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Van der Breggen's secret to winning La Flèche Wallonne Féminine - Preview

Anna van der Breggen (SD Worx)
Anna van der Breggen (SD Worx) (Image credit: Getty Images)

Anna van der Breggen retired at the end of last season following an illustrious career that, among many prestigious results, included a record seven consecutive victories at La Flèche Wallonne Féminine. The cycling world awaits as, for the first time seven editions, a new rider will power to the victory and crowned Queen of the Mur de Huy. 

Anna van der Breggen warned last year that the Mur de Huy “never lies”, and will always show one's strengths and weaknesses. The Dutch rider seemed to have a special finesse on its steep and punishing slopes, appearing to know exactly how to gauge her effort and where to make her winning moves each year.

"The Mur de Huy is always hard and you can only ride the pace that you can handle. You always have to go full and to the max, so it’s always hard,” said van der Breggen in an interview with Cyclingnews ahead of her seventh consecutive victory win 2021. At that time, van der Breggen went on to explain the keys to success on the Mur de Huy - which were less about the technical and tactical aspects of the climbing the ascent and more to do with how well a rider knows ones limits.

“It’s all about knowing yourself and how you feel when deciding where to attack or if you should wait for a sprint. There is no clear answer. Everyone is different. You should know what’s best for yourself. You should know how high you can go in your pace, not to blow up, but still have enough to sprint or drop the others. The Mur de Huy asks for self knowledge.”

The Mur de Huy x 3

La Fleche Wallonne Feminine 2022 - Mur de Huy

La Fleche Wallonne Feminine 2022 - Mur de Huy (Image credit: La Fleche Wallonne Feminine 2021 / ASO)

The 25th edition of La Fèche Wallonne Féminine will offer the peloton a 133.4km route that includes three ascents of the famed Mur de Huy this year, announced organizer ASO in January. The ascent forms part of the final shorter local circuits in Huy.

The race will begin in Huy and venture south-west for a roughly 70km large loop, before the first of eight ascents held on the short local circuits in Huy. 

The climbing beginning at Côte de Cherave (65.5km) followed by the first passage over the Mur de Huy (71.1km). The peloton will then twice tackle the trio of climbs; Côte d’Ereffe (83.8km / 114.9km), Côte de Cherave (96.5k / 127.7km) and the Mur de Huy (102.2km / 133.4km).

Gone are the Côte de Thon, Côte de Groynne, Côte de Haut-Bois, Côte de Gives and Côte du Chemin des Gueuses from last year's route. 

The Mur de Huy is a brutally steep 1.3km ascent that starts with a run-in along the Avenue du Condroz before reaching the first right-hand bend at a 10 per cent grade. The climbs steepens to 12 per cent, then 14 per cent, and after a hard left turn it hits its steepest section at 19 per cent with 400 metres to go. 

The grade ever-so-slightly eases off to 13 per cent, and then 9 per cent in the final 100 metres to the finish line.

La Fleche Wallonne Feminine 2022 - Profile

La Fleche Wallonne Feminine 2022 - Profile (Image credit: ASO)
  • Côte de Cherave (65.5km) - 1.3km at 8.1 per cent
  • Mur de Huy (71.1km, 1st passage) - 1.3km at 9.5 per cent, with sections as steep as 19 per cent
  • Côte d’Ereffe (83.8km) - 2.1km at 5 per cent
  • Côte de Cherave (96.5km) - 1.3km at 8.1 per cent
  • Mur de Huy (102.2km, 2nd passage) - 1.3km at 9.6 per cent, with sections as steep as 19 per cent
  • Côte d'Ereffe (114.9km) - 2.1km at 5 per cent
  • Côte de Cherave (127.7km) - 1.3km at 8.1 per cent
  • Mur de Huy (133.4.2km, final passage) - 1.3km at 9.5 per cent, with sections as steep as 19 per cent

La Flèche Wallonne Féminine - The favourites

Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM)

Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) (Image credit: Getty Images)

The three Ardennes Classics are traditionally held across one week, however, this year they have been spread across two weeks as Amstel Gold Race and Paris-Roubaix were forced to swap dates. 

Marta Cavalli (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine) celebrated the biggest victory of her career at Amstel Gold Race on April 10 while Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) celebrated a thrilling victory in the velodrome at Paris-Roubaix Femmes on Sunday.

There are some riders among the women’s peloton who will race all Ardennes Classics and Paris-Roubaix Femmes, while others have chosen to focus on one or the other. 

SD Worx’s Lotte Kopecky and Chantal van den Broek-Blaak formed a two-pronged attack on Paris-Roubaix. The team will also field two potential winners, and former podium finishers, at La Flèche Wallonne with Demi Vollering and Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, in hopes to continue on van der Breggen's run of success.

Trek-Segafredo's Elisa Longo Borghini and Lucinda Brand, who finished 1st and 3rd at Paris-Roubaix, appear to also be competing at Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday. Longo Borghini has finished three times on the podium and will undoubtedly want to improve on that this year.

Movistar line up with two potential winners with Annemiek van Vleuten, twice second on the Mur de Huy, and Sarah Gigante, both are powerful climbers who could form the winning duo.

Five-time winner Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) is currently not listed on the team roster. Her season came to an abrupt halt on the morning of Paris-Roubaix Femmes after she tested positive for Covid-19.

FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope's Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig was also forced to take a break when she returned a positive test for Covid-19 ahead of Amstel Gold Race. She is currently listed to compete in Huy, as is Cavalli and Evita Muzic.

One of the strongest on the start line will be Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) who finished fourth at Strade Bianche, eighth at Tour of Flanders, fifth at Amstel Gold Race and second at Brabantse Pijl. She's twice finished on the podium in Huy, and was second to van der Breggen last year.

Van der Breggen said the Mur de Huy has suited multiple different types of riders in it's 25-year history as part of the women's race, and that she is looking forward to seeing who will become the next champion of La Flèche Wallonne Féminine.

"I think that after me there will be somebody else [winning] and before me there was someone else," she told Cyclingnews in a 2021 interview. "In this period the Mur de Huy has suited a couple of riders more than others. I’m curious, in the future, who will be the next winner."

La Flèche Wallonne Féminine - Teams

  • Team SD Worx
  • Canyon-SRAM Racing
  • Trek - Segafredo
  • Movistar Team
  • UAE Team ADQ
  • Team DSM
  • FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope
  • Team BikeExchange - Jayco
  • Team Jumbo-Visma
  • EF Education-TIBCO-SVB
  • Liv Racing Xstra
  • Uno-X Pro Cycling Team
  • Human Powered Health
  • Roland Cogeas Edelweiss Squad
  • Valcar - Travel & Service
  • Parkhotel Valkenburg
  • Plantur-Pura
  • Le Col - Wahoo
  • Arkéa Pro Cycling Team
  • Lotto Soudal Ladies
  • Cofidis Women Team
  • Bingoal Casino - Chevalmeire - Van Eyck Sport
  • Bepink
  • Andy Schleck - CP NVST - Immo Losch

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Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in cycling from the community and grassroots level to professional cycling's WorldTour. She has worked in both print and digital publishing, and started with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. Moving into a Production Editor's role in 2014, she produces and publishes international race coverage for all men's and women's races including Spring Classics, Grand Tours, World Championships and Olympic Games, and writes and edits news and features. As the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten also coordinates and oversees the global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.

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