April 21, 2021
La Flèche Wallonne 2021 – Charleroi – Mur de Huy : 193,6 km
La Flèche Wallonne is back in its mid-April slot this year and will,
April 21, 2021
La Flèche Wallonne 2021 – Charleroi – Mur de Huy : 193,6 km
La Flèche Wallonne is back in its mid-April slot this year and will, as it has often done, mark the penultimate Classic of the spring season. While incredibly predictable, this race regularly produces one of the most thrilling finishes you’ll see all year, with puncheurs, climbers and even Grand Tour contenders trading blows on the monstrously steep Mur de Huy. La Flèche Wallonne is the second in a series of three races known as the Ardennes Classics, but the first to actually take place in the eponymously-named region in the south of Belgium. This region is characterised by hundreds of short but leg-breaking climbs, none more notorious or frightening than the Mur de Huy – the final climb of the race and the battleground upon which every war for the Wallonne crown has been fought on since 2003.
Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quickstep) claimed his third career victory in La Flèche Wallonne, using his superior knowledge of the Mur de Huy to overhaul Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) in a breathless final 100 metres.
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) showed sparks of his younger self – the five-time winner of the race struggled to keep the pace of Roglič and Alaphilippe but had enough to hold on for the final podium spot.
Roglič, racing his first Flèche Wallonne, hit out first and hardest, attacking perhaps misguidedly with 350m to go on the steepest part of the climb and immediately opened up a gap.
Alaphilippe, knowing that patience is key on the Mur de Huy, bided his time and then as the gradient eased, leapt clear of Valverde to take his first one-day race victory since last year’s Brabantse Pijl in October.
“The team did great work all day for me. They gave me a lot of confidence and I was able to save energy all day thanks to them. In the finale, I knew what I had to do. It hurt,” Alaphilippe said.
“I was perfectly placed. I was able to climb the Mur in the first positions and then it’s the legs that make the difference. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy with Roglič and with Valverde on my wheel but I got there.”
After winning in 2018 and 2019, Alaphilippe skipped the race after taking the rainbow jersey in the coronavirus-reshuffled late 2020 season but showed the world champion’s stripes with aplomb after a difficult Classics campaign so far.
“I just wanted to show I had a strong head. Since the start of the season I haven’t won a lot, and that didn’t stop me having fun, but I really wanted to raise my arms again.
“I put some pressure on myself – not pressure, but I wanted to win again. It does my an enormous amount of good to win, especially in the jersey. I’m really happy,” Alaphilippe said.
Roglič’s attack drew out Amstel Gold Race runner-up Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers), and the Briton was passed by Michael Woods (Israel Start-Up Nation) and Warren Barguil (Arkéa-Samsic) before the top, finishing in sixth.
David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ), Esteban Chaves (BikeExchange), Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) and Max Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) rounded out the top ten.
The result was a relief and a confirmation of his form ahead of Liège-Bastogne-Liège for Alaphilippe, who last year celebrated too early in La Doyenne and lost out to Roglič before being relegated.
How it unfolded
After a COVID-19 pandemic-postponed late-September edition, the 2021 Flèche Wallonne got underway without the UAE Team Emirates after two members of the organisation tested positive for the virus after several negative tests later on – one of them had even been vaccinated. Possible false positive aside, restrictions are restrictions and one pre-race favourite, Tadej Pogačar would not be at the start line.
Once the flag dropped for the 193.6km race the usual flurry of attacks followed with Loïc Vliegen (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux), Petr Rikunov (Gazprom-RusVelo) and Arne Marit (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise) leaping away. Mathijs Paaschens (Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB) bridged across but he’d proved too tempting for the chasers and after 15km the race was back together again.
Another surge from a larger group got nailed back before the day’s successful breakaway forged clear containing Alex Howes (EF Education-Nippo), Sylvain Moniquet (Lotto-Soudal), Sander Armée (Team Qhubeka Assos), Maurits Lammertink (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux), and Julian Mertens (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise).
The five were chased by Diego Rosa (Arkéa-Samsic), Louis Vervaeke (Alpecin-Fenix), Simone Velasco (Gazprom-Rusvelo) and then Niklas Eg (Trek-Segafredo) as the peloton stopped for a call of nature signalling this move was the one.
The eight riders came together with 155km to go without Eg, who went back to the bunch and the race settled in for the long haul, having covered 46.7km in the first hour. After 85km, the gap to the leaders maxed out at 5:30 before Movistar came to the fore for Valverde and began to chip away at it.
On the Côte de Gives with 80km to go, Howes had gear problems and had to chase back on, the delay came as the gap was plummeting.
The leaders hit the Mur de Huy for the first time with 64km to go, Howes again had gear problems and had to get a neutral bike from Shimano but managed to get back on to the lead group.
The race became more frantic on the closing circuits, with Sergio Higuita (EF-Nippo) crashing and getting back on and Howes stopping again to get a new bike before the Côte du Chemin des Gueuses with 45km to go.
On the second trip over the Mur de Huy with 32km to go, the breakaway had only a minute and they lost Rosa, Velasco and Mertens.
There was a crash in the peloton on the other side of the climb that took down pre-race favourite Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) who then had to get a new shoe from the team car with almost 25km to go. None other than Giro d’Italia winner Tao Geoghegan Hart helped Pidcock get back on with 24km to go.
The incident slowed the chase, giving the five breakaway a few more seconds – their gap went out to one minute again after dipping below that margin but before the Côte d’Ereffe, their lead was slashed in half, Howes was dropped and Groupama-FDJ was closing the peloton in fast.
Four leaders – Moniquet, Vervaeke, Lammertink and Armée went over the top of the Ereffe with 27 seconds on the peloton which caught Howes with 18km to go.
The bit between their teeth, Groupama-FDJ continued to lead the chase to the leaders, who used the descent to gain a handful of seconds. Vervaeke tried to keep the breakaway cooperating but the effort was futile.
Moniquet drove on the run-in to the penultimate climb but with just a 29-second advantage at the base Côte du Chemin des Gueuses with 10km to go, their TV time was coming to an end.
Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) attacked from the peloton at the start of the climb, while ahead, Lammertink attacked the breakaway and went clear.
Wellens went past Armée like a rocket, linking up with his teammate Moniquet and Vervaeke from the early move while Omar Fraile (Astana) leapt across to Wellens.
Team DSM’s Ilan Van Wilder also made it across to Wellens and, at the crest, Lammertink had only nine seconds’ lead but his three chasers had even less on the peloton.
Carapaz nailed the chasers back after the summit and then Deceuninck-Quickstep came to the fore together with Bahrain Victorious to lead the bunch.
Lammertink persisted and still held a dozen seconds on the descent to the base of the Mur de Huy.
The Mur de Huy
The churn of the peloton with 3km to go gave Lammertink an additional advantage of the favourites fought to get into position. BikeExchange pulled Matthews to the fore, while Lutsenko brought Fuglsang forward.
AG2R Citroën won the fight for the pointy end of the peloton, and nailed back Lammertink with 1.4km to go.
The first attack came from Honoré and he was chased furiously by a rider from Bahrain Victorious.
All the names were in position – Roglič, Alaphilippe, Kwiatkowski at the front and Vansevenant bobbing and weaving with 600m to go.
Roglič came to the front inside the final 500m and put in his big dig with a full 350m to go.
Alaphilippe pounced with Valverde on his wheel and Pidcock just behind. Alaphilippe waited and then surged, distancing the Spaniard and linked up with Roglič with 75m to go and managed to just get the Slovenian before the line. The world champion’s form failures of the past weeks put well behind him.
1 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck-QuickStep 4:36:25
2 Primoz Roglic (Slo) Jumbo-Visma
3 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:06
4 Michael Woods (Can) Israel Start-up Nation 0:00:08
5 Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic 0:00:11
6 Thomas Pidcock (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers
7 David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
8 Esteban Chaves Rubio (Col) Team BikeExchange
9 Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers
10 Maximilian Schachmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:00:16
11 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo
12 Ben Tulett (GBr) Alpecin-Fenix
13 Alex Aranburu Deba (Spa) Astana-Premier Tech
14 Quinten Hermans (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
15 Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe
16 Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis
17 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana-Premier Tech 0:00:19
18 Benoit Cosnefroy (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team 0:00:21
19 Jack Haig (Aus) Bahrain Victorious
20 Adam Yates (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers 0:00:27
21 Michael Matthews (Aus) Team BikeExchange 0:00:28
22 Wout Poels (Ned) Bahrain Victorious 0:00:32
23 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Ineos Grenadiers
24 Marco Brenner (Ger) Team DSM 0:00:36
25 Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) Alpecin-Fenix
26 Mauro Finetto (Ita) Delko
27 Mauri Vansevenant (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep
28 Sergio Henao Montoya (Col) Team Qhubeka Assos
29 Jesus Herrada (Spa) Cofidis 0:00:40
30 Nicola Conci (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
31 Krists Neilands (Lat) Israel Start-up Nation 0:00:42
32 Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain Victorious
33 Aurélien Paret Peintre (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team
34 Fernando Barceló Aragon (Spa) Cofidis
35 Simon Carr (GBr) EF Education-Nippo 0:00:46
36 Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal
37 Sam Oomen (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
38 Robert Gesink (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
39 Lorenzo Rota (Ita) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux 0:00:51
40 Julien Bernard (Fra) Trek-Segafredo 0:00:54
41 Fabio Aru (Ita) Team Qhubeka Assos 0:00:57
42 Mikkel Honoré (Den) Deceuninck-QuickStep 0:01:00
43 Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Bingoal Pauwels Sauzen WB
44 Rudy Molard (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
45 Clément Champoussin (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team 0:01:05
46 Michael Valgren (Den) EF Education-Nippo 0:01:06
47 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Gazprom-RusVelo 0:01:07
48 Robert Stannard (Aus) Team BikeExchange 0:01:11
49 Toms Skujins (Lat) Trek-Segafredo 0:01:15
50 Thymen Arensman (Ned) Team DSM 0:01:18
51 Floris De Tier (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix 0:01:28
52 Daryl Impey (RSA) Israel Start-up Nation 0:01:30
53 Andreas Leknessund (Nor) Team DSM
54 Mark Donovan (GBr) Team DSM 0:01:35
55 Jonathan Caicedo (Ecu) EF Education-Nippo
56 Jan Tratnik (Slo) Bahrain Victorious 0:01:37
57 Matej Mohoric (Slo) Bahrain Victorious
58 Omar Fraile Matarranz (Spa) Astana-Premier Tech
59 Dorian Godon (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team 0:01:47
60 Ruben Fernandez (Spa) Cofidis 0:01:56
61 Ilan Van Wilder (Bel) Team DSM 0:01:59
62 Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers 0:02:12
63 James Knox (GBr) Deceuninck-QuickStep 0:02:13
64 Louis Vervaeke (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix
65 Simon Clarke (Aus) Team Qhubeka Assos
66 Carlos Verona Quintanilla (Spa) Movistar Team 0:02:17
67 Jan Bakelants (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux 0:02:35
68 Martijn Tusveld (Ned) Team DSM
69 Sergei Chernetskii (Rus) Gazprom-RusVelo
70 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Lotto Soudal 0:02:39
71 Mattia Cattaneo (Ita) Deceuninck-QuickStep 0:02:44
72 Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana-Premier Tech 0:02:51
73 Stefan De Bod (RSA) Astana-Premier Tech
74 Brent Bookwalter (USA) Team BikeExchange
75 Lukasz Owsian (Pol) Team Arkea-Samsic
76 Simon Geschke (Ger) Cofidis
77 Enric Mas Nicolau (Spa) Movistar Team 0:03:01
78 Anthony Perez (Fra) Cofidis
79 Maurits Lammertink (Ned) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux 0:03:06
80 Dries Devenyns (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep 0:03:11
81 Sander Armée (Bel) Team Qhubeka Assos 0:03:17
82 Sylvain Moniquet (Bel) Lotto Soudal 0:03:41
83 Lennard Hofstede (Ned) Jumbo-Visma 0:03:53
84 Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma 0:04:05
85 Ide Schelling (Ned) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:04:45
86 Valentin Madouas (Fra) Groupama-FDJ 0:04:54
87 Jimmy Janssens (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix 0:05:48
88 Tosh Van Der Sande (Bel) Lotto Soudal 0:06:22
89 Alexander Kamp (Den) Trek-Segafredo
90 Rob Power (Aus) Team Qhubeka Assos
91 Matteo Jorgenson (USA) Movistar Team
92 Cesare Benedetti (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe
93 Tsgabu Grmay (Eth) Team BikeExchange
94 Romain Seigle (Fra) Groupama-FDJ 0:06:32
95 Thomas Sprengers (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise 0:06:57
96 Bruno Armirail (Fra) Groupama-FDJ 0:07:33
97 Laurent Pichon (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic
98 Lawson Craddock (USA) EF Education-Nippo 0:07:35
99 Alex Howes (USA) EF Education-Nippo 0:08:15
100 Simone Velasco (Ita) Gazprom-RusVelo 0:08:23
101 Biniam Girmay (Eri) Delko 0:08:45
102 Matthieu Ladagnous (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
103 Julian Mertens (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise 0:08:59
104 Laurens Huys (Bel) Bingoal Pauwels Sauzen WB
105 Delio Fernandez Cruz (Spa) Delko 0:09:11
106 Diego Rosa (Ita) Team Arkea-Samsic 0:10:09
107 Sean Bennett (USA) Team Qhubeka Assos 0:11:06
108 Philipp Walsleben (Ger) Alpecin-Fenix 0:11:18
109 Rune Herregodts (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise 0:12:01
110 Hideto Nakane (Jpn) EF Education-Nippo
111 Xandro Meurisse (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix
112 Remy Mertz (Bel) Bingoal Pauwels Sauzen WB
113 Lawrence Naesen (Bel) AG2R Citroën Team
114 Reto Hollenstein (Swi) Israel Start-up Nation
115 Sébastien Grignard (Bel) Lotto Soudal
116 Niklas Eg (Den) Trek-Segafredo
117 Aimé De Gendt (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux 0:12:05
118 Kevin Van Melsen (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
119 Luc Wirtgen (Lux) Bingoal Pauwels Sauzen WB 0:12:16
120 Dmitrii Strakhov (Rus) Gazprom-RusVelo
121 Jorge Arcas (Spa) Movistar Team 0:12:17
122 Alan Riou (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic
123 Michael Schär (Swi) AG2R Citroën Team
124 Kevin Ledanois (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic
125 Paul Martens (Ger) Jumbo-Visma
126 Christopher Juul-Jensen (Den) Team BikeExchange
127 Hugo Houle (Can) Astana-Premier Tech
128 Marco Canola (Ita) Gazprom-RusVelo 0:12:26
129 Christoph Pfingsten (Ger) Jumbo-Visma
130 Luke Rowe (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers
131 Mathijs Paasschens (Ned) Bingoal Pauwels Sauzen WB
132 Eros Capecchi (Ita) Bahrain Victorious
133 James Piccoli (Can) Israel Start-up Nation
134 Alex Colman (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise 0:13:21
135 Tomasz Marczynski (Pol) Lotto Soudal 0:13:30
136 Patrick Gamper (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe
137 Guillaume Boivin (Can) Israel Start-up Nation 0:13:52
138 August Jensen (Nor) Delko
139 Barnabás Peák (Hun) Team BikeExchange
DNS Marc Hirschi (Swi) UAE Team Emirates
DNS Tadej Pogacar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates
DNS Rui Costa (Por) UAE Team Emirates
DNS Davide Formolo (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
DNS Vegard Stake Laengen (Nor) UAE Team Emirates
DNS Jan Polanc (Slo) UAE Team Emirates
DNS Diego Ulissi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
DNF Stan Dewulf (Bel) AG2R Citroën Team
DNF Guy Sagiv (Isr) Israel Start-up Nation
DNF Matis Louvel (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic
DNF Sergio Higuita Garcia (Col) EF Education-Nippo
DNF Josef Cerny (Cze) Deceuninck-QuickStep
DNF Eddie Dunbar (Irl) Ineos Grenadiers
DNF Jordi Meeus (Bel) Bora-Hansgrohe
DNF Andreas Schillinger (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
DNF Juan Pedro Lopez Perez (Spa) Trek-Segafredo
DNF Victor Lafay (Fra) Cofidis
DNF William Bonnet (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
DNF Kenny Molly (Bel) Bingoal Pauwels Sauzen WB
DNF Tom Paquot (Bel) Bingoal Pauwels Sauzen WB
DNF Stephen Williams (GBr) Bahrain Victorious
DNF Samuele Battistella (Ita) Astana-Premier Tech
DNF Stefano Oldani (Ita) Lotto Soudal
DNF Bert-Jan Lindeman (Ned) Team Qhubeka Assos
DNF Ivan Garcia Cortina (Spa) Movistar Team
DNF Gonzalo Serrano Rodriguez (Spa) Movistar Team
DNF Loïc Vliegen (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
DNF Chad Haga (USA) Team DSM
DNF Petr Rikunov (Rus) Gazprom-RusVelo
DNF Ivan Rovny (Rus) Gazprom-RusVelo
DNF Aaron Van Poucke (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
DNF Arne Marit (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
DNF Aaron Verwilst (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
DNF Clément Carisey (Fra) Delko
DNF Alessandro Fedeli (Ita) Delko
DNF Mathias Le Turnier (Fra) Delko