Spaniard claims back-to-back victories in Flèche Wallonne, snatches third win in Belgian classic after fantastic work from Movistar team-mates, including a remarkable Giovanni Visconti
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) took another convincing win in the Flèche Wallonne as crashes, nervousness and plenty of attacks dominated the scene in the first of two big spring races in the eastern Belgian hills. The telephone squad's leader outsprinted Julien Alaphilippe (EQS) and Michael Albasini (OGE) after a tactically perfect finish, always on front, with no danger and a powerful final sprint which crowned an excellent race from all his team-mates.
Imanol Erviti, Rory Sutherland -crashed with no injuries in the finale- and José Herrada were early to join Katusha at the crash of the day's break, which was ultimately reached by Giovanni Visconti as the Italian searched for a move into the second of three climbs of the Mur de Huy. Visconti, joined by Luis León Sánchez (AST), kept the front until the slopes of the new Côte de Cherave, 6km from the finish, with several attacks and huge pace splitting the field and leaving about 30 riders with a chance into the last ascent of the 'Mur'. A sensational Visconti, together with José Joaquín Rojas, controlled a dangerous attack by Tim Wellens (LTS) and left 'Bala' into perfect position leading up to the climb, where he found no rivals for his fifth victory of the season -16th for the Movistar Team, in the Blues' first start to a season in a decade-.
REACTION / Alejandro Valverde: "At the end of the day, Huy is a climb that suits me perfectly well and I can only come for the win here – I'm super happy this happened again today. It was an extremely hard day, with a lot of nerves out there, loads of crashes… it is some time since I've raced on such a tense field as today's. There were crashes already with 130km to go, some of them happening within the first 30 places of the bunch… just dangerous.
"I felt really willing to fight for it, the team is doing splendid these days and we could only do our best to win. It was always under control today – ever since we started controlling the pace into the bunch, then with Giovanni Visconti into the break. With the climb of Cherave, everyone was more tired at the foot of the Mur and that really had an impact. I came into the final climb in a great position and decided to lead the pace so I didn't get boxed in – I could also control all moves from the front and still save some energy for the finish. With 200 meters to go, It already seemed clear to me I could win this one, because I was keeping the position and had the legs to push and contest the sprint with everything until the finish line.
"Winning here three times is something I'm really happy about, and even more being so regular: second in Amstel the other day, now winning Flèche… we'll see what happens in Liège on Sunday. It's a really beautiful race, maybe the one I like the most and the one that suits me best, and I dream of being again in the mix there. We're in high morale but also really calm: having won this one and always staying on the podium, we are confident we can fight again on Sunday."