Van Vleuten climbs to another second place at Fleche Wallone

Wed 24 Apr 2019

It was another second place for double world time trial champion Annemiek van Vleuten at Fleche Wallone after coming up just short on the brutal ascent of the famous Mur de Huy.

Triple Tour Down Under champion Amanda Spratt played a perfect support role by teeing up her teammate into the foot of the super steep final climb, but Van Vleuten couldn’t haul back eventual winner Anna van der Breggen (Boels - Dolmans Cycling Team) before the line.

Fast Start

It was a frantic opening to the race with six riders eventually breaking clear before the race came alive as the peloton reached the halfway point. Sensing a chance to take control, Mitchelton-SCOTT quickly moved to the head of the bunch and the injection of pace soon brought back the remnants of the break.

The escapees were brought back just in time for the first real test of the day as the peloton hit the slopes of the Cote de Cherave, and the short, steep ramp proved to be too much for several riders as they were distanced.

There was little respite for the peloton with the first ascent of the Mur de Huy coming just a handful of kilometres later. But, despite the main bunch being down to just 40 riders, no significant attacks were launched, with the race seemingly set to be decided on the final climb up the ‘Path of the Chapels’.

The Famous Mur de Huy

However, with the wind blowing on the loop back to the finish, four riders had different ideas and attacked clear of the pack. Their advantage stretched to 45 seconds but as they hit the Cote d’Ereffe with 20km remaining the gap fell with Mitchelton-SCOTT leading the chase.

As the race approached the Cote de Cherave for the second time the four escapees were absorbed by the chasing pack, teeing up Amstel Gold winner Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Canyon SRAM Racing) for an attack over the climb. With the move coming to nothing Spratt put in a dig before Floortje Mackaij (Team Sunweb) attacked and reached the foot of the Mur de Huy with 15 seconds of an advantage.

But it wasn’t enough, as the favourites moved to the fore as the readied for battle on the steep slopes. Happy at setting her own pace while others attacked, Van Vleuten began to pick off riders as she powered up the 9.6% average gradient, but despite closing in quickly in the closing metres she couldn’t reach Van der Breggen before crossing the line.

Annemiek van Vleuten:
“Thanks to Spratty I didn’t have to do anything before the final time up the Mur de Huy. She did a great lead out for me at the bottom of the climb to make it hard and sacrificed herself for me.”

“Then Ashleigh Moolman (CCC - Liv) attacked, very explosive, like she did on the Cauberg, but I’d already thought beforehand that if someone goes with an explosive attack that I would take it easy and drag it back at my own pace.”

“I’m not an explosive rider, so for me it’s better to do my own pace and hope that someone blows up and I was hoping to be a little bit closer in the last 200 metres. But I’ve learned that it’s not over until you pass the finish line, so I kept pushing all the way.”

Martin Vestby (Sports Director):
“I’m really happy with how the team rode today and how they followed the plan, they did everything they could. There wasn’t much more we could have done in the end, we used the whole team really well during the day.”

“We wanted to save Annemiek for the final climb and give Spratty the freedom to go with attacks and to try to create something, so we had two cards and scenarios to play and we did it well.”

“You can’t be disappointed with second when the team rode like they did, we just lacked the legs at the end and the Mur de Huy isn’t a climb that really suits Annemiek, so we should be really happy with the result.”

Fleche Wallone Race Results:
1. Anna van der Breggen (Boels - Dolmans Cycling Team) 3:17:04
2. Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) +0:01
3. Annika Langvad (Boels - Dolmans Cycling Team) +0:04

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.