Mitchelton-SCOTT women impress again at la Fleche Wallonne FeminineWed 18 Apr 2018
Three days after a stand out performance at Amstel Gold Race Amanda Spratt was up there again in La Fleche Wallonne Feminine with an attacking ride that saw teammate Annemiek Van Vleuten run fourth and Spratt in fifth.
A notoriously had race with a brutal final climb up the iconic Mur de Huy, Mitchelton-SCOTT went in wanting to race on the front foot and did just that. Spratt’s accelerations the first time over the Mur and Cote de Cherave took her clear with three others, as the Santos Tour Down Under champion looked to make another move stick to the line.
Despite repeated strong efforts from Spratt it wasn’t to be, and the quartet were caught dramatically with 500metres to go when Anna Van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans) attacked towards the line, chased by Van Vleuten and two others.
Van der Breggen held on for the victory with Van Vleuten in fourth and Spratt doing brilliantly to hold off the bunch for fifth.
An action packed opening saw plenty of attacks but like on Sunday at Amstel Gold there was no early breakaway. It took until 50kilometres in before a lone rider slipped up the road and gained nearly a minute in the field.
A heavy crash took down Jessica Allen, Jolien D’hoore and Van Vleuten towards the end of the large circuit, but thankfully all three riders were able to remount and make it back into the bunch.
The lone leader was joined by three others making a quartet with 60kilometres to go, but their time out front did not last long, caught ahead of the Cote de Cherave the race subsequently split again on the climb with Spratt part of a strong group of favourites over the top.
First time over the Mur and the acceleration of Spratt thinned the group further, leading a group of four over the summit with a gap of 25seconds on the chasers.
Going out to 50seconds with 12kilometres to go and the Cote de Cherave and one more climb up the Mur de Huy to the finish ahead, the quartet were driving along but the bunch ramped up the pace in the cherave and brought the leaders within 20seconds.
Mur de Huy:
Spratt’s group battled hard onto the Mur for the push to the line with one and a half brutal kilometres remaining but were under pressure and cruelly caught with 500metres to go.
Van der Breggen led the charge and powered to victory with Van Vleuten close behind in fourth and Spratt in fifth after battling bravely to try and stay in contact.
“We had the first big loop of around 73kilometres and that was about conserving energy and Annemiek and Jolien were both involved in a crash, but they came back from that and Jolien and Jess both did a great job of positioning us for the climbs.”
“It was harder than anticipated in the beginning and the group thinned out pretty quickly over the Cherave and again before the first time over the Mur. I got myself into a strong little group and it worked for us because it out pressure on the other teams, so I worked as much as I could.
“We stayed away until the bottom of the Mur and from then on it was just about suffering all the way to the line. I knew Annemiek was coming from behind, so I was hoping she could get up there for the win, but she gave all she could after crashing, and I managed to sneak in there for fifth.
“I saw Anna Van der Breggen and the others come past me and then Annemiek and I didn’t dare look back after that”
Sport director Gene Bates:
“Unfortunately, Annemiek crashed on the first lap and landed on her injured shoulder that she is recovering from and she was in a fair bit of pain, but she decided to ride on.”
“Spratty did great again and made it into the move over the finishing circuits taking some pressure off and giving Annemiek a slightly easier ride all the way to the Mur.”
“Fourth and fifth is quite a hard result to take after the performance we produced, to put in that much effort and have such a good ride, it’s a little disappointing , but it shows that the girls are in good shape and super competitive for the big one at Liege on Sunday.”
La Fleche Wallonne Feminine results:
1. Anna Van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans) 03:10:14
2. Ashleigh Moolman (Cervelo-Bigla) +0:02
3. Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans) ST
4. Annemiek Van Vleuten (Mitchelton-SCOTT) +0:06
Photos courstesy of Getty Images.