British rider Emma Pooley has won the 13th edition of the Flèche Wallonne. She beat her countrywomen Nicole Cooke and Sweden’s Emma Johansson. Marianne Vos, sixth at the top of the Wall of Huy, still leads the World Cup rankings.
The pack of 145 competitors received starter’s orders at 11.32 in cloudy and cool conditions. The first attack came from Emma Trott (GBR) after 8 km. However, the pack caught up with her at the 30 km mark, though at one point she boasted a lead of up to 40’’ over her pursuers. The pack remained intact at the Peu d’Eau climb (after 38.5 km) and remained grouped as Sigrid Corneo (TOG) led them to the top of the Haut-Bois slope (at the 44-km mark). The race started to liven up as the Côte de Groynne ascent was tackled (after 49 km) thanks to Alona Andruk (SAF) who sprung 20’’ ahead of the pack. By the time she reached the Côte de Bohisseau climb (after 55 km), her lead had stretched to 30’’, then 1’05’’ at the summit of the Côte de Bousalle slope (after 58 km). At the Côte d’Ahin ascent (after 69 km), her lead started to be chipped away (40’’) due to the work at the head of the pack by the HTC Columbia team. At the foot of the first climb up the “Mur de Huy” (after 80 km) she only led by 20’’, before being caught up during the ascent. Attack after attack caused the pack to break up. Regina Bruins (CWT) sprung away from the foremost group to establish a lead of 45’’ after 87 km over this 50-strong mini-pack and 1’20’’ over the pursuers. However, her advantage was eliminated in the climb up the Côte d’Ereffe slope (after 98.5 km) by a small group of 17 riders led by Noemi Cantele (TCW). Also featuring in this group were notably Marianne Vos (ARC), Tatiana Guderzo (VAD), Judith Arndt (TCW), Claudia Hausler (CWT), Emma Pooley (CWT), Emma Johansson (RSC), Grace Verbeke (LLT), Edita Pucinskaite (GAU) and Nicole Cooke (GBR), though the numbers dwindled following falls by Christelle Ferrier-Bruneau (FUT) and Ruth Corset (TIB). At the foot of the final climb up the Wall, the group of favourites boasted a lead of 50’’ over its pursuers. Emma Pooley attacked first, a tactic which proved decisive as she rode on to win the Flèche Wallonne. In an almighty struggle for second place, Nicole Cooke finished just in front of Emma Johansson.