Spaniard from Movistar Team -world-leading eight victories in 2014- conquers second career Flèche Wallonne after splendid final attack through the Mur de Huy
PICTURES | Flèche Wallone gallery
Alejandro Valverde was eager to claim a top victory to crown an impressive start to his 2014 season. Today, at the Flèche Wallonne, the Movistar Team’s leader took a splendid job by all his team-mates to fruition in the final meters of the Mur de Huy, the last of eleven climbs in a 199km parcours starting at Bastogne.
The telephone squad kept the same working style they showed three days earlier in the Amstel Gold Race. Iván Gutiérrez, firstly, and Imanol Erviti, into the final loop, added the pace into the climbs needed to make the race harder, before leaving room for a sensational Jesús Herrada, whose continuous accelerations lasted even until the end of the penultimate ascent, Ereffe, with about fourth riders in the main field. Valverde kept full focus on reaching the start of the final Huy passage up-front -he reached the foot within the first ten of the bunch-, and after getting slightly boxed in into the hardest slopes, jumped away with all strength at the 150m banner to comfortably beat Dan Martin (GRS) and Michal Kwiatkowski (OPQ), second and third respectively.
It’s Valverde’s eight victory of 2014 -the most winning rider so far in the pro scene- and his 81th in cycling’s top tier. Movistar Team increases their tally to thirteen, and will go for another chance in four days’ time, with the 100th Liège-Bastogne-Liège (Sunday, 263km) marking the oldest of the WorldTour spring classics.
REACTION / Alejandro Valverde: “I’m really happy: this one’s for me, my family, my team, all my team-mates, everyone who supports me. Esta victoria representa muchísimo, para mí y para el equipo. This victory means a lot to me and the rest of the team. The Ardennes were resisting to me in the last few years – always getting podium places, but no victories. I was coming here a bit furious. I felt strong at the Amstel, but not as today. I had good legs from the beginning; when you feel well, you have to take all chances. It turned out perfectly well at the end, but sometimes, you’re doing well but you run out of luck, which I really had today.
“Those who contested the win today were not a surprise at all: all the top guys. I didn’t want to get myself boxed in – I had to get in very, very good position into the final climb. When you’re feeling great, you have to start climbs up-front not to suffer any misfortune. You can get boxed in, you have to break, you take bigger efforts, and you don’t win. I was looking for Dani (Moreno), Purito, Gilbert, Kwiatkowski, Daniel Martin… there were many candidates I was next to the barriers with 300m to go and couldn’t get past, but as soon as I saw a gap, I followed it, I jumped away and managed to make a gap and raise my arms at the finish. Surprised? Maybe a bit, but in such steep climbs, when I feel strong, I manage to keep some extra energy and profit from it there.
“The team was superb, always there almost until the finish. Everyone fulfilled the task they were supposed to, something I’m really grateful about. Even though I say it all the time, you don’t win if you haven’t got a strong team. Feeling yourself well protected and seeing them taking their hearts out for you – it’s really important. Now we get to Liège more calm, not relaxed at all, but with less pressure. It’s a race I like, my favourite of the three, where I already won – we’ll go for it. We can win or lose, but should things go right, we will be in the thick of things.”