Seventh podium finish for Alejandro atop Huy
Spanish superstar from Movistar Team – supported by splendid Mikel Landa – bested by nemesis Alaphilippe (QST) to end exceptional, four-year streak as winner in first of Ardennes classics’ duo.
It’s never easy to win, even if it seems so. Alejandro Valverde and the Movistar Team dug deep until the very end of a Flèche Wallonne they came really close to notching up, just like they’ve done for the past four years. The reign came to end, though, as Julian Alaphilippe (QST) bested the marvel from Murcia over the grueling, 1,300m-long Mur de Huy.
In a surprisingly hot day, and over a course tougher than in previous editions with the addition of the côtes of La Vecquée and La Redoute before the final circuit, the Telefónica-backed squad’s rivals picked up the pace from very afar from the finish. The early work by Erviti, Anacona and Amador to keep the early break on a leash had to be seconded later on by Rojas and an impressive Mikel Landa, who multiplied themselves to keep the Blues represented on the splits and push hard to bring back a dangerous six-man break – containing no less than Vincenzo Nibali (TBM).
The late work by some other teams made possible for the bunch to bridge back before the last ascent to Huy, yet made it quite more disorganized. Alaphilippe anticipated Valverde’s move, the Spaniard slightly out of position against the Frenchman, and while ‘Bala’ gained back plenty of terrain before the last 100 metres, Valverde had to ‘stay content’ with a remarkable seventh podium finish at the Flèche, prelude of yet another quest for glory in Liège-Bastogne-Liège (Sunday 22nd).
REACTION / Alejandro Valverde:
“I’m not disappointed by any means. Should I have won again, it would have seemed like it was easy for us, and people must know that it’s never easy to take a victory. I’m actually satisfied with this result. I proved again I’m once again up with the top guys in the hills. This second place in Huy and last Sunday’s fifth in the Amstel Gold – I think we stand a really good chance at Liège.
“The heat really made for a very different race. Plus, the new route before the last circuit made things harder for everyone. I feel like the team was where they should and worked all they could. There was lot of chaos in the finale with that big break, including Nibali and Kangert, and it was difficult for us to keep things sorted out. We had Rojas into the break, then we worked hard with Mikel – who was really superb – and also Imanol, Winner, Andrey… They did everything they could and I thank them for that, because everybody raced pretty much against us.
“I started climbing Huy a bit too far behind, and even though we knew that our main rival would be Alaphilippe, he attacked a bit earlier than expect, I was still gaining back positions and that effort to bring him back was too much in the end. Alaphilippe has always been an impressive contender, he had claimed a couple of second places here and it was his time to win. Hats off to Julian and his team for their efforts. I continue to enjoy this race and the hills trio, and there’s still a certain race remaining. We’ll do our best to try and win it!”
Picture (c): BettiniPhoto.net
- 01 Julian Alaphilippe Quick Step 4h53'37"
- 02 Alejandro Valverde Movistar Team +4"
- 03 Jelle Vanendert Lotto Soudal +6"
- 42 Mikel Landa Movistar Team +1'59"
- 87 José Joaquín Rojas Movistar Team +10'02"
- — Imanol Erviti Movistar Team DNF
- — Carlos Betancur Movistar Team DNF
- — Winner Anacona Movistar Team DNF
- — Andrey Amador Movistar Team DNF