Race - 1 day: Flèche Wallonne info


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The 78th edition of the Flèche Wallonne will take off on Wednesday morning from the city of Bastogne heading to Huy and it's spectacular Mur. A recent winner of the Amstel Gold Race, Belgian Philippe Gilbert will be the man to watch on home soil but quite a few contenders will be hungry for glory especially on a brand new final loop.

While the final climb of the Flèche Wallonne hasn't changed since last year, a modification of the final kilometres of the event could have an influence on the scenario of the race. Indeed these last few years the main explanation would take place between the most explosive punchers on the famous Chemin des Chapelles. This year however the final loop around Huy will be reduced to 23.5kms and  the penultimate climb up the Mur de Huy could also be decisive according to  Jean-Michel Monin who designed this new course: “Last year the last loop was 30kms long and there was a portion of flat roads that was too long. For example, a few years ago, Frank Schleck had launched a plan that could have paid off but the pack came back on the flat. Now the riders will take on the last loop with 2 or 3 kilometres of downhill and will rapidly go up the Côte d'Ereffe. Based on that, it wouldn't be surprising to see a group of favourites make it clear to the finish”. The last rider to have won the Fleche Wallonne on his own was Igor Astarloa and that was back in 2003.

After having won the Brabantse Pijl and the Amstel Gold Race, Philippe Gilbert re-conquered his status as the main favourite of the Fleche Wallonne, a race he claimed back in 2011 and finished 3rd in 2012. Speaking to Letour.fr, his Directeur Sportif at BMC, Valerio Piva talked about how his leader is again the man to beat: “I don't know if he's in the same shape as in 2011 but he enjoyed a fine winter and that was a great base to work on. He won the Amstel Gold Race with authority and will show up at the start of the Fleche in ideal conditions. He never lost his killer instinct”. Valerio Piva also insists on the key role of his new recruit in the team, Samuel Sanchez: “Last Sunday he showed he was able to shake the pack and trouble our opponents just before Philippe's final and decisive move. He's a rider who was already able to climb on the podium of the Flèche so he too will be protected”.

After finishing third of last year's Flèche Wallonne, Carlos Betancur had high expectations for this edition, making the event one of his key objectives of the year. The winner of Paris-Nice however struggled with an infection on his knee that forced him to pull out of both the Tour of Catalunya and the Tour of Pais Vasco. A major blow, but his Directeur Sportif at AG2R-La Mondiale, Julien Jurdie remains optimistic after weeks of treatment: “He's better. He's not a 100% but felt a lot better at the Amstel Gold Race. On a shorter race like the Flèche, I hope he'll be able to play a key part and aim for victory. We hope it'll go well but we're slightly less optimistic”. Like many other squads, AG2R has prepared a plan B, explained by Jurdie: “We really like this new course with more difficulties in the final part. If there's a move in the last 20 or 15 kilometres, we'll be counting on Romain Bardet. He's typically the kind of rider who can express himself and this final loop will probably give many teams a lot of ideas.”

The TV coverage of the Flèche Wallonne that was already global for quite some years with the race aired in 186 countries will gain in exposure. Among the new channels joining in, Portugal's TVI 24 will offer a live broadcast for the very first time, and so will Canadian channel Sportsnet. Thanks to the TV viewers of BeIN Sports in the Middle-eastern and North African countries; 23 new nations will have the opportunity to watch the race live after only having the possibility to watch highlights in 2013.

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