Albasini seventh on epic summit finish of La Flèche-Wallonne

Wed 20 Apr 2016

Swiss strong man Michael Albasini continued his record of top results for ORICA-GreenEDGE at Flèche-Wallonne today, finishing in seventh place after an epic battle unfolded over the final kilometres on the Mur de Huy.

The former Tour of Britain winner rode an excellent race surrounded by his ORICA-GreenEDGE teammates until the finale before breaking clear in a chasing group behind two leaders with under ten kilometres to go.

The race came back together for the climb up to the finish in Huy, Albasini used all of his strength and experience to hold onto position as the final selection was made. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) took the win from the sprint up the Mur as Albasini just lost contact in the final metres.

Sport director Matt White was full of praise for the team and in particular for the consistency of Albasini.

“The team did a wonderful job of looking after Michael (Albasini) today,” said White. “We kept him in a good position throughout the race until he went for it in the finale.”

“It is one of the hardest race finishes in cycling and Michael showed again today just how consistent a performer he is here with another top ten finish. It’s a great result for the team in one of the biggest races in the world.”

“Michael was fourth wheel going onto the Mur de Huy for the final time,” continued White. “He was up there right until the last few seconds where he didn’t quite have the legs to hold onto Valverde, it was a great ride. “

“I’m pleased with how we performed as a team today. We rode intelligently all the way through the race with control and confidence.”

How it happened:

The 80th edition of La Flèche-Wallonne began with a lightening quick start that saw the peloton cover 30kilometres in the first forty minutes of racing.

Fifteen kilometres later and an attack by Steve Cummings (Dimension-Data) was followed by eight other riders and finally the day’s breakaway formed. On approaching the first climb of the day, the Cote de Bellaire, the nine leaders had developed a lead of two minutes and 30seconds over the peloton.

The situation remained the same for the next 45kilometres and as the race approached the iconic Mur de Huy for the first ascent the leaders had an advantage of over three minutes on the peloton.

Mads Pederson (Stolting-Servce-Group) bridged across to the nine escapees before the climb and the group headed into the final 90kilometres of the race three minutes and 30seconds ahead of the main field.

The lead of the breakaway began to fall with 70kilometres left to race as Movistar took the early initiative and began to increase the speed of the chasing peloton.

With 55kilometres left to race the leaders had less than two minutes on the field and splits were beginning to form as Cummings attacked taking three breakaway companions with him. The four leaders pushed on ahead whilst the six remaining members of the initial breakaway became disorganised and were caught ten kilometres later by the advancing peloton.

With 30kilometres to go the Cummings group had just over one minutes adavantage on the bunch with the second ascent of the Mur de Huy to come.

Over the Mur and Cummings attacked again, this time breaking clear with the rest of the breakaway fragmented behind him and the peloton a further 50seconds back. Cummings held on until he hit the Cote d’Ereffe climb and the field came back together on the ascent with only 17kilometres left to race.

The race split again with ten kilometres to go, Bob Jungels (Etixx-Quickstep) attacked with two other riders and gained a few seconds advantage. Immediately, a second group including Albasini for ORICA-GreenEDGE set off in pursuit.

The chasers were caught by the peloton a few moments later and with five kilometres remaining Jungels and Jon Izagirre (Movistar) had developed a 25second advantage over the group. Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) gave chase alone and caught Jungel and Izagirre with under three kilometres to go to the finish.

The race came back together for the final ascent of the Mur de Huy, with two brutally steep kilometres to the finish line.

The winning selection came from an attack by Dan Martin, Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-Quickstep) and Valverde. Albasini anticipated the move but just lost contact on the 20% gradient as Martin, Alaphilippe and Valverde battled on with Valverde taking the win.

ORICA-GreenEDGE return to racing on Sunday the 24th of April at the oldest bike race in the world Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

La Flèche-Wallone results:

1. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) 4:43:57
2. Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-Quickstep) ST
3. Daniel Martin (Etixx-Quickstep) ST
7. Michael Albasini (ORICA-GreenEDGE) 0:00:05