On the podium in 2008 and in the top 5 last year after probably taking off too early in the final climb up the Mur de Huy, World Champion Cadel Evans (BMC) made the best of his experience on the Belgian Classic to claim victory. After five men enjoyed a long 120km breakaway, the favourites took command of the race and decision time came in the final hill up to the line. While Contador probably lacked of experience despite being at the height of expectations as he led the way in the final kilometre, Evans took his time and caught up with the Spaniard to eventually cross the line ahead of Rodriguez.
The French jersey leads at top of the Mur
Ambitious riders tried their luck as soon as the first few kilometres of racing with the likes of Maxime Bouet (ALM) and Thomas De Gendt (TSV) giving it a go. But the early initiatives failed to pay off as the pack chased every single attempt. However, Giuseppe Palumbo managed a decisive move at kilometre 44 taking with him David Loosli (LAM), Dimitri Champion (ALM), Benjamin Gourgue (LAN) and StĂ©phane AugĂ© (COF). The group of five saw their lead rapidly grow. French national champion, Champion made it first at the top of the Mur de Huy (first passage on the line at km 67) while the escapees could enjoy a significant 8â€™25 advantage over the pack.
Tough times for the leaders
On the first 100kms loop around Huy, as the difficulties showed up with several hill climbs, the leading men started loosing time chased by a pack led by the Katusha and Caisse dâ€™Epargne teams. In the climb up the CĂ´te de Haut-Bois, a group of counter-attackers took off including Laurent Didier, Jens Voigt (SAX), Thomas De Gendt (TSV), Daniele Righi (LAM), Jan Bakelants (OLO), Christophe Moreau (GCE) and Christopher Froome (SKY). After Moreau suffered a puncture, all the counter-attacking men were caught back in the Cote de Groynne. The leading group started breaking up in the climb up the Cote de Bohisseau. The first to fail to keep up with the front menâ€™s pace was Palumbo, shortly followed by Gourgue.
Favourites in control
Eventually with 38 kms to go a group of 7 men gathered together including Van De Walle (QST), Loosli, Champion, Vorganov (KAT), Kadri (ALM), Tankink (RAB) and AugĂ©. The escapees were eventually caught just after the second climb up the Mur de Huy as the Schleck brothers really took on the chase. With just under thirty kilometres to go, Franck Schleck continued his effort and took off with Roman Kreuziger (LIQ), Bram Tankink (RAB) and David Loosli (LAM). An interesting move indeed as the leading four could still enjoy a <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />
Experience pays off for Evans
As the pack took on the final climb up the Mur de Huy, Andreas Kloeden (RSH) was the first to attackâ€¦ A far too ambitious effort as the German was caught by Anton (EUS) and Contador (AST). The two-time Tour de France winner carried on his effort and led the way until the final 200m. But probably lacking of experience, the Spaniard ran out of energy and was caught by Cadel Evans (BMC) who went on to claim his very first Fleche Wallonne. The Australian gives his nation a first success on the Belgian Classic as he beats to the line Joaquim Rodriguez (KAT) and Alberto Contador.
"Winning the Fleche Wallonne is already something super, to do it with the World Champion’s jersey is even better. I basically finished this Fleche Wallonne race at almost all the positions so to win is really fantastic. In eight appearances here, I had never checked the course before the race, yesterday we came on the Mur de Huy climb with John Lelangue (BMC Racing directeur sportif) to work on this decisive climb and gain in experience, and it payed off. I dedicate this victory to my trainer Aldo Sassi and to the entire BMC Racing team".
A fine victory for Cadel Evans who apparently learnt from his past experiences, especially last year when he took off too early in the final climb up the Mur de Huy. Evans gives Australia a first victory on the Fleche Wallonne.
1. Evans (BMC)
2. Rodriguez (KAT)
3. Contador (AST)
4. Anton (EUS)
5. Cunego (LAM)
6. Gilbert (OLO)
7. Horner (RSH)
8. Valverde (GCE)
9. A.Schleck (SAX)
10. Hesjedal (GAR)
Alberto Contador is eventually caught in the final metres and victory goes to an impressive Cadel Evans. Fine day for the World champ!
200 metres to goand Contador leads the way... Can he be caught ?
Kloeden is caught. Off go Anton and Contador, in command...