1. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spain - KAT)
2. Michael Albasini (Switzerland - GEC)
3. Philippe Gilbert (Belgium - BMC)
4. Jelle Vanendert (Belgium - LTB)
5. Robert Kiserlovski (Croatia - AST)
That’s Spain’s third win in the Fleche Wallone, and Rodriguez first big Classic
Rodriguez wins, Albasini second, Gilbert third
Rodriguez finally wins after two second places on the Mur
Rodriguez attacks alone
Two leaders are caught
Nordhaug back and ahead!
Hesjedal drops Nordhaug
Nordhaug leads under the flamme rouge, 11 seconds!
Hesjedal and Nordhaug are athe foot of the mur!
Two and the leading duo are in Huy, crossing the River Meuse. The Mur awaits...12 seconds
11 seconds with five kilometres to go
Nine seconds for the two leaders as they start the sweeping descent to Huy
Ten seconds for Hesjedal and Nordhaug on the flattish ridge road that follows the second last climb.
A Sky rider has gone for it over the top, it’s Lars Petter Nordhaug and he’s joined by Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin)
Bunch is stretched out on this second last climb but nobody’s getting away - yet.
Kiryenka and Vicioso are caught with less than a km to go
Kiryenka (MOV) and Vicioso (KAT) are the leaders as they hit the foot of the second last climb
Ten kilometres to go...
The bunch is now on the descent from the Cote d’Amay
The four leading breakaways have been caught and on the approach to the Cote de Amay, the race is all together. For how long?
Frank Schleck is out the back with a mechanical
The four riders are now on the front - that’s Slagter, Visconti, Bellemakers and Roux
The Cote de Villiers-le-Bouillet (km 185.5) is basically everything the Cote d’Amay isn’t - very, very steep, particularly in the first 250 metres, so narrow two cars can barely pass, badly surfaced roads, and sharp corners. Again, it runs through a village so the route isn’t overly exposed.
At the top there’s a long, long false flat, on ridge roads, lasting about two kilometres. If there’s a headwind like this morning, it should be easy to reorganise and bring any attackers back. When the descent finally starts, about 4 kilometres from the finish line, it’s very gentle, so easy in fact that the riders will be pedalling here. Then with about 2km to go it’s over the bridge and across the River Meuse and we’re back on far more familiar roads for the final approach to the Mur de Huy
Slagter, Visconti are close to catching the two day-long breakaways, but they’re not quite there....
Just 12 seconds for Visconti and Slagter on the two race leaders, and the bunch is at 21 seconds.
And just in time for the finale, the rain has started again
20 kilometres for Bellemakers and Roux, with a 24 second lead.
An unidentified rider from Colombia-Coldeportes has crashed, on a wet descent
The last 15 kilometres of Fleche feature three climbs, the Cote d’Amay (km 179.5), the Cote de Villiers-le-Bouillet (km 185.5) and the Mur de Huy itself (km 194). Although the Mur itself needs no introduction, the first two haven’t been in the race for a while.
The climbing in Amay starts at a roundabout, is steady, wide and with a good road surface. There’s one big curve about one kilometre from the top. It runs through a village so the wind isn’t that big a factor. After the top it continues to climb a little for around a kilometre, before an easy, shallow descent on good roads takes us right to the foot of the next climb - Villiers-le-Bouillet.
Visconti and Tom Slagter (Rabobank) are off the front
Bryce Feillu (Saur-Sojasun), Rui Costa (Movistar) and a Katusha rider sheer off the front then Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) has a go
Crosswinds as the bunch hits the false flats after the Mur. Echelon time?
Bellemakers should win the KoM prize of this year’s Fleche, assuming he completes the course.
Chris Horner leading pack for RadioShack Nissan as they go over the top
Bunch at 37 seconds and dropping fast on two leaders on top of Mur, Valverde a long way back
Lampre and Liquigas leading on the front as they go up the Mur
As they approach the foot of the Mur, the break’s advantage is down to 1-15 and dropping fast.
Andy Schleck has sat up and let his attack be swept up by the peloton. The two breakaways are approaching the Mur de Huy for a second time
Dimitry Fofonov (Astana) is the break with Andy Schleck and Yury Trofimov, too
Gorka Izarguirre (Euskaltel-Euskadi) has crashed on the side of the road. He looks to have been the only rider to go down
The gap between the two leaders, who are at 40 kilometres from the finish, and the bunch is just over two minutes
Andy Schleck (RadioShack) has made a surprise attack, 47 kilometres from the finish. Has Katusha’s Yury Trofimov in tow.
The gap between Bellemakers and Roux has now dipped below the three minute mark for the first time.
Armee finally has given up on his chase and has sat up, with 46 kilometres to go. He is just about to be caught.
Gap continues to drop. Bunch is now at 3-15
Cote de Groyenne, 53 kms to the finish and Bellemakers is first across the summit again.
With 55 kilometres to go, Armee is at 2-45 and the bunch is reducing the gap considerably, it’s now at 3-30. The next climb, the Cote de Groyenne, is coming up shortly. Weather is steadily getting better, too.
Twice a top five finisher in Flèche Wallone, Igor Antón (Euskaltel-Euskadi) says that the final ascent of the Mur de Huy suits him a lot better than Liege-Bastogne-Liege’s finale.
The rider they nickname Fuji - after his first ever make of bike when he was a youngster - says he hopes he can ‘erupt’ on the Mur de Huy. But he is aware that even the slightest error has a high price on the 14 percent slopes of the ‘Chemin des Chapelles’ climb.
“Just a few places forward or back at the foot of the Mur makes all the difference between a top five and a top ten place,” Antón says.
“It’s a very, very tough race, but I love it, the atmosphere here in Belgium is always something special and going up the Mur de Huy through that crowd is unforgettable.”
“My condition is good, and I’m expecting to be up there again this afternoon. To be honest, this race suits me better than Liege-Bastogne-Liege, it’s 50 kilometres shorter and that kind of short, steep climb is exactly what suits me.” Indeed, ‘Fuji’ has won stage finishes on the Spanish ‘Mur de Huy’, a 25 percent slope in Valdepeñas de Jaén in the Vuelta a España 2010.
As for the rain, forecast for Huy this afternoon, ‘Fuji’ says that it won’t be a problem. “We are used to it in the Basque Country, although obviously I prefer it not to rain. Fewer accidents, and fewer risks in general. But if it does start to pour down, it’s hardly something unusual for us Basques!”
Armee reduces the gap, very slightly, to 2-25 on the two leaders
Evelyn Stevens (Specialized-Lululemon) has taken the women’s Fleche Wallone after a thrilling final duel with Marianne Vos (Sticting Rabo), the four times winner.
Armee is at 2-35, with the bunch at around 4-30.
The leaders are now at 65 km from the finish.
Time gap at the summit of the Haut-Bois is now down to 4-20 between the leaders and the bunch. Lotto-Bellisol and Katusha still doing the bulk of the work
Just as with climb number two of this year’s Flèche, Bellemakers is the first man in the break over the third climb of the day at km 115, the Haut-Bois, ahead of Roux.
To Anthony Roux, who is celebrating his 25th birthday today - and he’s in the leading break of Flèche Wallone, too.
Armee was 3-35 down on the two leaders at the summit of Peu D’Eau. The bunch is at 4-45.
Only two former winners of Flèche are taking part this year. Philippe Gilbert (BMC), who won it last year, and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) who won it in 2006. Curiously enough, both times the rider in question then went on to win Liege-Bastogne-Liege the following Sunday.
The two race leaders have just reached the summit of the Côte de Peu D’Eau at km 110. 84 kms left to race now, as well as eight more climbs of today’s total of ten.
The bunch is now at 5-45 on the two leaders, Bellemakers and Roux. Weather is picking up, although still very cloudy, at least it’s stopped raining.
Those taking part this year are Gilbert (BMC), Rodríguez (Katusha), Anton (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Vanendert (Lotto-Bellisol), Frank Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan), Dani Moreno (Katusha), Christophe Le Mevel (Garmin-Barracuda) and Paul Martens (Rabobank).
The gap on the two leaders is beginning to plummett - it’s now down to 6-05. RadioShack-Nissan driving away on the front.
1. Philippe Gilbert
2. Joaquim Rodriguez at 3sec
3. Samuel Sanchez at 5sec
4. Alexandre Vinokourov at 6sec
5. Igor Anton
6. Jelle Vanendert
7. Frank Schleck
8. Dani Moreno at 9sec
9. Christophe Le Mevel at 12sec
10. Paul Martens
Armee (TopSport) is closing in on the leading duo and is at 3-50, and the bunch is now at 6-35 on the head of the race.
Four riders have won it three times - Marcel Kint (1943, 1944 and 1945), Eddy Merckx in 1967, 1970 and 1972, and Italians Moreno Argentin (1990, 1991 and 1994) and Davide Rebellin (2004, 2007 and 2009).
The Belgians have won this race a total of 38 times, the Italians 18, Denmark, Switzerland and Spain have two wins apiece, and America, Holland, Germany, Luxemberg and Australia have each won it once.
Some background on the race. The winner will receive a prize of 16,000 euros, second gets 8,000 and third 4,000.
The gap for the two leaders reached 7-10 before Katusha and Lotto-Bellisol started working behind and it is now dropping - but very, very slowly
Armee is on the move, he’s pulled back the gap to 5-05 on the two leaders
Km 86.5 Gap between the two race leaders and a lone chaser Sander Armee (TopSport) is 6-00. The bunch is 7-05.
The gap between the two race leaders, Dirk Bellemakers (Landbouwkrediet) and Anthony Roux (FDJ-BigMat) and the bunch is now 5-20.
The two leaders have 4-45 on the bunch.
De Wilde, now at 3-40 on the two race leaders, is sitting up and waiting for the bunch, which is at 4-05.
First time over the Mur. Two riders, Dirk Bellemakers (Landbouwkrediet) and Anthony Roux (FDJ) have 2-25 on lone chaser Sjef De Wilde (Accent Jobs) and 3-25 on the main pack. In the bunch Jens Voigt (RadioShack-Nissan) was on the front over the top of the Mur, leading his team-mate Andy Schleck.
Race is now close to the foot of the Mur for the first time
Weather is a mixture of very heavy showers and brief clear intervals at the finish, which the bunch are fast approaching for their first ascent of the Mur. The minute you notice it’s stopped raining, it starts again. Windy too.
De Wilde is losing ground on the two leaders, Bellemakers and Roux. He’s now at 1-05.
The two leaders, Roux and Bellemakers, now have 2-45 on the bunch. De Wilde is still at 40 seconds.
Bellemakers has been joined by a Frenchman Anthony Roux (FDJ) on the front. Sjef De Wilde (Accent Jobs) is at 40 seconds and the bunch, which has sat up after a frantic first hour, is at about two minutes.
We’re now at kilometre 55 and another rider, Dirk Bellemakers (Landbouwkrediet) has tried to get away. He has 10 seconds over a couple of counter-attackers. The bunch is at 25 seconds.
Team Garmin-Barracuda have two riders able to cut a dash in the final of Flèche Wallone, Ryder Hesjedal and Christophe Le Mevel. The team’s ds Johnny Weltz, interviewed by letour.fr, gave away a few secrets about what the squad’s strategy will be today.
“At the moment Ryder’s going really well. But it’s very windy and the race could be really nervous. Sunday was a good build-up race for him, Amstel’s more than 250 kilometres long.”
“Yesterday [Tuesday] we came to check out the finish, and we rode over it twice. So he knows what he’s got to face, and he’s completely ready.”
“As for Christophe, he finished ninth here last year and he loves this race. He’s fully recovered after a difficult time on Paris-Nice, so we’ll see closer to the finish who feels best. And you can’t forget that on this race, a little bit of bad luck can cause you to drop back fast in the pack, particularly if it’s raining. So they’ll be co-leaders today.”
Second in Amstel Gold, Jelle Vanendert (Lotto-Bellisol) he is confident of a solid performance on the Mur de Huy, and is aiming to repeat his podium position in the Dutch race at the very least.
“I’ve never won a Classic so I can’t consider myself to be the top favourite, but if everything goes well, I have a big chance,” Vanendert told Belgian newspaper La Derniére Heure.
“However, I think that [Joaquim] Rodríguez (Katusha) is a couple of points ahead of the rest of us in the game.”
Asked about his friend and rival Philippe Gilbert (BMC), Vanendert said “you can never rule him out. But to win on the Mur de Huy, he will have to have the same kind of form that he had last year.”
Caught up in a crash, Jurgen Van De Walle (Lotto-Bellisol) has abandoned.
Christensen has been caught by the bunch which is all back together. Katusha doing the spadework on the front.
Another crash, two riders on the ground: Jurgen Van De Walle and Gaetan Bille (both Lotto-Bellisol)
Invited by the organisers of Flèche Wallone this year, South American team Colombia-Coldeportes continue their rise through the ranks of professional cycling. Their manager, Claudio Corti, when asked about this by letour.fr says he feels the team has an important mission: “Since the start of this year, we’ve been invited to take part in several top races and that’s good news, we’re pleased to get that kind of recognition. The Colombian Ministry of Sport supports this mission long-term, they want to bring riders up to a top level.”
“We have 16 riders who spend the bulk of the season in Europe, which is the heartland of professional cycling. The team headquarters is based in Italy, close to Bergamo.”
“At the moment, it’s obviously Duarte who’s going the best.” These are not idle words: the U-23 World Champion finished fourth in Flèche Brabançonne, and will tackle the Mur de Huy this afternoon: “I’ve watched this race on television a lot of times in Colombia when I was a kid, and I’m really excited to be taking part.”
“So far in Belgium when I’ve raced here before, I’ve done well on the short, steep climbs that you get in the Ardennes, and my form is good. It always is at this time of year, so that’s encouraging.”
“Today [Wednesday] will be a bit of a voyage in the dark, but I’ve watched the videos of previous races.It’s not so much the distance that worries me, I’ve done Classics like Milan-San Remo and long stages of the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España, it’s the final climb and how to tackle it perfectly which is giving me food for thought. Basically, if you’re not in the front 20 at the foot of the Mur, you might as well go home.”
After one hour’s racing, we’ve covered 47 kilometres.
Race leader Christensen (Saxo Bank) has about 10 seconds on two counter-attackers, Preben Van Hecke (TopSport) and Sjef De Wilde (Accent Jobs) and 30 seconds on the bunch
The bunch has now reformed into two groups. Katusha are driving in the front bunch behind Christensen, who has 25 seconds lead.
Rigoberto Uran (Sky) and Martin Velits (Omega) were also caught up in the crash.
Daniele Ratto (Liquigas), in the two-man lead breakaway, has had a puncture and dropped back. So now it’s only Christensen out there.
According to newspaper La Dernière Heure, it is very likely that Andy Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan) will race Flèche Wallone as a domestique de luxe for his brother Frank, who finished seventh on the Mur de Huy last year. Andy himself was 44th in 2011, in 2010 he was ninth and finished second in 2009.
“Amstel Gold has strengthened my morale,” Frank, twelfth in the Dutch Classic, told DH. “I made a mistake, though, I wasn’t in the right place for the Eyserbosweg [climb]. Even so, I could get back to the front of the bunch but I got cramps in the final sprint.”
“So form-wise I’m where I want to be for this time of year. My brother’s in good shape, his condition is improving day by day.”
Slovenian Jure Kocjan (Team Type 1) was one of the crash victims and has abandoned
The two leaders (Ratto and Christensen) have an 18 second advantage on a first bunch, the second is at 35 seconds
Km 29 There’s a crash, and the bunch splits in three. First group at 18 seconds on the two leaders
Chuzda has been reeled in by the bunch.
Another rider, Oleg Chuzda (Accent Jobs), is attempting to get across to our two race leaders, Ratto (Liquigas) and Christensen (Saxo Bank), who now have 15 seconds on the bunch
Daniele Ratto (Liquigas) and Mads Christiensen (Saxo Bank) have a 12 second advantage on the bunch at km 23
22 kilometres of racing now, and the two attackers have been brought back. But another two-man group is testing their luck
And we have another attack, at km 19, with two riders away. They are Kurt Hovelynck (Landbouwkrediet) and Gregoy Habeux (Accent Jobs)
That was quick. Attack of 11 riders is already over. BMC putting in the work to bring them back.
Eleven riders have now attacked at km 17
letour.fr carried out our own (motorised) recon. of the final 15 kilometres of the route of Flèche Wallone, this morning, which features a radically different run-in compared to previous years. We’ll be bringing you a detailed description of the changes a little later. That said, the Mur de Huy, though, remains the final challenge of Flèche Wallone, as per usual.
It’s now raining at the finish of Flèche Wallone, too.
The race is now in the province of Namur at kilometre 8. It’s still raining and so far there haven’t been any successful attacks. Bunch still together, therefore...
There will be a King of the Mountains competition today, awarded to the most consistent rider on Flèche Wallone 2012’s ten classified climbs.
For four times out of the last nine editions of Flèche Wallone (Gilbert in 2011, Rebellin in 2007 and 2004, Di Luca in 2005) a winner at Amstel Gold has then raised his arms again in victory on the Mur de Huy. Will this happen in 2012?
According to La Meuse newspaper, Sunday’s winner of the Dutch Classic Enrico Gasparotto (Astana) says he doesn’t think ‘doing a double’ is really likely, and that his chances of a second victory in four days are slim.
“I don’t think it’s going to happen,” Gasparotto told the paper. “I don’t have the physical build of a champion or the habit of racking up the victories like Philippe Gilbert. My favourite for today [Wednesday] is [Joaquim] Rodríguez. Amstel and Flèche aren’t the same kind of race. I prefer Liege-Bastogne-Liege.”
Racing has now officially got underway. There are no non-starters. The peloton is in km 3, and for now they are all together.
There will be three ascents of the usually Mur de Huy climb in today’s race, the first after 70.5 kilometres, the second after km 163 and the third and final time at km 194.
It’s raining, albeit not too hard, at the start in Charleroi, and it’s very windy. However, at the finish in Huy for now it’s dry
The peloton is now on the move, they have 4.6 kilometres of riding before racing proper gets underway tif is at 11.35 and racing proper gets underway at 11.45.
Hello and welcome to the live coverage of Flèche Wallone 2012. This is the 76th edition of the race and the riders are lining up at the start....the depart fictif is at 11.35 and racing proper gets underway at 11.45.