Each year the programme drawn up for the women’s Flèche Wallonne moves ever closer to the route reserved for the men’s pack.
For the 2012 edition, the women will have to tackle a longer distance, with a route that is now 123-km long as opposed to the previous 109.5 km. Apart from the Charleroi to Huy journey that the men will take in the morning, the routes of the two races are identical, with two loops to be ridden before the finish takes place at the top of the formidable Mur de Huy.
Whilst the main battles of the event do not necessarily wait for this point, it is also often on the final climb that victory is won in the women’s race. In the speciality of climbing the final kilometre, Marianne Vos has often proved to be the most explosive: in 2011, she picked up a fourth title and a record number of victories. Since then, the Dutchwoman has not stopped accumulating triumphs, with in particular a cyclo-cross world champion’s title this winter and wins in the first two legs of the world cup this season. Sitting at the top of the world rankings, Marianne Vos is logically the major favourite for La Flèche: a 5th title, on the 15th edition, would mean that she will have wone 33% of the races run so far! In addition to her physical capabilities and her racing knowledge, Vos also has a sturdy team to back her up, with Annemiek Van Vleuten and Pauline Ferrand-Prévot in its ranks. However, her rivals will not be giving up until the very last metres of the ultimate climb. Judith Arndt, who won both the Tour of Qatar and the recent Tour of Flanders, is counting on the Flèche Wallonne to contest the supremacy of ‘Queen Marianne’. This will also be the ambition of Emma Johansson, who already boasts three podium finishes for this event, including one last year.
27 TEAMS: THE MAIN COMPETITORS
AA Drink-Leontien.nl: Pooley (GB)
Be Pink: Amialiusik (Blr), Cantele (Ita)
Bizkaia-Durango: Hogan (Aus)
Diadora-Pasta Zara: Callovi (Ita)
Dolmans-BoelsCyclingTeam: Bras (NL)
Faren Honda Team: Cooke (GB), Luperini (Ita)
France: Lesueur, Pitel (Fra)
Germany: Hofmann (Ger)
GreenEdge-AIS: Arndt (Ger), Gillow (Aus)
Hitec Products-Mistral Home: Johansson (Swe), Longo Borghini (Ita)
Italy: Berlato (Ita)
Kleo Ladies Team: Arys (Bel)
Lotto Belisol Ladies: Henrion (Bel), Moolman (SAf)
MCipolliniGiambenini: Guderzo, Baccaille (Ita)
Netherlands: De Boer (NL)
Russia: Pankova, Zhaparova (Rus)
Rusvelo: Boyarskaya (Rus), Kupfernagel (Ger)
Sengers Ladies Cycling Team: Silversides (GB)
Skil: Visser (NL)
StichtingRabo Women: Vos, Van Vleuten (NL), Ferrand-Prévot (Fra)
Team GSD Gestion: Majerus (Lux)
Team Specialized Lululemon: Neben (USA), Worrack (Ger)
Tibco-To the Top: Guarnier (USA)
TopsportVlaanderen-Ridley 2012: Polspoel (Bel)
USA: Dvorak (USA)
VaianoTepso: Leleivyte (Ltu)
Vienne Futuroscope: Canuel (Can)
A new season begins! Now that the cobbles have had their day, it is time for the “big bumps” with the week of the Ardennes Classics and in particular the Flèche Wallonne, women’s Flèche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege races.
This morning, a presentation of this sequence brought together a large group of journalists, a short way away from the finishing line of “La Doyenne” in Ans. Christian Prudhomme, accompanied by André Gilles, President of the Liege regional authorities, and Christophe Lacroix, the provincial representative in charge of sports, evoked the main characteristics of what makes these events monuments of cycling: the spectacular finish at the top of the Mur de Huy climb, the sequence of difficulties and the extremely tense return journey towards Liege, amongst others. The organisers have, in a way, given a lasting resonance to these unrivalled phases of the race, because an agreement stipulating that the Flèche Wallonne will finish at Huy and Liege-Bastogne-Liege in Ans until 2018 has been signed with the Province of Liege. In the pack, the most aggressive attackers can already see themselves as heroes this spring. Whilst Philippe Gilbert was head and shoulders above the rest in 2011, the beast of the classics is once again in a situation where he has to show his mettle. The same is true for Marianne Vos, the woman to watch, aiming for her fourth triumph on ‘La Flèche’.
The main participants
AA Drink-Leontien.nl: Pooley (GB); Be Pink: Amialiusik (Blr); Bizkaia-Durango: Hogan (Aus); Diadora-Pasta Zara: Cilvinaite (Lit); Dolmans-BoelsCyclingTeam: team not announced; Faren Honda Team: Cooke (GB), Luperini (Ita); France: Lesueur, Pitel (Fra); Germany: Hofmann (Ger); GreenEdge-AIS: Arndt (Ger); Hitec Products-Mistral Home: Johansson (Swe); Italy: Berlato (Ita); Kleo Ladies Team: Lindberg (Swe); Lotto Belisol Ladies: Moolman (SAf); MCipolliniGiambenini: Baccaille (Ita); Netherlands: team not announced; Russia: Chernysheva (Rus); Sengers Ladies Cycling Team: Silversides (GB) ; Skil: team not announced; StichtingRabo Women: Vos (NL), Ferrand-Prévot (Fra); Team GSD Gestion: Majerus (Lux); Team Specialized Lululemon: Worrack (Ger); Tibco-To the Top: Schneider (USA); TopsportVlaanderen-Ridley 2012: Vekemans (Bel); USA: Holcomb (USA); VaianoTepso: Lelivyte (Lit); Vienne Futuroscope: Taylor (Aus); Wrusvelo: Kupfernagel (Ger)
Dutch rider Marianne Vos has won the 14th edition of the women’s Flèche Wallonne, beating Sweden’s Emma Johansson and German Judith Arndt, taking the lead in the World Cup rankings as well. She has also written herself in to the event’s history books by being the first woman rider to tame the Wall of Huy four times.