Spaniard claims splendid fifth career win in Flèche Wallonne to conquer tenth individual success in 2017, 19th for Movistar Team as Blues complete impeccable race.
Alejandro Valverde has no rivals at the Flèche Wallonne. After breaking a tie against Merckx, Kint, Argentin and Rebellin, all with three victories before the Spanish superstar claimed his fourth in 2016, the marvel from Murcia was able to increase that tally on Wednesday and take his fifth (four on a row) in the second event of the Ardennes trio. Valverde was as strong as usual on the decisive climb to the Mur de Huy (1.3km at 9.6% average, slopes up to 26%). Following impressive work from the Movistar Team –with Erviti, Sutherland, Soler, Herrada, a remarkable Betancur and the final, key contribution from Rojas and Dani Moreno–, Valverde controlled the opposition with ease before doing his classic acceleration from just less than 200 meters from the finish line.
Behind him, with no real chances to contest the win, Dan Martin (QST) and Dylan Teuns (BMC) completed the podium behind the Spaniard, who improves his already amazing start to the 2017 season: most winning UCI rider this year (10 wins, 19 already for the Movistar Team since January), 107 victories as a pro, eight triumphs in the Ardennes (5 in La Flèche Wallonne, 3 in Liège-Bastogne-Liége, which he’ll tackle on Sunday with the intention of claiming his second double, after 2006 and 2015) for a legendary cyclist who continues to amaze the world, just six days away from turning 37 years old.
Alejandro Valverde: “It was a victory based on confidence, strength and a great team supporting me all the way. I had lots of respect to what my rivals could do, but also knew that I was in great physical condition, and I had to take advantage from it. We believed we could win it again, and the whole team worked from the very first kilometer to keep the race together before the finish. There were plenty of attacks into the final 50km by riders from Quick Step and BMC, but ourselves, as well as Orica who took a big share of the work in the finale, made sure it all came down to the last Huy climb. We knew it would still be difficult to win there, because only one can achieve it and many fight for it, but to be honest, this feels like a race made for me.
“Rojas and Dani Moreno set me up in perfect position before the final kilometer and I took to the front before the double hairpin halfway through the ascent – I wanted to make sure everything was under control and also go on my own trajectory through the last few corners. I went after Gaudu’s attack and didn’t hesitate to launch my sprint afterwards. Even though it might seem easier, it was just as difficult as the other four wins I got here. There’s no secret: you need to be in perfect form and have no doubts about how to reach when someone jumps in the final meters. No one had four victories here, and now that I’ve got five, it seems like it will be a record very hard to beat.
“Liège? We’ll see how we feel on Sunday. It’s a race that I really like a lot and won three times. I’m in great shape at the moment, but as always, enjoying this win comes first and thinking about what’s next comes after that.”
Australian results: La Fleche Wallonne 19th April
1 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 5:15:37
2 Daniel Martin (Irl) Quick-Step Floors 0:00:01
3 Dylan Teuns (Bel) BMC Racing Team
19 Jay McCarthy (Aus) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:00:13
36 Nathan Haas (Aus) Dimension Data 0:00:45
67 Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb 0:01:34
80 Ben O’Connor (Aus) Dimension Data 0:02:13
84 Simon Clarke (Aus) Cannondale-Drapac
85 Brendan Canty (Aus) Cannondale-Drapac
125 Jack Haig (Aus) Orica-Scott 0:05:51
135 Rory Sutherland (Aus) Movistar Team 0:07:04
137 Damien Howson (Aus) Orica-Scott 0:07:16