Twenty-five teams have been selected to take part of the Flèche Wallonne 2013, which will take place on April the seventeenth.The following nineteen teams have been selected in compliance with International Cycling Union rules :
The official Fleche Wallone 2012 start list of riders was published after the sports directors' meeting: the 25 teams taking part each field eight riders apiece, giving the race a total of 198 riders. Race number 1 has been taken by last year's winner, Philippe Gilbert, racing without the support of team-mateCadel Evans, victorious in Fleche in 2010, but unable to take part this year because of a sinus infection. "Even so, we have a great group of riders to support Gilbert, and Van Avermaet is definitely ready to do some great riding this week,"says team manager John Lelangue on the BMC website. "Cadel would have raced simply with the aim of helping them." Amongst the top favourites who could challenge Gilbert is Joaquim Rodriguez, second in the last two editions of Fleche and who will wear race number 11 tomorrow.
© Presse Sports
Katusha manager Valerio Piva and his team will be banking heavily on the squad’s two Spaniards, Joaquim Rodríguez and Oscar Freire for a successful assault on the Mur de Huy.
Freire had a near-miss in the Amstel Gold Race, placing fourth after a late solo attack, and Rodríguez, despite his off-day in the Dutch race, has always shone in the Ardennes Classics.
“Freire asked specifically to race Flèche, he’s already finished sixth on the Mur, but our main leader is still Joaquim, because it’s the ideal climb for him. That said, it’s always better to have two cards to play than one.”
Asked if he could envisage Freire repeating Sunday’s attack on the approach to the Mur de Huy on Wednesday, Piva said “yes, but hopefully with a win at the end of it, not fourth!”
“Joaquim wasn’t feeling good at Amstel, and so told Oscar to go for it, and to be honest I thought it was a bit crazy at first to attack like that. But he almost made it, he proved me wrong, and I’m glad about that. It’s a good sign for Flèche.”
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A major change has taken place in the Flèche Wallone route for 2012. Whilst its spectacular finale on the Mur de Huy has, of course, been maintained, the last loop which the riders will carry out around the region has changed, making for an important change in the terrain theywill tackle. The final run-in is harder, in particular thanks to the Côte de Villers-le-Bouillet climb, with its summit just 8.5 kilometres from the finish. Jean-Michel Monin, who has designed the new route, says the re-designed finale has several potential consequences: “There will be three climbs in the last 15 kilometres [9.5 miles], including the last ascent of the Mur de Huy. I don’t know if that means there will be more attacks, but it will be stressful. The battle to be in the right position will be much more intense than before.”
“They will have to race through the town of Amay itself to get to the Côte d’Amay [km 179.5], which will make the bunch nervous. And whilst that particular climb is reached on a fairly wide road, they then tackle the Côte de Villers [km 185.5] on a much narrower road. And the first 500 metres or so, is particularly steep, with gradients of around 13 percent."
© Presse Sports
© Presse Sports
The final assault of the Mur de Huy often throws the spotlight on a handful of specialists. However, two days before the Flèche Wallonne, the race of reference for punchers, the last few weeks of competition have generally provided contradictory clues with regard to the usual favourites, starting with the last two winners of the event.
Cadel Evans, head and shoulders above the rest on the Critérium International, disappeared from the pack 75 km from the finish of the Amstel Gold Race! However, Philippe Gilbert, transparent overall since the start of the season, was one of the major players at the finish in Valkenburg yesterday. There is no guarantee that, by Wednesday, this burgeoning resurrection will bring “Phil Gil” back to the level he enjoyed in 2011. Nonetheless, his usual rivals did not exactly display irresistible form on the Amstel either: Joaquim Rodriguez, who often shines on the week of the Ardennes Classics, was just as discrete as Alejandro Valverde, Robert Gesink or Andy Schleck. Perhaps more striking scenes of action are being reserved for Huy!
With such uncertainty, a look back at the races punctuating the beginning of spring shows that some emerging talents have displayed characteristics that could serve them well on La Flèche. In particular, Gilbert’s countrymen: Jelle Vanendert, who put in a fine performance at the Plateau de Beille on Le Tour, finished 2nd on the Amstel behind Enrico Gasparotto, whilst Gianni Meersman showed a certain amount of explosiveness at the stage finish in Rodez on Paris-Nice, and Maxime Monfort looked at ease on the final climb up to Mende with its 10% gradient.
25 teams: the main competitors
GreenEdge Cycling Team (GEC): Albasini (Swi), Clarke (Aus)
Lotto-Belisol Team (LTB): J.Vanendert, Meersman, Van den Broeck (Bel)
Omega Pharma-Quick Step (OPQ): Devenyns (Bel), Pineau (Fra)
Accent Jobs - Willems Veranda’s (ACC): Scheirlinckx (Bel)
Landbouwkrediet-Euphony (LAN): Bellemakers (NL)
Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator (TSV): Van Hecke (Bel)
Colombia - Coldeportes (COL): Duarte, Chavez (Col)
Team Saxo Bank (SAX): Kroon (NL)
Euskaltel - Euskadi (EUS): Anton (Spa), Sicard (Fra)
Movistar Team (MOV): Valverde (Spa), Costa (Por)
BMC Racing Team (BMC): Gilbert (Bel), Evans (Aus)
Garmin-Barracuda (GRM): LeMevel (Fra), Hesjedal (Can)
Team Type 1 - Sanofi (TT1): El Fares (Fra), Bertogliati (Swi)
AG2R La Mondiale (ALM): Nocentini (Ita), Péraud (Fra)
FDJ-Big Mat (FDJ): Fédrigo (Fra)
Saur-Sojasun (SAU): Simon, Coppel (Fra)
Sky Procycling (SKY): Uran (Col)
Lampre - ISD (LAM): Bertagnolli (Ita)
Liquigas-Cannondale: (LIQ), Nibali (Ita)
Astana Pro Team (AST): Gasparotto (Ita), Petrov (Rus)
RadioShack-Nissan (RNT): F.Schleck, A.Schleck (Lux), Monfort (Bel)
Rabobank Cycling Team (RAB): Gesink, Mollema (NL)
Vacansoleil - DCM Pro Cycling Team (VCD): De Gendt (Bel)
Argos-Shimano (ARG): Geschke (Ger), Geniez (Fra)
Katusha Team (KAT): Rodriguez (Spa)
Philippe Gilbert, Cadel Evans© Presse Sports
The BMC team had armed itself to dominate the classics by enrolling the stars of one-day races, Philippe Gilbert and Thor Hushovd. Having failed in the Flemish type races, the team is hoping to be more successful on the Ardennes Classics. The last two winners of the Flèche Wallonne (Walloon Arrow) will be wearing the American team’s jersey…
A new position has appeared on the BMC hotel list: team wine butler. It is occupied by Andy Rihs, the Swiss businessman who made his fortune with Phonak hearing aids and other notable promising pieces of business. When he visited his riders, his staff had trouble ascertaining his place, because the President of BMC Racing is American Jim Ochowicz. Rihs is in fact the sponsor, of which he makes no secret, and knows that he probably will not ever sell enough top of the range bikes to cover the costs of the BMC team. On each of his visits, the number one supporter of his troops brings several fine bottles of wine: as a result, he has been dubbed wine butler.
One single victory in three months of competition
Basically, at BMC, good results are not the be all and end all for the sponsor, even though they are obviously welcomed when they occur, especially when Cadel Evans won the Tour de France. This is why team manager John Lelangue admits that he does not feel any particular pressure despite the somewhat lacklustre performances of his team since the beginning of the season. In three months of competition, they have only picked up one single victory, on the Critérium International thanks to Cadel Evans who also won the time-trial in Porto-Vecchio. They have been disappointing on the Flemish type classics and half-classics although according to some cycling observers they had been promising the moon with the reinforcements of Philippe Gilbert and Thor Hushovd, world number one and the previous year’s world champion respectively. It should be remembered that two year’s ago, before applying for an invitation for the Tour de France on hiring Evans, BMC had been set up for the classics with a team based around Alessandro Ballan, George Hincapie and Marcus Burghardt; what’s more, since then, the team’s ranks have been swelled by Greg Van Avermaet, last year’s winner of Paris-Tours, and Taylor Phinney, the prodigious two times winner of under-23 race Paris-Roubaix Espoirs.
Third on the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, Ballan saved the day for BMC, once Gilbert, weakened at the beginning of the season by a virus then a tooth infection, and Hushovd, also affected by illness at the start of the classics period, failed to reach their goals. “We’ve missed out on victories, but I tend to see it from a positive perspective,” analyses John Lelangue. “Third place in Roubaix is a second podium finish rather than a second defeat. We were present at the front of the race”. Philippe Gilbert had put out a warning at the beginning of the season to calm the excitement of people who imagined that he was going to repeat “a dream year” (the title of his first book, which was a major success in Flemish-speaking bookshops): “Between victory, the runners-up place and third spot, there is sometimes very little in it and people only remember the victor”.
Gilbert: “It isn’t a nice situation to experience”
After his health problems, the Belgian champion is regaining his form. In spite of a noteworthy attack on the Flèche Brabaçonne/Brabant Arrow race (where he finished 12th) won by Thomas Voeckler, he nevertheless admits that he is behind on his objectives and would be satisfied with one triumph out of the three Ardennes Classics (Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège) which he dominated last year. “At least this time I won’t have to deal with being the favourite,” smiles the man who picked up 19 victories in 2011. “I don’t know how much time I will need to get back to the same condition I was in last year. It’s not a nice situation to experience, but what else can I do apart from work hard? Not always being on top form is human and it’s possible that I might suffer a comedown after my great season in 2011. Fortunately, I don’t feel any pressure from the team management. I’ve got a three year contract with them and if out of those three years I have one season like last year, I think that they will be happy, but everybody knows that, even without health problems, it is impossible to be constantly that successful”.
By joining BMC, Gilbert reacquainted himself with Evans, his former team-mate in 2009 in the colours of Silence-Lotto. The Australian has said that he is delighted to be riding with the Walloon again, and that he will be giving him a hand on the Ardennes Classics in return for his assistance on the Tour de France, but the tables could be turned: it should not be forgotten that the previous winner of the Flèche Wallonne before Gilbert last year was none other than Evans! What’s more, Gilbert will have two opportunities to shine in front of his home crowd this year. Although the former champion Johan Museeuw advised him to “forget about his ambitions for the Ardennes Classics and already start concentrating on preparing for the Olympic Games and the World Championships,” the puncher from Remouchamps (his village near Liège), will be starting the Tour de France on 30th June in Liège, wearing the Belgian time-trial champion’s jersey, with a finish on the first stage in Seraing that suits him down to the ground.
In fact, Gilbert and BMC are like Andy Rihs’ bottles of wine: they get better over time…
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
Accent Jobs-Veranda’s Willems: Scheirlinckx (Bel) ; AG2R La Mondiale: Nocentini (Ita), Péraud (Fra); Argos-Shimano: Geschke (Ger), Geniez (Fra); Astana Pro Team: Kiserlovski (Cro), Petrov (Rus); BMC Racing Team: Gilbert (Bel), Evans (Aus); Colombia-Coldeportes: Duarte, Chavez (Col); Euskaltel-Euskadi: Anton (Spa), Sicard (Fra) ; FDJ-BigMat: Pauriol (Fra); Garmin-Barracuda: LeMevel (Fra), Vandevelde (USA); GreenEdgeCycling Team: Albasini (Swi), Clarke (Aus); Katusha Team: Rodriguez (Spa); Lampre-Isd: Cunego (Ita); Landbowkrediet-Euphony: Bellemakers (NL); Liquigas-Cannondale: Nibali (Ita); Lotto-Belisol Team: J.Vanendert, Meersman, Van den Broeck (Bel); Movistar Team: Valverde (Spa); Omega Pharma-Quick Step: Devenyns (Bel), Pineau (Fra); Rabobank Cycling Team: Gesink, Mollema (NL); RadioShack-Nissan: F.Schleck, A.Schleck (Lux), Monfort (Bel); Saur-Sojasun: Coppel, Hivert (Fra); SkyProCycling: Uran (Col); Team Saxo Bank: Kroon (Hol); Team Type 1-Sanofi: El Fares (Fra), Bertogliati (Swi); TopsportVlaanderen-Mercator: DeVreese (Bel); Vacansoleil-DCM: De Gendt (Bel)
25 teams have been invited to start in the 76th edition of the Flèche Wallonne, next April 18.
The following 18 teams have been selected in compliance with International Cycling Union rules:
AG2R LA MONDIALE (FRA)
ASTANA PRO TEAM (KAZ)
BMC RACING TEAM (USA)
EUSKALTEL – EUSKADI (ESP)
GREENEDGE CYCLING TEAM (AUS)
KATUSHA TEAM (RUS)
LAMPRE – ISD (ITA)
LOTTO BELISOL TEAM (BEL)
MOVISTAR TEAM (ESP)
OMEGA PHARMA-QUICKSTEP (BEL)
RABOBANK CYCLING TEAM (NED)
SKY PRO CYCLING (GBR)
TEAM SAXO BANK (DEN)
VACANSOLEIL-DCM PRO CYCLING TEAM (NED)
Seven other teams, invited by the organisers, will make up the field for the Flèche Wallonne
ACCENT JOBS – WILLEMS VERANDA’S (BEL)
COLOMBIA – COLDEPORTES (COL)
PROJECT 1T4I (NED)
SAUR – SOJASUN (FRA)
TEAM TYPE 1 – SANOFI (USA)
TOPSPORT VLAANDEREN – MERCATOR (BEL)
Already impressive last Sunday when he captured his second victory on the Amstel Gold Race, Philippe Gilbert (OLO) proved he was really the man of the moment.
On home soil, the Belgian made the best of the final climb up the Mur de Huy to claim his first ever Fleche Wallonne. Gilbert wins this 75th edition ahead of Rodriguez (KAT) and Sanchez (EUS).