Julian Alaphilippe wins La Flèche Wallonne

Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quickstep) claimed his third career victory in La Flèche Wallonne, using his superior knowledge of the Mur de Huy to overhaul Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) in a breathless final 100 metres.

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) showed sparks of his younger self - the five-time winner of the race struggled to keep the pace of Roglič and Alaphilippe but had enough to hold on for the final podium spot.

Roglič, racing his first Flèche Wallonne, hit out first and hardest, attacking perhaps misguidedly with 350m to go on the steepest part of the climb and immediately opened up a gap.

Alaphilippe, knowing that patience is key on the Mur de Huy, bided his time and then as the gradient eased, leapt clear of Valverde to take his first one-day race victory since last year's Brabantse Pijl in October.

"The team did great work all day for me. They gave me a lot of confidence and I was able to save energy all day thanks to them. In the finale, I knew what I had to do. It hurt," Alaphilippe said.

"I was perfectly placed. I was able to climb the Mur in the first positions and then it's the legs that make the difference. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy with Roglič and with Valverde on my wheel but I got there."

After winning in 2018 and 2019, Alaphilippe skipped the race after taking the rainbow jersey in the coronavirus-reshuffled late 2020 season. On Wednesday, the world champion showed his stripes with aplomb after a difficult Classics campaign so far.

"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.

"I put some pressure on myself - not pressure, but I wanted to win again. It does my an enormous amount of good to win, especially in the jersey. I'm really happy," Alaphilippe said.

Roglič's attack drew out Amstel Gold Race runner-up Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers), and the Briton was passed by Michael Woods (Israel Start-Up Nation) and Warren Barguil (Arkéa-Samsic) before the top, finishing in sixth.

David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ), Esteban Chaves (BikeExchange), Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) and Max Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) rounded out the top ten.

The result was a relief and a confirmation of his form ahead of Liège-Bastogne-Liège for Alaphilippe, who last year celebrated too early in La Doyenne and lost out to Roglič before being relegated.

How it unfolded

After a COVID-19 pandemic-postponed late-September edition, the 2021 Flèche Wallonne got underway without the UAE Team Emirates after two members of the organisation tested positive for the virus. Despite several negative tests later on - one of them had even been vaccinated, restrictions are restrictions and one pre-race favourite, Tadej Pogačar would not be at the start line.

Once the flag dropped for the 193.6km race the usual flurry of attacks followed with Loïc Vliegen (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux), Petr Rikunov (Gazprom-RusVelo) and Arne Marit (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise) leaping away. Mathijs Paaschens (Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB) bridged across but he'd proved too tempting for the chasers and after 15km the race was back together again.

Another surge from a larger group got nailed back before the day's successful breakaway forged clear containing Alex Howes (EF Education-Nippo), Sylvain Moniquet (Lotto-Soudal), Sander Armée (Team Qhubeka Assos), Maurits Lammertink (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux), and Julian Mertens (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise).

The five were chased by Diego Rosa (Arkéa-Samsic), Louis Vervaeke (Alpecin-Fenix), Simone Velasco (Gazprom-Rusvelo) and then Niklas Eg (Trek-Segafredo) as the peloton stopped for a call of nature signalling this move was the one.

The eight riders came together with 155km to go without Eg, who went back to the bunch and the race settled in for the long haul, having covered 46.7km in the first hour. After 85km, the gap to the leaders maxed out at 5:30 before Movistar came to the fore for Valverde and began to chip away at it.

On the Côte de Gives with 80km to go, Howes had gear problems and had to chase back on, the delay for the breakaway came as the gap was plummeting.

Final circuits

The leaders hit the Mur de Huy for the first time with 64km to go, Howes again had gear problems and had to get a neutral bike from Shimano but managed to get back on to the lead group.

The race became more frantic on the closing circuits, with Sergio Higuita (EF-Nippo) crashing and getting back on and Howes stopping again to get a new bike before the Côte du Chemin des Gueuses with 45km to go.

On the second trip over the Mur de Huy with 32km to go, the breakaway had only a minute and they lost Rosa, Velasco and Mertens.

There was a crash in the peloton on the other side of the climb that took down pre-race favourite Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers), who then had to get a new shoe from the team car with almost 25km to go. None other than Giro d'Italia winner Tao Geoghegan Hart helped Pidcock get back on with 24km to go.

The incident slowed the chase, giving the five breakaway a few more seconds - their gap went out to one minute again after dipping below that margin. However, before the Côte d'Ereffe, their lead was slashed in half, Howes was dropped and Groupama-FDJ was closing the peloton in fast.

Four leaders - Moniquet, Vervaeke, Lammertink and Armée went over the top of the Ereffe with 27 seconds on the peloton which caught Howes with 18km to go.

The bit between their teeth, Groupama-FDJ continued to lead the chase to the leaders, who used the descent to gain a handful of seconds. Vervaeke tried to keep the breakaway cooperating but the effort was futile.

Final climbs

Moniquet drove the pace on the run-in to the penultimate climb but with just a 29-second advantage at the base Côte du Chemin des Gueuses with 10km to go, their TV time was coming to an end.

Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) attacked from the peloton at the start of the climb, while ahead, Lammertink attacked the breakaway and went clear.

Wellens went past Armée like a rocket, linking up with his teammate Moniquet and Vervaeke from the early move while Omar Fraile (Astana) leapt across to Wellens.

Team DSM's Ilan Van Wilder also made it across to Wellens and, at the crest, Lammertink had only nine seconds' lead but his three chasers had even less on the peloton.

Carapaz nailed the chasers back after the summit and then Deceuninck-Quickstep came to the fore together with Bahrain Victorious to lead the bunch.

Lammertink persisted and still held a dozen seconds on the descent to the base of the Mur de Huy.

The Mur de Huy

The churn of the peloton with 3km to go gave Lammertink an additional advantage of the favourites fought to get into position. BikeExchange pulled Chaves to the fore, while Lutsenko brought Fuglsang forward.

AG2R Citroën won the fight for the pointy end of the peloton, and nailed back Lammertink with 1.4km to go.

The first attack came from Honoré and he was chased furiously by a rider from Bahrain Victorious.

All the names were in position - Roglič, Alaphilippe, Kwiatkowski at the front and Vansevenant bobbing and weaving with 600m to go.

Roglič came to the front inside the final 500m and put in his big dig with a full 350m to go.

Alaphilippe waited, then pounced with Valverde on his wheel and Pidcock just behind, distancing the Spaniard, and linked up with Roglič the sprinted past with 75m to go, just managing to hold off Slovenian before the line. The world champion's form failures of the past weeks put well behind him.

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Full 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 0:00:16
11Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo
12Ben Tulett (GBr) Alpecin-Fenix
13Alex Aranburu Deba (Spa) Astana-Premier Tech
14Quinten Hermans (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
15Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe
16Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis
17Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana-Premier Tech 0:00:19
18Benoit Cosnefroy (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team 0:00:21
19Jack Haig (Aus) Bahrain Victorious
20Adam Yates (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers 0:00:27
21Michael Matthews (Aus) Team BikeExchange 0:00:28
22Wout Poels (Ned) Bahrain Victorious 0:00:32
23Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Ineos Grenadiers
24Marco Brenner (Ger) Team DSM 0:00:36
25Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) Alpecin-Fenix
26Mauro Finetto (Ita) Delko
27Mauri Vansevenant (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep
28Sergio Henao Montoya (Col) Team Qhubeka Assos
29Jesus Herrada (Spa) Cofidis 0:00:40
30Nicola Conci (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
31Krists Neilands (Lat) Israel Start-up Nation 0:00:42
32Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain Victorious
33Aurélien Paret Peintre (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team
34Fernando Barceló Aragon (Spa) Cofidis
35Simon Carr (GBr) EF Education-Nippo 0:00:46
36Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal
37Sam Oomen (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
38Robert Gesink (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
39Lorenzo Rota (Ita) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux 0:00:51
40Julien Bernard (Fra) Trek-Segafredo 0:00:54
41Fabio Aru (Ita) Team Qhubeka Assos 0:00:57
42Mikkel Honoré (Den) Deceuninck-QuickStep 0:01:00
43Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Bingoal Pauwels Sauzen WB
44Rudy Molard (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
45Clément Champoussin (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team 0:01:05
46Michael Valgren (Den) EF Education-Nippo 0:01:06
47Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Gazprom-RusVelo 0:01:07
48Robert Stannard (Aus) Team BikeExchange 0:01:11
49Toms Skujins (Lat) Trek-Segafredo 0:01:15
50Thymen Arensman (Ned) Team DSM 0:01:18
51Floris De Tier (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix 0:01:28
52Daryl Impey (RSA) Israel Start-up Nation 0:01:30
53Andreas Leknessund (Nor) Team DSM
54Mark Donovan (GBr) Team DSM 0:01:35
55Jonathan Caicedo (Ecu) EF Education-Nippo
56Jan Tratnik (Slo) Bahrain Victorious 0:01:37
57Matej Mohoric (Slo) Bahrain Victorious
58Omar Fraile Matarranz (Spa) Astana-Premier Tech
59Dorian Godon (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team 0:01:47
60Ruben Fernandez (Spa) Cofidis 0:01:56
61Ilan Van Wilder (Bel) Team DSM 0:01:59
62Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers 0:02:12
63James Knox (GBr) Deceuninck-QuickStep 0:02:13
64Louis Vervaeke (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix
65Simon Clarke (Aus) Team Qhubeka Assos
66Carlos Verona Quintanilla (Spa) Movistar Team 0:02:17
67Jan Bakelants (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux 0:02:35
68Martijn Tusveld (Ned) Team DSM
69Sergei Chernetskii (Rus) Gazprom-RusVelo
70Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Lotto Soudal 0:02:39
71Mattia Cattaneo (Ita) Deceuninck-QuickStep 0:02:44
72Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana-Premier Tech 0:02:51
73Stefan De Bod (RSA) Astana-Premier Tech
74Brent Bookwalter (USA) Team BikeExchange
75Lukasz Owsian (Pol) Team Arkea-Samsic
76Simon Geschke (Ger) Cofidis
77Enric Mas Nicolau (Spa) Movistar Team 0:03:01
78Anthony Perez (Fra) Cofidis
79Maurits Lammertink (Ned) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux 0:03:06
80Dries Devenyns (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep 0:03:11
81Sander Armée (Bel) Team Qhubeka Assos 0:03:17
82Sylvain Moniquet (Bel) Lotto Soudal 0:03:41
83Lennard Hofstede (Ned) Jumbo-Visma 0:03:53
84Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma 0:04:05
85Ide Schelling (Ned) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:04:45
86Valentin Madouas (Fra) Groupama-FDJ 0:04:54
87Jimmy Janssens (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix 0:05:48
88Tosh Van Der Sande (Bel) Lotto Soudal 0:06:22
89Alexander Kamp (Den) Trek-Segafredo
90Rob Power (Aus) Team Qhubeka Assos
91Matteo Jorgenson (USA) Movistar Team
92Cesare Benedetti (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe
93Tsgabu Grmay (Eth) Team BikeExchange
94Romain Seigle (Fra) Groupama-FDJ 0:06:32
95Thomas Sprengers (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise 0:06:57
96Bruno Armirail (Fra) Groupama-FDJ 0:07:33
97Laurent Pichon (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic
98Lawson Craddock (USA) EF Education-Nippo 0:07:35
99Alex Howes (USA) EF Education-Nippo 0:08:15
100Simone Velasco (Ita) Gazprom-RusVelo 0:08:23
101Biniam Girmay (Eri) Delko 0:08:45
102Matthieu Ladagnous (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
103Julian Mertens (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise 0:08:59
104Laurens Huys (Bel) Bingoal Pauwels Sauzen WB
105Delio Fernandez Cruz (Spa) Delko 0:09:11
106Diego Rosa (Ita) Team Arkea-Samsic 0:10:09
107Sean Bennett (USA) Team Qhubeka Assos 0:11:06
108Philipp Walsleben (Ger) Alpecin-Fenix 0:11:18
109Rune Herregodts (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise 0:12:01
110Hideto Nakane (Jpn) EF Education-Nippo
111Xandro Meurisse (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix
112Remy Mertz (Bel) Bingoal Pauwels Sauzen WB
113Lawrence Naesen (Bel) AG2R Citroën Team
114Reto Hollenstein (Swi) Israel Start-up Nation
115Sébastien Grignard (Bel) Lotto Soudal
116Niklas Eg (Den) Trek-Segafredo
117Aimé De Gendt (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux 0:12:05
118Kevin Van Melsen (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
119Luc Wirtgen (Lux) Bingoal Pauwels Sauzen WB 0:12:16
120Dmitrii Strakhov (Rus) Gazprom-RusVelo
121Jorge Arcas (Spa) Movistar Team 0:12:17
122Alan Riou (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic
123Michael Schär (Swi) AG2R Citroën Team
124Kevin Ledanois (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic
125Paul Martens (Ger) Jumbo-Visma
126Christopher Juul-Jensen (Den) Team BikeExchange
127Hugo Houle (Can) Astana-Premier Tech
128Marco Canola (Ita) Gazprom-RusVelo 0:12:26
129Christoph Pfingsten (Ger) Jumbo-Visma
130Luke Rowe (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers
131Mathijs Paasschens (Ned) Bingoal Pauwels Sauzen WB
132Eros Capecchi (Ita) Bahrain Victorious
133James Piccoli (Can) Israel Start-up Nation
134Alex Colman (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise 0:13:21
135Tomasz Marczynski (Pol) Lotto Soudal 0:13:30
136Patrick Gamper (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe
137Guillaume Boivin (Can) Israel Start-up Nation 0:13:52
138August Jensen (Nor) Delko
139Barnabás Peák (Hun) Team BikeExchange
DNSMarc Hirschi (Swi) UAE Team Emirates
DNSTadej Pogacar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates
DNSRui Costa (Por) UAE Team Emirates
DNSDavide Formolo (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
DNSVegard Stake Laengen (Nor) UAE Team Emirates
DNSJan Polanc (Slo) UAE Team Emirates
DNSDiego Ulissi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
DNFStan Dewulf (Bel) AG2R Citroën Team
DNFGuy Sagiv (Isr) Israel Start-up Nation
DNFMatis Louvel (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic
DNFSergio Higuita Garcia (Col) EF Education-Nippo
DNFJosef Cerny (Cze) Deceuninck-QuickStep
DNFEddie Dunbar (Irl) Ineos Grenadiers
DNFJordi Meeus (Bel) Bora-Hansgrohe
DNFAndreas Schillinger (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
DNFJuan Pedro Lopez Perez (Spa) Trek-Segafredo
DNFVictor Lafay (Fra) Cofidis
DNFWilliam Bonnet (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
DNFKenny Molly (Bel) Bingoal Pauwels Sauzen WB
DNFTom Paquot (Bel) Bingoal Pauwels Sauzen WB
DNFStephen Williams (GBr) Bahrain Victorious
DNFSamuele Battistella (Ita) Astana-Premier Tech
DNFStefano Oldani (Ita) Lotto Soudal
DNFBert-Jan Lindeman (Ned) Team Qhubeka Assos
DNFIvan Garcia Cortina (Spa) Movistar Team
DNFGonzalo Serrano Rodriguez (Spa) Movistar Team
DNFLoïc Vliegen (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
DNFChad Haga (USA) Team DSM
DNFPetr Rikunov (Rus) Gazprom-RusVelo
DNFIvan Rovny (Rus) Gazprom-RusVelo
DNFAaron Van Poucke (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
DNFArne Marit (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
DNFAaron Verwilst (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
DNFClément Carisey (Fra) Delko
DNFAlessandro Fedeli (Ita) Delko
DNFMathias Le Turnier (Fra) Delko

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