Strong Team Effort by ORICA-GreenEDGE at FlÃ¨che WalloneThu 18 Apr 2013
Having finished second at Flèche Wallonne last year, ORICA-GreenEDGE had sights set on a repeat podium on Wednesday. The team’s strategy centered around Michael Albasini and Simon Clarke, who were to be protected until the base of the final ascent of the Mur de Huy. Although each of the team’s riders did his job well, ORICA-GreenEDGE left Huy without the desired result. Albasini was the team’s top finisher in 21st place, 23” behind race winner Daniel Moreno (Katusha).
“We all rode well as a team all day,” said Travis Meyer. “We made sure our keys guys were looked after and well-positioned for the climb. On a finish like the Mur de Huy, you either have the legs or you don’t. Last year, Michael had the legs. This year, unfortunately, he didn’t – but as a team we all rode well, and I think we feel like we have a good shot on Sunday [for Liège-Bastogne-Liège].”
It was a rare sunny day in Belgium for the start of the second Ardennes classics. Two riders slipped up the road 20 kilometres into the race. Gilles Devilliers (Crelan-Euphony) and Pirmin Lang (IAM) worked together to steadily build up their advantage as Jurgen Van Goolen (Accent Job-Wanty) trailed in their wake. Van Goolen eventually caught the two leaders, and the escape group of three pushed their gap out to nearly 10 minutes ahead of the hills.
“Initially, the race unfolded as we had expected,” noted Meyer. “A small break get up the road, and their gap went out quite a bit. There was some panic by teams like BMC and Sky to bring back the move, and in their panic, they brought it back really early. That was surprising as it opened up the option for people to attack further out than we would have liked.”
Fifty-three kilometres from the finish, with only one minute separating the break from the bunch, the counter-attacks began. None were allowed anything more than a small advantage by the peloton.
“It wasn’t so easy to get away at this point,” said Sport Director Laurenzo Lapage. “The bunch was heavily controlled by BMC and Katusha. Like us, these teams wanted to come to the start of the last climb with their leaders in a good position.”
Travis Meyer jumped from the bunch on the penultimate climb. He was the last rider to escape in the build-up to the Mur de Huy.
“That dig wasn’t planned,” explained Meyer. “I was just riding near the front, and I went a little bit hard at the bottom to move up. I noticed that I had opened up a gap, and I decided to go for it. It’s a short little climb, and I knew even if I didn’t open up a huge gap, it would still get me to the top more quickly.”
“Travis tried,” added Lapage. “The bunch slowly reeled him back in, and the entire field came over the top of second of the last hill with seven kilometres left to race. There was a strong head wind, which limited opportunities, too.”
With the Mur de Huy looming, ORICA-GreenEDGE set up Albasini and Clarke for the hilltop finish.
“Everything was controlled until the last left-hand turn that leads up to the climb,” explained Lapage. “We tried to put Alba [Albasini] and Clarkey [Clarke] in good position. As I said in the race preview, this type of finish is for the really explosive types who are on a really good day. If you’re not on a really good day, it’s not going to happen – especially when a race is slow like today’s was. That meant there were a lot of fresh riders.”
Carlos Betancur (Ag2r La Mondiale) was the first to throw down. Philippe Gilbert (BMC) gave chase but was overtaken in the final 200 metres when Moreno accelerated off of his wheel. Moreno’s injection in pass propelled him past Betancur and across the line alone. Sergio Henao (Sky) followed in Moreno’s wake and pipped Betancur ahead of the line. The Colombian managed to hold onto for third.
“The boys did a good job as a team, and we are happy for that,” said Lapage. “This is a case where the effort doesn’t reflect the result. This happens sometimes. Looking at the work that was done last Sunday at Amstel and today in Flèche, we can say we are ready for next Sunday.”