and around the FDJ trio.

The four escapees have 25 seconds in hand as they continue to drop down to the penultimate climb.

Everyone makes it through those pesky bollards safely this time. 

Ineos and FDJ battling for position on the downhill. QuickStep have riders up there now as well.

The break reach the foot of the descent and the road starts to tilt up again ahead of the Côte du Chemin des Crueuses. 

The climb is 1.9km at 6.5%.

11.5km to go

Huge charge in the peloton as they hit the flat and take on the approach.

The break hit the climb with a lead of 30 seconds.

AG2R have four on the front as the peloton hit the climb

Wellens attack!

Big one this time. Carapaz goes off to mark it, as does Sbaragli for Alpecin.

Ilan Van Wilder takes it up behind Wellens. Some big names coming to the fore now.

Lammertink attacks from the break.

Wellens breezes past Armee.

Wellens is still alone 1km from the top. This is classic Tim Wellens.

Van Wilder has an Astana rider for company now as they chase down Wellens. The rest of the peloton is together again but reducing now.

It's Fraile for Astana and he moves clear to join Wellens.

Lammertink is last man standing now

Wellens, Fraile and Van Wilder are together a few seconds behind Lammertink and a few seconds ahead of the bunch.

9.5km to go

Lammertink leads the race over the top of the climb. Wellens, Van Wilder and Fraile follow.

Carapaz attacks from the bunch!

Sam Oomen looks to shut it down for Jumbo. Ineos playing the numbers game.

The Carapaz attack wipes out the Wellens move. The bunch is strung out but back together.

James Knox takes it up now for QuickStep, looking to impose a steadier tempo. Lammertink is still out in front but no definitive splits in the peloton.

8km to go

Lammertink has just six seconds in hand here.

Still more than 50 in the peloton as we take on the final false flats before the descent into Huy.

QuickStep take it up with two on the front. Ineos are guided by Geoghegan Hart behind.

Impey moves Woods up again now.

Oomen shut that earlier move down but we haven't seen much of Jumbo today. Roglic has kept a low profile and don't forget Jonas Vingegaard as an outsider.

5.5km to go

Downhill we go. Lammertink has found another few seconds.

13 seconds for Lammertink with 5km to go. He has a chance of staying clear into Huy but he's not going to make it far up the Mur.

Bahrain come to the fore again now with Mohoric.

Mohoric is an expert descender and who better to guide Teuns down.

4km to go

Lammertink comes off the descent and onto the flat. The peloton is 14 seconds behind him.

Trek have got themselves organised - another team who've been quiet today.

Roglic is up there alone.

3km to go

3,000 metres to go and Lammertink is riding alongside the river, 15 seconds clear. 

BikeExchange hit the front now. What can Matthews or Chaves do today?

2km to go

10 seconds now as Lammertink loses time on the flat. 

AG2R hit the front again.

Alaphilippe is up in fourth wheel. Here we go. This is the approach now with 1.8 km to go

1.5km to go

Lammertink is caught. Here we go!

AG2R lead the way onto the Mur.

Devenyns attacks ahead of the Mur. A Bahrain rider hits out as well. Tratnik.

But it's all together onto the lower slopes

Neilands takes it up. Now Kwiatkowski for Ineos.

Alaphilippe is third wheel behind Cosnefroy.

Roglic is right behind Alaphilippe

Kwiatkowski continues to lead as they head round the S-bend. Roglic hits the front now alongside Cosnefroy.

Roglic almost gets squeezed into the barriers on the right.

Roglic attacks! 350 to go

Big gap for Roglic. Alaphilippe has to respond

Valverde on Alaphilippe's wheel as they chase ROglic down!

Alaphilippe closing in!

Onto the flatter section at the top and Alaphilippe gets him!

Alaphilippe wins!

The world champion just gets in front at the last, sitting up and celebrating just ahead of the line, as if nothing happened last year. There's a big gap back to Valverde in third and Woods in fourth.

Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) wins La Flèche Wallonne

Pidcock didn't have the legs there. He was the first in line to respond to Roglic's early acceleration, but Alaphilippe and Valverde breezed past the young Brit. 

Pidcock ended up 6th, behind Warren Barguil. Gaudu, Chaves, Carapaz, and Schachmann round out the top 10.

MUR DE HUY BELGIUM APRIL 21 Arrival Julian Alaphilippe of France and Team Deceuninck QuickStep celebrates on arrival during the 85th La Fleche Wallonne 2021 Men Elite a 1936km race from Charleroi to Mur de Huy 204m FlecheWallonne on April 21 2021 in Mur de Huy Belgium Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Results
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck-QuickStep 4:36:25
2Primoz Roglic (Slo) Jumbo-Visma
3Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:06
4Michael Woods (Can) Israel Start-up Nation 0:00:08
5Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic 0:00:11
6Thomas Pidcock (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers
7David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
8Esteban Chaves Rubio (Col) Team BikeExchange
9Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers
10Maximilian Schachmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe

Here's our report page

Let's hear from the runner-up, Roglic.

"Julian was definitely the strongest. Congrats, he deserves to win.

"I was just there and why not [attack early]? If I had a bit stronger legs I would win but someone was better today, and congrats Julian.

"It was a nice race, it went fast and for sure I'm happy with the shape going into Liège. You always want to win but I'm just happy with my level and definitely looking forward to Liège."

And let's hear from our winner

"I just wanted to show I had a strong head. Since the start of the season I haven't won a lot, and that didn't stop me having fun, but I really wanted to raise my arms again. At a race as hard as this, voila. I put some pressure on myself - not pressure, but I wanted to win again. 

"The team did a great job today and I'm really proud of them. I had huge confidence in them and was well placed when I needed to be. Mikkel Honore dropped me off at the bottom of the Mur in the first positions, and in the end I knew what I had to do. It's the legs that make the difference on the climb. It wasn't easy with Roglic out front and Valverde on my wheel but I got there. 

"It does my an enormous amount of good to win, especially in the jersey. I'm really happy."

La Fleche Wallonne 2021 - 85th Edition - Charleroi - Mur de Huy 193,6 km - 21/04/2021 - Primoz Roglic (SLO - Jumbo - Visma) - Julian Alaphilippe (FRA - Deceuninck - Quick-Step) - photo Nico Vereecken/PN/BettiniPhoto©2021

(Image credit: Bettini Photo)

That's Alaphilippe's third straight win at Flèche. He didn't take part last year following his Worlds title. He won in 2019 and 2018, missed the race through injury in 2017, and was runner-up in his first two appearances in 2016 and 2015. Not a bad track record. 

As for Valverde, that's the first time he's finished third, I believe. He's had a couple of runner-up spots, plus lower placings, and of course four wins. Many were calling time on the Spaniard's career but this just confirms his latest resurgence. He'll celebrate his 41st birthday at Liège on Sunday.

Plenty of photos, plus full results, in our report page.

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