The good form continues as Van Vleuten takes fourth at La Fleche Wallonne Feminine

Wed 19 Apr 2017

ORICA-SCOTT women posted another strong classics result at La Fleche Wallonne Feminine today as Dutch star Annemiek van Vleuten pushed hard for fourth place after a brutal finish atop the iconic Mur de Huy.

A fast and aggressive race unfolded after the halfway point with the early breakaway being caught by an elite group that contained Van Vleuten, Katrin Garfoot and Amanda Spratt as the pace increased into the finishing circuits.

Multiple attacks forced splits all the way into the finale before the race was eventually won by another strong solo attack by Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans), with Van Vleuten finishing well to take fourth and now sits only six points off the lead of the Women’s WorldTour.

“We came into today’s race thinking that Annemiek wouldn't be able to match the other favourites on the final climb,” said sport director Gene Bates. “So we were really trying to get her away in the final 20 or 30kilometres, trying to gain an advantage.”

“Katrin, Annemiek and Spratty and the team did a great job trying to set that up into the finale, but every move was being marked so tightly. I think it played it well for Annemiek in the end because she didn’t have to go too much into the red before the final time up the Mur.

“In the beginning we were all in for Katrin, but a puncture at a crucial time cost her a lot and that made it hard for her to follow on the final two climbs. She gave it everything, but that’s how it played out.

“Annemiek is definitely performing very consistently at the moment, it’s nice that she is creeping up the rankings in the WorldTour, but it’s not something we are targeting. We want to get the race win first and then we’ll see.”

How it happened:

Blue skies and sunshine welcomed the riders to the start of the 20th Fleche Wallonne with a breakaway of four riders going clear after a fast start over the rolling roads of the Ardennes.

After 50kilometres of racing the quartet had over two minutes on the peloton as a major crash occurred at the back of the race. Thankfully ORICA-SCOTT were not involved and not long after the bunch began to split in the strong cross wind.

With 40kilometres remaining and the first ascent of the Mur de Huy approaching only two leaders remained out front with a chasing group of around 35riders closing fast.

The leaders were caught on the climb before the bunch split again with Garfoot, Spratt and Van Vleuten all making the front selection.

Attacks soon started to fly with two more riders off the front with a gap of around 30seconds and the favourites all beginning to test one another.

Garfoot suffered another untimely puncture and did well to regain contact before the finale, as Van Vleuten was next to test the waters inside the final 20 kilometres but the move was immediately shut down by the attentive bunch with attacks continuing to come.

Thirty-five seconds separated the two leaders and the chasing front group as the race hit the last ten kilometres with Kasia Niewiadoma (WM3) launching an attack that was followed by Lizzie Deignan (Boels-Dolmans) and Van der Breggen.

Garfoot continued to chase valiantly with Van Vleuten and six or seven other riders closing fast, as the three ahead took the race lead towards the final ascent of the Mur de Huy.

Just before the climb Van der Breggen broke clear, developing a clear advantage that she carried onto the ramp.

Van der Breggen continued alone up the Mur, holding out to take a solo win ahead of Deignan and Niewiadoma with Van Vleuten finishing strongly in fourth place ahead of the chasing group.

La Fleche Wallonne Feminine results:

1. Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans) 03:21:06

2. Lizzie Deignan (Boels-Dolmans) 03:21:22

3. Kasia Niewiadoma (WM3) 03:21:31

4. Annemiek van Vleuten (ORICA-SCOTT) 03:21:49

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