Race Report: The World champion, Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) made no mistakes on the climb of the Mur de Huy to beat Primoz Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) to the line. With an explosive jump the Frenchman took a length out of the Slovenian. The ‘old man’ Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) was third.
Alaphilippe made no mistakes
Julian Alaphilippe has added the Flèche Wallonne to his palmarès for the third time in his career. On the steep Mur de Huy, passed Primož Roglič on the final ramps to the line. Roglič had tried to control the finalé with a long sprint.
The start of the race was in Charleroi for the first time in years. From there, the route headed east to Huy, where two circuits of 31.8 kilometres, climbing the Côte d’Ereffe, the Chemin des Gueuses and the Mur de Huy.
Nice castles in these parts
Tom Pidcock must be feeling confident
Marc Hirschi could not defend his title. His UAE Emirates team announced in the morning that it was withdrawing from the classic after Diego Ulissi and an employee returned a positive corona test. Tadej Pogačar, who was among the favourites, was also not at the start. The starting was given for the 85th Flèche Wallonne in the Dôme sports palace and immediately there was an attack. Loïc Vliegen, Arne Marit and Mathijs Paasschens tried to set up an escape, but the peloton was reluctant to let them get away.
Some echelons early in the race
Roman Kreuziger, remember him? Now riding for Gazprom-RusVelo
After 20 kilometres, the break of the day was formed. WorldTour riders Alex Howes, Sylvain Moniquet, Sander Armée and Maurits Lammertink, plus ProTour rider Julian Mertens joined forces and a little later Diego Rosa, Louis Vervaeke and Simone Velasco join them. The leading group managed to take 5 minutes on the peloton, where INEOS Grenadiers, Movistar, Jumbo-Visma and Deceuninck – Quick-Step worked together to keep the gap under control. After the halfway point the difference started to come down and on the first climb of the Mur de Huy, 60 kilometres from the finish, the eight-man lead group only had 3 minutes.
Eros Capecchi (Bahrain Victorious) tried to get in the break of the day
The break of the day
Howes had to let the leading group go for a while due to mechanical problems, but the American champion was able to return with a new bike. On the first lap around Huy, the lead of the breakaway fell further to 1 minute on the second climb of the Mur. At that point Rosa, Velasco and Mertens were dropped from the escape. From the peloton, Simon Geschke counter-attacked with Tao Geoghegan Hart and Mauri Vansevenant, but the other teams pulled them back. Tim Wellens also tried after Huy. It was still 30 kilometres to the finish.
Alaphilippe needs a win
Valverde – Too old?
Nervousness in the pack increased, and there were crashes. With 28 kilometres to go, Thomas Pidcock, second in the Amstel Gold Race on Sunday, Valentin Madouas and Philippe Gilbert were involved in a crash. Everyone got back on their bikes and ride on. With 40 seconds lead, the remaining escapees started the Côte d’Ereffe, where Howes had to drop off. This left Moniquet, Vervaeke, Armée and Lammertink at the front. Groupama-FDJ, which started with several top riders with Madouas, David Gaudu and Rudy Molard, led the peloton over the Ereffe.
Roglič, but no Pogačar
The break on the Mur
The run-up to the Chemin des Gueues was fast for the peloton, with AG2R Citroën and INEOS Grenadiers coming to the front. Wellens attacked again at the bottom of the climb, trying to stir up the race. The Lotto Soudal rider was accompanied by Omar Fraile and Ilan Van Wilder, but they were caught at the top. Maurits and Lammertink were the only riders off the front. The Dutchman turned out to be the strongest of the early break and gave his Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert team some good advertising. Only at the foot of the Mur de Huy for the last time was he caught.
No rush by the peloton
The break was working well, but…
AG2R Citroën was leading the peloton, and which Mikkel Frølich Honoré tried to disrupt things together with Jan Tratnik, but a large group started the steep climb. Michał Kwiatkowski led the pack in the first metres of the climb, while the favourites positioned themselves for the finalé. Kwiatkowski was still in the lead on the steep part of the climb. With 350 metres to go, Primož Roglič tried to outsmart the rest with a daring attack, but the Slovenian was unable to keep it going to the finish. Julian Alaphilippe managed to catch him and sprint past in the last few metres to his third victory in Huy. It is the first time since Cadel Evans in 2010 that a World champion has won the Classic.
US champion, Alex Howes was looking good, but was dropped with 20K to go
Roglič jumped a little early
Race winner, Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – Quick-Step): “I wanted to show people I was strong in the head. I haven’t won a lot since the beginning of the season, it was important to me to raise my arms again. I wanted so much to win again on such a hard race. I’m proud of my teammates, they did a wonderful job to put me in the best position. Mikkel Honoré dropped me in perfect conditions at the bottom of the Mur de Huy. Then, the legs do the talking. I knew it wasn’t gonna be easy with Roglič, Valverde and everyone in my wheel. This one really feels good, with the jersey.”
Perfect timing from the World champion
2nd, Primoz Roglič (Jumbo-Visma): “Julian [Alaphilippe] caught me and passed me so he was definitely the strongest. Congrats to him, he deserves to win. It was a hard climb in the finish. I was just there, why not attack? With legs a little bit stronger, maybe I could have won but congrats to Julian. There isn’t much philosophy in the last climb: if you have the legs, you go. It was a nice race, it went fast. For sure I’m happy with my shape going into Liège. You always want to win but I’m happy with my level and I’m definitely looking forward to the next race. Liège is a different race and we’ll see who has the best legs.”
Flèche Wallonne Result:
1. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck – Quick Step in 4:36:25
2. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma
3. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 0:06
4. Michael Woods (Can) Israel Start-Up Nation at 0:08
5. Warren Barguil (Fra) Arkéa Samsic at 0:11
6. Thomas Pidcock (GB) INEOS Grenadiers
7. David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
8. Esteban Chaves (Col) BikeExchange
9. Richard Carapaz (Ecu) INEOS Grenadiers
10. Maximilian Schachmann (Ger) BORA-hansgrohe at 0:16
11. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo
12. Ben Tulett (GB) Alpecin-Fenix
13. Alex Aranburu Deba (Spa) Astana-Premier Tech
14. Quinten Hermans (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
15. Patrick Konrad (Aut) BORA-hansgrohe
16. Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis
17. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana-Premier Tech at 0:19
18. Benoit Cosnefroy (Fra) AG2R Citroën at 0:21
19. Jack Haig (Aus) Bahrain Victorious
20. Adam Yates (GB) INEOS Grenadiers at 0:27
21. Michael Matthews (Aus) BikeExchange at 0:28
22. Wout Poels (Ned) Bahrain Victorious at 0:32
23. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) INEOS Grenadiers
24. Marco Brenner (Ger) DSM at 0:36
25. Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) Alpecin-Fenix
26. Mauro Finetto (Ita) Delko
27. Mauri Vansevenant (Bel) Deceuninck – Quick-Step
28. Sergio Henao Montoya (Col) Qhubeka Assos
29. Jesus Herrada (Spa) Cofidis at 0:40
30. Nicola Conci (Ita) Trek-Segafredo.