Michael Albasini Records Fifth Top Ten at Flèche Wallonne

Wed 23 Apr 2014

Michael Albasini is no stranger to racing himself into the top ten at Flèche Wallonne – he’s done it four times previous to today. Today the Swiss hardman went on to record the best result for ORICA-GreenEDGE as he notched his fifth top ten finish when he rolled across the line in seventh place.

It was a gorgeous day in Belgium for a bike race. Blue skies, warm temperatures and dry roads greeted the riders at the start town in Bastogne. The perfect conditions, big open roads and the lack of hills in the beginning of the race spurred the peloton to average 49.4 kilometres in the first hour of racing.

Despite the high speed in the early goings of the race, the majority of the race unfolded predictably and uneventfully. Shortly after leaving Bastogne, a three man break charged away from the peloton. The trio of Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin-Sharp), Jonathan Clarke (United Healthcare) and Preben Van Hecke (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise) steadily built a gap that extended to as much as nine minutes before Katusha and BMC began the chase to set up their leaders for the finish.

“It was a very controlled race today,” said Sport Director Matt White. “The early break went and then the favourites’ teams controlled the race until the finish line.”

“We knew it was going to be very controlled,” Albasini added. “There was a lot of interest from many guys to stay together until the last climb. For us it made no sense to have any special tactics when we knew it would be so controlled. It would have been a waste of energy to send someone out because BMC and Katusha wanted it to be together at the bottom of the Mur.”

The race unfolded exactly at projected. The breakaway maintained their lead over the peloton until the teams most invested in winning the race brought back the two remaining leaders at the 12 kilometre to go mark.

“There weren’t too many attacks as Movistar, Katusha and BMC kept the pressure on for the vast majority of the race,” said White. “They put in a big chase until the break was caught on the penultimate climb up the Mur de Huy.”

As the leading duo came into view, various riders risked their chances at slipping away from the peloton. An assortment of teams drove the pace at the front of the race, resulting in a whittled down peloton in the final charge up the Mur de Huy. With the help of his teammates, Albasini was well positioned at the foot of the climb to the line.

“It is important to come to the bottom of the Mur in good position,” explained Albasini. “I got good help from Cam [Cameron Meyer], Santa [Ivan Santaromita] and [Simon] Clarkey leading into the final two times up the Mur.”

“I gave Alba a big hand the second to last time into the Mur,” said Clarke. “On the final time, I had him with me near the bottom when a crash caused chaos, and I lost him. Fortunately, Cam came flying by to take him to the front. At that point I was about 10-15 wheels behind Alba and that’s where I stayed to the finish.”

“For me, this is easiest of the three Classics this week,” added Albasini. “All you have to do is get to bottom of Mur in good position and then suffer to the finish. The last 200 metres is where the big difference is made. I was with the best guys after the really steep part. From there you have to ride tempo and then kick it to the top. This type of finish really suits me. Seventh was the max I could do today. I am happy with that.”

In addition to being satisfied with the result as a stand alone accomplishment, White is pleased with how the team rode in support of Albasini, which boosts his confidence ahead of Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Giro.

“We got what we were looking for, a top ten, so we are very satisfied,” said White. “This race doesn’t necessarily suit Alba’s characteristics. He’s a hard man. He’s a powerful man. Seventh is a substantial result when competing against the best pure climbers in the world.”

“Cam and Ivan have had nearly a month without competition, so seeing them in the front to help Alba was a pleasing sign,” commented White. “It’s a good sign for Sunday and a good sign for the Giro.”