How can anybody stop Alejandro Valverde in Fléche Wallonne?  The Spaniard took his fifth win in the Belgian classic atop Mur de Huy, ahead of Daniel Martin of Quick-Step Floors who placed on the podium for the third time in four years; with Dylan Teuns of BMC Racing taking third place.

The 2017 Fléche Wallonne took the field 200.5km from Binche to Huy.  The event is famous for its finish up Mur de Huy, the 1.3km finishing climb that averages 9.6% in gradient but reaches 15-17% in gradient.  That climb would be tackled three times in all with six other climbs in all.  The Côte de Cherave and Cöte d’Ereffe would be the other climbs to be navigated twice each.  None of the categorised climbs would kick in until the 127.5km point with the roads prior rolling their way to that point before kicking into gear.

New Zealand’s Sam Bewley of Orica-SCOTT, Dion Smith of Wanty-Groupe Gobert, Tom Scully of Cannondale-Drapac and Aaron Gate of Aqua Blue Sport all lined up for Fléche Wallonne this year. Gate arrived at the one-day race on the back of a silver medal in the omnium at the UCI Track Cycling World Championships.

 

Sam Bewley puts in big shift on the front

 

A breakaway of three riders – Olivier Pardini of WB Veranclassic, Yoann Bagot of Cofidis and Nils Politt of Katusha Alpecin – broke clear and were joined by Daniel Pearson of Aqua Blue Sport, Romain Guillermois of Direct Energie and Fabien Doubey of Wanty-Groupe Gobert to form the break of the day.  The six riders gained a maximum lead of over 6 minutes as behind them Movistar predictably set the pace at the head of the race, with Alejandro Valverde looking at further improving his record number of wins.

Gradually the time gap was cut to the leaders, with Orica-SCOTT’s Sam Bewley hitting the front with some 100km of racing still to go.  Bewley stayed at the head of the race for several kilometres, giving solo support to Movistar with his Orica-SCOTT squad placed a short way behind them.  Bahrain-Merida plaid close attention to the front of the race but the pace in the pack was expected to ramp up sharply as the climbs kicked off.

On the open climb of the day – the Côte d’Amay – the breakaway group lost its first rider in Daniel Pearson as he dropped back.  With 72.5km to go the gap was now at 3.30mins.  Bewley led the peloton onto the Côte d’Amay with Lotto Soudal riders present on his left.  Bewley kept the pace up though, although around him the first signs that riders were beginning to position themselves were beginning to show.  Bewley and co crested the summit of the climb with the gap down to 3.13mins.

The gap proceeded to drop from there although a nasty crash brought down Michael Valgren of Astana.  From here Movistar and Trek-Segafredo took over the pace-setting that Bewley had maintained until now.  The gap had dropped a little more to 2.42mins with 66km to go with the breakaway group of five now back up to six riders with Daniel Pearson back on board.

The Mur de Huy was always going to decide Flèche Wallonne, photo Sirotti
Skirmishes try and go clear

 

By the time the riders reached the Mur de Huy for the first time the breakaway’s lead had been cut to just short of two minutes.  Movistar were still very much in control at the front of the race and closed the gap to the leaders reasonably significantly at the front to 1.35mins with 56km to go.  Also significantly was the loss in the breakaway of Pearson again and Nils Politt who both dropped back on the slopes of the Mur.

In between climbs a number of attacks were attempted from the peloton, with a few skirmishes going clear.  Also Lotto Soudal began to make their presence felt on the front of the peloton in a big way.  Their presence was swamped by Movistar and Orica-SCOTT who had Sam Bewley once again at the forefront of matters.  Bewley had dropped back a fair way in the bunch heading up the Mur de Huy, but he worked his way forward to be back on the front with 50km to go.  Bewley had teammate Michael Albasini in his squad; with the 36 year old Swiss rider having already taken third place in Amstel Gold just three days before.

The advantage for the break, with 48km to go, had gone under a minute but the group were still working well as they hit the Côte d’Ereffe.  Behind them Alessandro De Marchi attacked for BMC Racing, along with Christopher Juul Jensen of Orica-SCOTT, Carlos Betancur of Movistar, Grega Bole of Bahrain-Merida who were joined by a few more riders in the process including Roman Kreuziger of Orica-SCOTT, Wilco Kelderman and Gregor Mühlberger of Bora-Hansgrohe.  Their attack took a further chunk of time out of the break, with the gap just 16 seconds in hand with 42km to go.

 

De Marchi and Jungles go clear

 

Nothing would ultimately gain any traction though, and the gap continued to drop until finally with around 35km to go everything was all together again.  Alessando De Marchi wasn’t content to just sit back though and he launched a solo move as behind him a change over in the peloton saw Katusha-Alpecin move to the fore.  But there was no shortage of riders trying to assert control on the head of the race and in the end it was Quick-Step Floors leading the charge as they closed the small gap to De Marchi.  The Italian led though as he hit the bell lap with some 29km of racing remaining.  

Out of the peloton an attack went clear courtesy of Bob Jungels of Quick-Step Floors, who was pursued by riders including Sebastian Henao of Team Sky and Carlos Betancur of Movistar, Lilian Calmejane of Direct Energie and Michael Matthews of Team Sunweb.  Up ahead Bob Jungels managed to make contact with De Marchi and the pair held a 31 second lead with 24.5km remaining; while the rest of the attackers were brought back.

The gap between De Marchi and Jungels vs the rest of the field held at between 20-30 seconds for a good chunk of time; with Orica-SCOTT now leading the charge again.  Eventually Bob Jungels dropped De Marchi and the Luxembourg rider headed under 10km to go with a gap increasing to over 40 seconds.  At one point Jungels’ lead stretched out to over 50 seconds and gave some of the riders back in the bunch cause for a little concern.  Rafal Majka or Bora-Hansgrohe sensed the threat and put in a dig on the front.

 
Valverde completely unstoppable

 

With 5.7km to go the gap had gone back down to 30 seconds though as Jungels made his way up the penultimate climb of the day.  The gap held with 3km to go as behind him all number of teams were jostling for position, with Team Sky holding the lead for the time being.  Movistar had numbers though and were poised to strike.  With 2km to go Jungels still had 24 seconds lead, as Cannondale-Drapac now challenged for the front with Orica-SCOTT.

Finally the climb began and Jungels hit for home.  Michael Matthews of Team Sunweb was looking strong, but Valverde was sitting at fifth man back and was visibly strong.  Jungels was quickly reeled in as Team Sky challenged with Kwiatkowski and Sergio Henao on board.Valverde hit the front with a couple of turns remaining and just sat on board for a little while and with 250m to go it was still all up for grabs until an attack went from FDJ’s David Gaudu the young 20 year old.  That triggered a move from Valverde and Dylan Theuns who tried to go across.  Daniel Martin found himself a little way back, but he put in a massive surge to power around his rivals; but no one could stop Alejandro Valverde who came home to take his fifth win.

Dion Smith was the first of the Kiwis to cross the line with Tom Scully of Cannondale-Drapac also finishing the race after a tough near 5.30mins in the saddle.

Results:
Rank Name Nat. Team   Result
Alejandro VALVERDE BELMONTE ESP MOV   5:15:37
Daniel MARTIN IRL QST   +1
Dylan TEUNS BEL BMC   +1
Sergio Luis HENAO MONTOYA COL SKY   +1
Michael ALBASINI SUI ORS   +1
Warren BARGUIL FRA SUN   +1
Michal KWIATKOWSKI POL SKY   +1
Rudy MOLARD FRA FDJ   +1
David GAUDU FRA FDJ   +1
10  Diego ULISSI ITA UAD   +1
11  Michael WOODS CAN CDT   +1
12  Jon IZAGUIRRE INSAUSTI ESP TBM   +1
13  Romain BARDET FRA ALM   +8
14  Pierre Roger LATOUR FRA ALM   +8
15  Robert GESINK NED TLJ   +8
16  Patrick KONRAD AUT BOH   +8
17  Jelle VANENDERT BEL LTS   +13
18  Tim WELLENS BEL LTS   +13
19  Jay MCCARTHY AUS BOH   +13
20  Jonathan HIVERT FRA DEN   +16
21  Tom-Jelte SLAGTER NED CDT   +16
22  Jakob FUGLSANG DEN AST   +16
23  Rigoberto URAN URAN COL CDT   +21
24  Eduardo SEPULVEDA ARG FVC   +21
25  Maurits LAMMERTINK NED KAT   +24
26  Alexis VUILLERMOZ FRA ALM   +24
27  Mathias FRANK SUI ALM   +29
28  Igor ANTON HERNANDEZ ESP DDD   +29
29  Rafal MAJKA POL BOH   +35
30  Diego ROSA ITA SKY   +35
31  Rui Alberto FARIA DA COSTA POR UAD   +37
32  Georg PREIDLER AUT SUN   +39
33  Pavel KOCHETKOV RUS KAT   +42
34  Arthur VICHOT FRA FDJ   +42
35  Elie GESBERT FRA FVC   +45
36  Nathan HAAS AUS DDD   +45
37  Jarlinson PANTANO GOMEZ COL TFS   +48
38  Paul MARTENS GER TLJ   +50
39  Bob JUNGELS LUX QST   +53
40  Xandro MEURISSE BEL WGG   +54
41  Thomas SPRENGERS BEL SVB   +54
42  Thomas DEGAND BEL WGG   +54
43  Rúben GUERREIRO POR TFS   +54
44  Mikael CHEREL FRA ALM   +54
45  Louis MEINTJES RSA UAD   +54
46  Samuel SANCHEZ GONZALEZ ESP BMC   +1:01
47  Ben HERMANS BEL BMC   +1:01
48  Julien SIMON FRA COF   +1:01
49  Daniel MORENO ESP MOV   +1:01
50  Guillaume MARTIN FRA WGG   +1:01
51  Laurens DE PLUS BEL QST   +1:01
52  CYRIL GAUTIER FRA ALM   +1:01
53  Simone PETILLI ITA UAD   +1:01
54  Eliot LIETAER BEL SVB   +1:01
55  Michael GOGL AUT TFS   +1:13
56  Maxime VANTOMME BEL WVA   +1:13
57  Pello BILBAO LOPEZ DE ARMENTIA ESP AST   +1:13
58  Jacques Willem JANSE VAN RENSBURG RSA DDD   +1:17
59  Floris DE TIER BEL TLJ   +1:21
60  Serge PAUWELS BEL DDD   +1:21
61  Lilian CALMEJANE FRA DEN   +1:21
62  Silvan DILLIER SUI BMC   +1:21
63  Armindo FONSECA FRA FVC   +1:26
64  SEBASTIAN HENAO GOMEZ COL SKY   +1:26
65  Bart DE CLERCQ BEL LTS   +1:34
66  Wilco KELDERMAN NED SUN   +1:34
67  Michael MATTHEWS AUS SUN   +1:34
68  Enrico BATTAGLIN ITA TLJ   +1:34
69  Jose ROJAS ESP MOV   +1:38
70  Dion SMITH NZL WGG   +1:44
71  Juan Jose LOBATO DEL VALLE ESP TLJ   +1:52
72  Roman KREUZIGER CZE ORS   +2:09
73  Merhawi KUDUS GHEBREMEDHIN ERI DDD   +2:09
74  André CARDOSO POR TFS   +2:09
75  Carlos Alberto BETANCUR GOMEZ COL MOV   +2:09
76  Haimar ZUBELDIA AGIRRE ESP TFS   +2:09
77  Luis Angel MATE MARDONES ESP COF   +2:09
78  Stéphane ROSSETTO FRA COF   +2:13
79  Jesus HERRADA LOPEZ ESP MOV   +2:13
80  Ben O’CONNOR AUS DDD   +2:13
81  Sander ARMEE BEL LTS   +2:13
82  Dimitri PEYSKENS BEL WVA   +2:13
83  Alex HOWES USA CDT   +2:13
84  Simon CLARKE AUS CDT   +2:13
85  Brendan CANTY AUS CDT   +2:13
86  Maxime BOUET FRA FVC   +2:13
87  Brice FEILLU FRA FVC   +2:20
88  Alexey VERMEULEN USA TLJ   +2:20
89  Andrea PASQUALON ITA WGG   +2:23
90  Perrig QUEMENEUR FRA DEN   +2:23
91  Romain SICARD FRA DEN   +2:27
92  Nicolas EDET FRA COF   +2:27
93  Nikita STALNOV KAZ AST   +2:31
94  Giovanni VISCONTI ITA TBM   +2:31
95  Antoine WARNIER BEL WVA   +2:31
96  Michael SCHÄR SUI BMC   +2:31
97  Brian NAULEAU FRA DEN   +2:31
98  AMAEL MOINARD FRA BMC   +2:31
99  Sébastien DELFOSSE BEL WVA   +2:41
100  Christophe MASSON FRA WVA   +2:41
101  Dries DEVENYNS BEL QST   +2:46
102  Yukiya ARASHIRO JPN TBM   +2:46
103  Manuele MORI ITA UAD   +2:56
104  Gianni MOSCON ITA SKY   +2:56
105  Michel KREDER NED ABS   +2:56
106  Tosh VAN DER SANDE BEL LTS   +3:00
107  Guillaume BONNAFOND FRA COF   +3:04
108  Lennard HOFSTEDE NED SUN   +3:04
109  Ángel VICIOSO ARCOS ESP KAT   +3:11
110  Fabien GRELLIER FRA DEN   +3:14
111  KEVIN REZA FRA FDJ   +3:19
112  Tao GEOGHEGAN HART GBR SKY   +3:22
113  Franck BONNAMOUR FRA FVC   +3:30
114  Christoph PFINGSTEN GER BOH   +3:32
115  Maximilian SCHACHMANN GER QST   +3:32
116  Jenthe BIERMANS BEL KAT   +3:55
117  Preben VAN HECKE BEL SVB   +3:55
118  Marco MINNAARD NED WGG   +4:20
119  Tomasz MARCZYNSKI POL LTS   +4:36
120  Mark CHRISTIAN GBR ABS   +4:36
121  Gregor MÜHLBERGER AUT BOH   +4:36
122  Gianluca BRAMBILLA ITA QST   +5:51
123  Michal GOLAS POL SKY   +5:51
124  Cesare BENEDETTI ITA BOH   +5:51
125  Jack HAIG AUS ORS   +5:51
126  Petr VAKOC CZE QST   +5:54
127  Matej MOHORIC SLO UAD   +5:54
128  Matteo BONO ITA UAD   +5:54
129  Jaco VENTER RSA DDD   +5:54
130  Christopher JUUL JENSEN DEN ORS   +6:09
131  Tsgabu Gebremaryam GRMAY ETH TBM   +6:16
132  Tanel KANGERT EST AST   +6:42
133  Daryl IMPEY RSA ORS   +7:04
134  Toms SKUJINS LAT CDT   +7:04
135  Rory SUTHERLAND AUS MOV   +7:04
136  ANDREY GRIVKO UKR AST   +7:14
137  Damien HOWSON AUS ORS   +7:16
138  Bert-Jan LINDEMAN NED TLJ   +7:46
139  CEDRIC PINEAU FRA FDJ   +8:56
140  Quentin JAUREGUI FRA ALM   +8:56
141  Axel DOMONT FRA ALM   +8:59
142  Paul OURSELIN FRA DEN   +8:59
143  Lukas PÖSTLBERGER AUT BOH   +8:59
144  Anthony PEREZ FRA COF   +8:59
145  Alessandro DE MARCHI ITA BMC   +8:59
146  Floris GERFS NED BMC   +8:59
147  Grega BOLE SLO TBM   +9:05
148  Simon GESCHKE GER SUN   +9:05
149  Sindre SKJOESTAD LUNKE NOR SUN   +9:05
150  Gregory HABEAUX BEL WVA   +9:05
151  Viacheslav KUZNETSOV RUS KAT   +9:05
152  GREGORY DANIEL USA TFS   +12:40
153  Fumiyuki BEPPU JPN TFS   +12:40
154  Johannes FRÖHLINGER GER SUN   +12:40
155  Jesus HERNANDEZ BLAZQUEZ ESP TFS   +12:40
156  Jens WALLAYS BEL SVB   +12:50
157  Romain GUILLEMOIS FRA DEN   +12:52
158  Antonio NIBALI ITA TBM   +12:55
159  Johann VAN ZYL RSA DDD   +12:55
160  Justin JULES FRA WVA   +12:55
161  Tom SCULLY NZL CDT   +13:00
162  Arnaud COURTEILLE FRA FDJ   +13:00
163  Koen BOUWMAN NED TLJ   +13:00
164  Alexey LUTSENKO KAZ AST   +13:15
165  Jerome COUSIN FRA COF   +13:41
166  Yoann BAGOT FRA COF   +13:41
DNF Olivier PARDINI BEL WVA    
DNF Daniel PEARSON GBR ABS    
DNF Lasse Norman HANSEN DEN ABS    
DNF Aaron GATE NZL ABS    
DNF Conor DUNNE IRL ABS    
DNF Adam BLYTHE GBR ABS    
DNF Lars Petter NORDHAUG NOR ABS    
DNF Kenneth VAN ROOY BEL SVB    
DNF Dries VAN GESTEL BEL SVB    
DNF Ruben POLS BEL SVB    
DNF Maxime FARAZIJN BEL SVB    
DNF Romain HARDY FRA FVC    
DNF Arnold JEANNESSON FRA FVC    
DNF Meiyin WANG CHN TBM    
DNF Enrico GASPAROTTO ITA TBM    
DNF Anthony ROUX FRA FDJ    
DNF MARC FOURNIER FRA FDJ    
DNF Michael SCHWARZMANN GER BOH    
DNF Mads Würtz SCHMIDT DEN KAT    
DNF Nils POLITT GER KAT    
DNF Marco MATHIS GER KAT    
DNF MICHAEL VALGREN ANDERSEN DEN AST    
DNF Laurens DE VREESE BEL AST    
DNF Thomas DE GENDT BEL LTS    
DNF Sean DE BIE BEL LTS    
DNF Oliviero TROIA ITA UAD    
DNF Alexander EDMONSON AUS ORS    
DNF Sam BEWLEY NZL ORS    
DNF Fabien DOUBEY FRA WGG    
DNF Jérôme BAUGNIES BEL WGG    
DNF Owain DOULL GBR SKY    
DNF Martin VELITS SVK QST    
DNF Marc SOLER GIMENEZ ESP MOV    
DNF Imanol ERVITI ESP MOV  

 

Photo: Sirotti

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