Dutch 25-year-old Marianne Vos (Rabo Women Cycling Team) added a fifth Flèche Wallonne to her tally to go with those she won in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011. The current world and Olympic champion was in a class of her own in the closing stages of the final climb up the Mur de Huy. Italian Elisa Longo Borghini (Hitec Products UCK) and South African Ashleigh Moolman (Lotto Belisol Ladies) rounded off the podium.
A sunny start
The 124 riders on the start list of the sixteenth edition of the Ladies' Flèche Wallonne set off at 11:43 am under the sunny skies covering Wallonia (20°C at the start), in Huy. Today's course featured two loops for a total of 131.5 km and twelve climbs: the Côte d'Ereffe (kms 18.5 and 84.5), the Côte de Peu d'Eau (kms 37 and 103.5), the Côte de Bellaire (kms 42.5 and 108.5), the Côte de Bohisseau (kms 49.5 and 116), the Côte de Boussalle (kms 53 and 119) and the fearsome Mur de Huy (kms 65 and 131.5), at the top of which lay the finish line.
The first salvos are fired on the Côte de Bohisseau
The bunch cruised at a high pace from the start of the race, foiling all breakaway attempts during the first hour. It was not until the Côte de Bohisseau (km 49.5) that a group of eight riders was allowed up the road, with Australia's Taylor (LBL), who was first across the summit, as well as Gillow (GEW), Colclough (SLU), McGrath (USA), Brand (RBW), Cantele (BPK), Ferrier-Bruneau (FLF) and Antoshina (MCG). The escapees were finally brought back into the fold at the foot of the Mur de Huy (km 63).
The favourites test each other on the first climb up the Mur
The first ascent up the Chemin des Chapelles was an opportunity for the favourites to gauge each other's strength. A group of seven sneaked away in the steepest parts and crossed the finish line with just under ten seconds over the rest of the competitors. Marianne Vos (RBW), Eleonora Van Dijk (SLU), Ashleigh Moolman (LBL), Elisa Longo Borghini (HPU) and Emma Johansson (GEW) were all in the group, flexing their muscles ahead of the finale.
Amialiuisik goes solo, Guderzo goes for broke
First across the top of the Mur, Belarusian Alena Amialiusik (BPK) forged ahead on her own while the other attackers eased up and waited for their teammates in the feeding zone (km 66.5). The brave breakaway rode alone for about 30 kilometres but was finally gobbled up by the peloton at the foot of the Côte de Peu d'Eau (km 101), which was crowned in first place by Australia's Tiffany Cromwell, followed by Italy's Longo Borghini. Shortly after the summit of the Côte de Bohisseau (km 116), and with fifteen kilometres to go, Italian Tatiana Guderzo (MCG) decided not to wait for the final showdown, but her efforts were in vain as she was finally caught in the suburbs of Huy, a mere 3 km before the finish.
Vos does not de-Mur
The peloton still had 35 units in it when it rode through Huy and towards the final climb up the Mur de Huy. Moolman and Longo Borghini brought down the hammer on the early slopes, ejecting a great deal of riders off the back. Marianne Vos, who had stayed at the front throughout the ascent, put in a blistering attack with 150 m to go, leaving her rivals unable to respond and giving the Dutch rider enough time to savour her fifth Flèche Wallonne win. Behind, Longo Borghini and Moolman surged to clinch the remaining podium places.