Aerts and Luperini reign supreme at Fleche’

When the final selection of riders hit the base of the Mur de Huyfor the third time and final time in the 66th edition of the Fleche Wallonneon Wednesday, the Belgian fans, tipping back beers and basking in the hazyspring sunshine, saw decent odds. After 197km of racing, including twoprevious trips over the steep, snaking Mur climb, the trademark obstacleof this Belgian spring race, it had come down to an impressive group ofsurvivors. Two were Belgian. First, there was Axel Merckx. Approaching the base of the climb, whichhas pitches surpassing 20 percent in places, Merckx attacked. A roar

By Kip Mikler, VeloNews editor, in Huy

Aerts survives the Mur to take Fleche

Aerts survives the Mur to take Fleche

Photo: Graham Watson

When the final selection of riders hit the base of the Mur de Huyfor the third time and final time in the 66th edition of the Fleche Wallonneon Wednesday, the Belgian fans, tipping back beers and basking in the hazyspring sunshine, saw decent odds. After 197km of racing, including twoprevious trips over the steep, snaking Mur climb, the trademark obstacleof this Belgian spring race, it had come down to an impressive group ofsurvivors. Two were Belgian.

First, there was Axel Merckx. Approaching the base of the climb, whichhas pitches surpassing 20 percent in places, Merckx attacked. A roar wentup for the tall Domo-Farm Frites rider who, five hour earlier, had beenchatting it up with his father Eddy, the greatest cyclist of all time asevery Belgian cycling fan will tell you, at the start in the rundown miningtown of Charleroi.

The odds for those Belgian fans were decent, but they weren’t great.

Cheering on the home team.

Cheering on the home team.

Photo: Kip Mikler

There were Italians to worry about, including two serious threats, menwho know how to win classics: Michele Bartoli (Fassa Bortolo) and his teammateCasagrande, both of whom had won Fleche Wallonne before (Casagrande in2000, Bartoli in 1999).

Not far behind were Mapei-Quick Step strongman Andrea Noe; Davide Rebellin,the Italian leader of the German Gerolsteiner team; and the life-after-the-Giro-bust version of Dario Frigo (Tacconi Sport).

Then there was Rabobank threat Michael Boogerd, badly in need of a bigwin and looking aggressive all afternoon, as well as Euskadel-Euskadi climbersDavid Etxebarria and Unai Etxebarria and ONCE’s Jose Azevedo.

No sooner had Merckx got the crowd all worked up when he was caught.The next man to the front, however, was another Belgian, Mario Aerts ofthe Lotto-Adecco team. When he made his move, he would admit later, hewas not confident.

“I was worried about Bartoli and Noe,” he said.

Just three days earlier, Johan Museeuw had delighted the home fans withhis win at Paris-Roubaix. Was it too much to ask for another Belgian winin the same week?

The sun was shining in Belgium. Anything could happen.

Aerts, his confidence boosted by the presence of the fans, as well asthe man speaking into his ear — Lotto assistant manager Claude Criquielion,himself a two-time winner at Fleche Wallonne — stayed with it. Unai Etxebarriatried to respond, but could only dangle 20 meters behind

The attacks started early in the 198km race, which took riders fromCharleroi to the town of Huy, where they then completed two more largeloops, the first one 33.5km, the second 94km. All of the early attemptsto escape were shut down, and as the field hit the Mur for the first time,Casagrande was at the front, setting the pace.

On the descent off the Mur, a three-man break formed containing AlexZulle (Coast), Jens Heppner (Telekom) and Walter Beneteau (Bonjour).

The group quickly gained time on the field, until, at the 96km mark,they had a gap of 3:10. With two potential winners in its deck, however,Fassa Bortolo went to the front and began the chase.

At the summit of the Mur the second time around, 104km into the race,the gap was down to 2:20. It appeared Zulle and company were done, butthe field slowed the pace again and the trio of escapees got a temporaryreprieve.

Before their gap climbed too high, however, American Levi Leipheimer,riding for Rabobank, began the move that would mark the end of the trio’sday at the front. Working for Boogerd, Leipheimer set off on a chase with80km to go.

“I attacked but unfortunately no one came with me,” Leipheimer said.“I didn’t force it too much but I had better legs than I thought. It wasjust too bad no one came with me.”

Leipheimer hung by himself for about 15 kilometers until another chasegroup caught him and then grew to include the eventual finalists on theMur. There were several other attempts, including one by Boogerd on theCôte de Bohissau, with 28km to go, but in the end it came down tothat final selection on the Mur.

As Aerts turned the Dura-Ace cranks on his Litespeed up the climb, thecrowd at the top began the song. Last year it was another Lotto man fromBelgium, Rik Verbrugghe, and three days earlier, at Roubaix, it had beenJohann Museeuw.

But today it was Mario, and that’s the song the Belgian fans sang.

Luperini earns her third win at Fleche'

Luperini earns her third win at Fleche’

Photo: Graham Watson


The fifth edition of the women’s Fleche Wallonne, round 4 of the 2002UCI Women’s World Cup, also came down to a battle on the Mur, but it wasa battle to catch Fabiana Luperini of the Edilsavino team. Luperini madeher winning move on the Côte de Ahin, the second to last climb inthe 93.5km women’s race.

A group of 12 tried to go after the Italian, but she hit the base ofthe Mur 10km later with enough of a gap to hold off her chasers. Saturn’sLyne Bessette finished second, Swiss national team rider Priska Doppmannwas third, and Nicole Cooke of Great Britain was fifth.

Finishing fourth, and taking over the World Cup lead, was Dutch riderMirjam Melchers of Farm Frites-Hartol. Petra Rossner (Saturn), winner ofthe first two World Cup races, fell to second overall and now trails Melchersby 8 points.

Related StoriesLiveupdates in chronological orderMen’sStart ListWomen’sStart List 

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Men’s Results

1. AERTS Mario (B), LOT 4:42:04


3. BARTOLI Michele (I),FAS at 00:06

4. NOE Andrea (I),MAP at 00:06

5. AZEVEDO Jose (P), ONE at 00:06

6. MERCKX Axel (B),DFF at 00:06

7. FRIGO Dario (I),TAC at 00:06


9. BOOGERD Michael (Nl),RAB at 00:06

10. CASAGRANDE Francesco (I),FASat

11. REBELLIN Davide (I),GST at 00:06

at 00:24

13. ASTARLOA Igor (Sp),SAE at 00:24

14. FARAZIJN Peter (B),COF at 00:24

15. MANCEBO PEREZ Francisco (Sp),BAN at

16. SORENSEN Nicki (Dk),CST at 00:24

17. VANDE VELDE Christian (USA),USP at 00:24

18. BRUYLANDTS Dave (B),DFF at 00:24

19. FREIRE GOMEZ Oscar (Sp),MAPat

20. BOLTS Udo (G),TEL at 00:24

21. VICIOSO ARCOS Angel (Sp),KEL at 00:24

22. AEBERSOLD Niki (Swi),COA at 00:24

23. JAKSCHE Jörg (G),ONE at 00:24

24. KIVILEV Andrei KAZ COF at 00:24


26. CELESTINO Mirko (I),SAE at 00:24

27. CODOL Massimo (I),LAM at 00:24

28. BASSO Ivan (I),FAS at 00:24

29. HALGAND Patrice (F),DEL at 00:48

30. GUSTOV Volodymir (UKR) FAS at 00:48

31. MOREAU Christophe (F),C.A at 00:48

32. ZBERG Markus (Swi),RAB at 00:53

33. GIANETTI Mauro (Swi),COA at 00:53

34. TRENTIN Guido (I),COF at 00:53

35. BAGUET Serge (B),LOT at 00:53

36. VASSEUR Cedric (F),COF at 00:53

37. BETTINI Paolo (I),MAP at 00:53

38. ZBERG Beat (Swi),RAB at 00:53

39. FLECHA GIANNONI Juan Antonio (Sp),BAN at 01:10

40. VINOKOUROV Alexandre KAZ TEL at 01:14

41. BOUYER Franck (F),BJR at 01:17

42. DONATI Massimo (I),TAC at 01:23

43. RASTELLI Ellis (I),GST at 03:00

44. SACCHI Fabio (I),SAE at 03:00

45. KONECNY Tomas CZE DFF at 03:00

46. MOOS Alexandre (Swi),PHO at 03:22

47. GIL PEREZ Koldo (Sp),BAN at 05:18

48. KESSLER Matthias (G),TEL at 05:18

49. BESSY Frederic (F),C.A. at 05:18

50. BROCHARD Laurent (F),DEL at 05:18

51. GARATE Juan Manuel (Sp),LAM at 05:18

52. CUESTA LOPEZ Inigo (Sp),COF at 05:18

53. BARANOWSKI Dariusz (Pol),BAN at 05:18

54. ZABALLA GUTIERREZ Constantino (Sp),KEL at 05:18

55. FARESIN Gianni (I),GST at 05:18

56. BROZYNA Thomas (Pol),BAN at 05:18

57. BEUCHAT Roger (Swi),PHO at 05:27

58. RUMSAS Raimondas LTU LAM at 05:27

59. SIMON Francois (F),BJR at 05:27

60. LEFEVRE Laurent (F),DEL at 05:27

61. RASMUSSEN Michael (Dk),CST at 05:27

62. ZAMPIERI Steve (Swi),TAC at 05:33

63. DESMET Tom (B),MAR at 05:33

64. VAN HUFFEL Wim (B),VLA at 05:33

65. VERHEYEN Geert (B),RAB at 05:37

66. VERBRUGGHE Rik (B),LOT at 05:37

67. VAN DE WOUWER Kurt (B),LOT at 05:37

68. HUSER Rolf (Swi),COA at 05:37

69. CHRISTENSEN Bekim (Dk),COA at 05:37

70. SZMYD Sylvester (Pol),TAC at 05:37

71. HOSTE Leif (B),DFF at 05:37

72. TONKOV Pavel (Rus),LAM at 05:37

73. BENETEAU Walter (F),BJR at 05:37

74. EVANS Cadel (Aus),MAP at 05:37

75. DE WOLF Steve (B),DFF at 05:37

76. CARUSO Giampaolo (I),ONE at 05:37

77. MENCHOV Denis (Rus),BAN at 05:37

78. HEPPNER Jens (G),TEL at 05:37

79. SCHMIDT Torsten (G),GST at 05:37

80. LEIPHEIMER Levy (USA),RAB at 05:37

81. PANTANI Marco (I),MER at 05:37

82. MAZZANTI Luca (I),MER at 05:37

83. CLAVERO SEBASTIAN Daniel (Sp),MER at 05:37

84. RUBIERA VIGIL Jose Luis (Sp),USP at 05:37

85. ISASI FLORES Inaki (Sp),EUS at 05:37

86. LOZANO Roberto (Sp),KEL at 05:37

87. KASHECHKIN Andrey KAZ DFF at 05:37

88. KJAERGAARD Steffen NOR USP at 05:58

89. BELLI Wladimir (I),FAS at 05:58

90. PRADERA RODRIGUEZ Mikel (Sp),ONE at 05:58

91. TANKINK Bram (Nl),DFF at 05:58

92. JULICH Bobby (USA),TEL at 05:58

93. DESSEL Cyril (F),DEL at 05:58

94. MISSAGLIA Gabriele (I),LAM at 05:58

95. GRABSCH Bert (G),PHO at 05:58

96. ZUCCONI Pietro (Swi),TAC at 05:58

97. JIMENEZ SANCHEZ Eladio (Sp),BAN at 05:58

98. MORIN Anthony (F),C.A at 05:58

99. MIKHAILOV Guennadi (Rus),LOT at 05:58

100. BOUVARD Gilles (F),DEL at 05:58

101. VELO Marco (I),FAS at 06:16

102. MAZZOLENI Eddy (I),TAC at 06:16

103. STANGELJ Gorazd SLO FAS at 06:16

104. WROLICH Peter (A),GST at 06:16

105. LUTTENBERGER Peter (A),TAC at 06:16

106. FOFONOV Dmitri KAZ COF at 06:16

107. YAKOVLEV Sergueï (KAZ) TEL at 06:16

108. BARBERO Sergio (I),LAM at 06:16

109. DI LUCA Danilo (I),SAE at 06:16

110. GUILBERT Charles (F),BJR at 06:16

111. PINEAU Jérôme (F),BJR at 06:24

112. ORTENZI Gian Mario (I),MER at 06:24

113. KLODEN Andreas (G),TEL at 06:24

114. PAOLINI Luca (I),MAP at 06:24

115. FORCONI Riccardo (I),MER at 06:24

116. POZZI Oscar (I),FAS at 06:31

117. SPEZIALETTI Alessandro (I),SAE at 06:34

118. FORNACIARI Paolo (I),MAP at 06:34

119. BRIGNOLI Ermanno (I),MER at 06:34

120. BRANDT Christophe (B),LOT at 06:34

121. POILVET Benoit (F),C.A at 07:33

122. CUNEGO Damiano (I),SAE at 08:11

123. MARTIN Ludovic (F),C.A at 08:17

124. THIBOUT Bruno (F),DEL at 08:20

125. SCHNIDER Daniel (Swi),PHO at 08:20

126. SECCHIARI Francesco (I),MER at 08:20

127. MARTINEZ TRINIDAD José Alberto (Sp), EUS at 08:26

128. MUÑOZ David (Sp),KEL at 08:26

129. CHAVANEL Sylvain (F),BJR at 08:33

130. STRAUSS Marcel (Swi),GST at 08:36

131. GARCIA ALONSO Marcelino (Sp),CST at 08:40

132. HERVE Cédric (F),C.A at 08:40

133. PERON Andrea (I),CST at 08:40

134. NIERMANN Grischa (G),RAB at 08:40

135. FLORES GALARZA Igor (Sp),EUS at 08:58

136. COENEN Johan (B),MAR at 09:26

137. VANACKER Marc (LUX) MAR at 09:26

138. CHANTYR Anton (Rus),COA at 09:26

139. INGEBY Kristoffer (SWE) MAR at 09:26

140. DEKKERS Johan (B),MAR at 09:26

141. WENTZEL Rudolf (SA),VLA at 09:26

142. PEPOLI Cristian (I),SAE at 09:26

143. USANO MARTINEZ Julian (Sp),KEL at 09:40

144. VON KLEINSORGEN Christoph (G),COA at 09:46

145. ZUMSTEG Lukas (Swi),PHO at 12:27

146. CLINGER David (USA),USP at 12:46

147. CALCAGNI Patrick (Swi),TAC at 12:51

148. LE MEVEL Christophe (F),C.A at 12:51

149. MARTINEZ DE ESTEBAN Egoi (Sp),EUS at 13:10

Women’s results

1. LUPERINI Fabiana (I) EDI 2h33:15

2. BESSETTE Lyne (Can) SAW at 00:12

3. DOPPMANN Priska (Swi) Swiss National at 00:12

4. MELCHERS Mirjam (Nl) FAR at 00:12

5. COOKE Nicole (GB) DEI at 00:12

6. PUCINSKAITE Edita (Ltu) FIG at 00:23

7. ALEXANDER Caroline (GB) British National at 00:27

8. SCHLEICHER Regina (G) MIC at 00:27

9. PARENTE Simona (I) EDI at 00:27

10. CAMBOULIVES Aline (F) (F) at 00:27

11. BRANDLI Nicole (Swi) ADO at 00:27

12. WORRACK Trixi (G) German National  at 00:39

13. PIETERS Cindy (B) VLL at 00:43

14. SUNDSTEDT Pia (Fin) SPO at 00:43

15. KUPFERNAGEL Hanka (G) NUR at 00:43

16. BOSMAN Andrea (Nl) POW at 00:48

17. POLIKEVICIUTE Rasa (Ltu) ADO at 00:48

18. BOUBNENKOVA Svetlana (Rus) EDI at 00:48

19. OKI Miho JPN CAM at 00:48

20. VAN DE VIJVER Heidi (B) VLL at 00:48

21. RUTHERFORD Hayley (Aus) (Aus) at 00:48

22. MARCUZ Sandrine (F) (F) at 00:57

23. CAPPELLOTTO Alessandra (I) POW at 01:02

24. ZABIROVA Zoulfa (Rus) FIG at 01:05

25. VERONESI Daniela (Smr) EDI at 01:14

26. ROSSNER Petra (G) SAW at 01:17

27. BRUCKNER Kimberly USA SAW at 01:17

28. ARNDT Judith (G) SAW at 01:17

29. BRODTKA Angela (G) German National  at 01:17

30. HEMSLEY Margaret (Aus) NUR at 01:23

31. SYMINGTON Sara (GB) British National at 01:30

32. HIERCKENS Corine (B) POW at 01:34

33. ZIJLAARD-VAN MOORSEL Leontien (Nl) FAR at 01:52

34. HUGUET Sonia (F) (F) at 02:01

35. ZA (B)INSKAIA Olga (Rus) ITR at 02:04

36. GOLLAN Olivia (Aus) (Aus) at 02:11

37. KARPENKO Valentyna UKR DEI at 02:11

38. GRIMBERG Arenda (Nl) FAR at 02:11

39. MARTISSOVA Ioulja (Rus) ITR at 02:11

40. LORENZONI Marianna (I) ALI at 02:11

41. CARRARA Vera (I) ITR at 02:11

42. POLIKEVICIUTE Jolanta (Ltu) ADO at 02:19

43. BRAVO SOBA Rosa ESP ESP at 02:19

44. ZILIUTE Diana (Ltu) ADO at 02:19

45. MACTIER Katie (Aus) MIC at 02:19

46. MOINARD Virginie (F) (F) at 02:19

47. JAUNATRE Marina (F) (F) at 02:19

48. TADICH Elizabeth (Aus) (Aus) at 02:19

49. VAN DAMME Evy (B) Belgian National at 02:34

50. SIMPER Lisbeth DEN MIC at 02:34

51. CARRIGAN Sara (Aus) (Aus) at 02:34

52. WRIGHT Alison (Aus) (Aus) at 02:34

53. (B)TMAN Chantal (Nl) ADO at 02:43

54. (Can)TELE Noemi (I) ADO at 02:43

55. KHODTCHENKOVA Marina (Rus) EDI at 02:43

56. DAHLE Guun-Rita NOR SPO at 02:43

57. VALEN Monica NOR SPO at 02:50

58. CHUZHYNOVA Iryna UKR EDI at 02:53

59. BRAS Martine (Nl) OND at 02:57

60. HENNES Tanja (G) NUR at 02:57

61. WICHMANN Anke (G) German National  at 02:57

62. WILLIAMS Naomi (Aus) (Aus) at 03:13

63. PARIETTI Silvia (I) FIG at 04:54

64. BONANOMI Roberta (I) FIG at 05:11

65. GRAUS Andrea (A) AUT at 05:17

66. THOMAS Susan (GB) British National at 05:23

67. HEAL Rachel (GB) British National at 05:28

68. VONCKX Vanja (B) VLL at 05:31

69. PHILLIPS Jessica USA SAW at 05:31

70. PURNER Andrea (A) AUT at 05:31

71. BATES Katherine (Aus) OND at 05:31

72. NOBUS Anja (B) Belgian National at 05:31

73. CORNEO Sigrid (I) ITR at 05:31

74. BAUMANN Denise (Swi) Swiss National at 05:31

75. QUICK Ronda USA FIG at 05:31

76. TRAXEL Sonia (Swi) Swiss National at 05:48

77. BEUTLER Annette (Swi) Swiss National at 05:48

78. FLATAAS Solrun NOR SPO at 05:51

79. VAN DONGEN Minke (Nl) Dutch National at 05:51

80. KOEDOODER Vera (Nl) Dutch National at 05:51

81. WANNIJN Ine (B) Belgian National at 05:56

82. KACHALKA Nataliya UKR DEI at 06:02

83. LECOURTOIS Fany (F) DEI at 06:05

84. ALGELID Jenny SWE NUR at 06:05

85. WAMPFLER Sandra (Swi) CAM at 06:10

86. CREUX Sophie (F) (F) at 06:19

87. GIARDINELLI Letizia (I) MIC at 06:19

88. RIEDLE Sylvie (F) CAM at 06:19

89. CARTER Susan (GB) British National at 06:35

90. (B)VEDERESI Tania (I) POW at 07:01