HUY, Belgium, April 23, 2014 (AFP) – Spaniard Alejandro Valverde timed his
attack to perfection on the gruelling Mur de Huy to win the Fleche Wallonne
race for the second time on Wednesday.
The Movistar team leader, who also won this event in 2006, passed Ireland’s
Daniel Martin and Michal Kwiatkowski of Poland in the final 200 metres of the
199.5km ride to claim his fourth victory in an Ardennes Classic.
Garmin’s Martin finished 3sec down with Omega-Pharma’s Kwiatkowski another
second further back.
Last year’s winner Dani Moreno could finish only ninth with Amstel Gold
Race winner Philippe Gilbert 10th.
Valverde, who turns 34 on Friday, had been pushed off the podium at
Sunday’s Amstel race as Belgian Gilbert burst clear to win by 5sec from Jelle
Vanendert and Simon Gerrans from Australia.
But this time, BMC’s Gilbert failed to get himself into one of the leading
positions at the foot of the final climb, the imposing Mur de Huy (Wall of
But Valverde insisted there was no sense of gaining revenge on Gilbert for
his defeat in the Netherlands.
“More than revenge I simply wanted to win and I tried to win,” said the
“On Sunday at Amstel I was happy (with fourth) because Gilbert was simply
“But today I had good legs, I went for the win and I got it. I’m delighted
for me, for my team, for my teammates, because everyone worked hard together.”
Martin said there was a moment he thought he might win it but Valverde just
proved too strong.
“They say that you have to learn how to race this last climb,” said the
– Valverde flew past –
“Every year I seem to get a little bit better but again I was a little too
far back at the bottom of the climb.
“With a few hundred metres to go I did think I might have had it but he
(Valverde) flew past and left me for dead.”
Frenchman Romain Bardet attacked at the foot of the climb, which averages
almost 10 percent and has a steepest section of 26 percent.
But Bardet could not make it stick and soon a host of other riders had come
to the fore.
Kwiatkowski seemed to have edged ahead but Martin, last year’s winner of
Liege-Bastogne-Liege, came storming past with a brutal acceleration.
Yet he too slowed down as Valverde, also a twice winner in Liege, made his
move and that proved the winning one.
Dutchman Bauke Mollema earnt his best ever finish in a Classics race with
fourth while compatriot Tom Jelte Slatger was fifth.
Spaniard Moreno’s Katusha team had looked to be controlling the peloton
coming up to the final climb but suffered a crucial blow when 2012 champion
Joaquim Rodriguez was brought down 3km from home by a crash involving Italian
That seemed to affect several riders’ ability to position themselves at the
front of the peloton for the crucial final 1.3km Mur.
The day had begun with a three-man breakaway involving Australian Jonathan
Clarke, Belgian Preben Van Hecke and Ramunas Navardauskas of Lithuania.
Clarke was dropped around 50km from home while the other two battled on
until they were reeled in with just over 10km left, having spent around 170km
in the lead.
At that point the racing was furious with BMC, Movistar and Katusha sharing
pace-making duties to ensure their leaders were in pole position once the
crunch Mur de Huy came into view.
But Gilbert’s hopes of matching the Ardennes treble he achieved in 2011
went up in smoke as he was caught well back down the field when the climb up
the Mur began.