Anna van der Breggen (Rabo-Liv) capitalized on the absence of teammate and five-time winner Marianne Vos to claim the 18th edition of the women’s Flèche Wallonne atop the Mur de Huy. The 25-year-old Dutch rider crossed the line solo, beating Annemiek van Vleuten (Bigla) by 12 seconds and Megan Guarnier (Boels Domans) by 20 to take a win that also catapulted her to first place in the UCI World Cup rankings. Van der Breggen’s teammate, World Champion Pauline Ferrand-Prévot, finished in eighth place. It was Rabo-Liv’s seventh La Flèche Wallonne win in nine years.
The peloton set out under sunny skies covering Belgium’s Wallonia region. The course featured two loops for a total of 121 km and nine climbs along the way, closing out with the Côte de Cherave, a new addition to the event, and the Mur de Huy (the second ascent of the iconic climb in the race).
The bunch cruised at a high pace from the start of the race, foiling all breakaway attempts during the first hour. Lizzie Armitstead’s Boels Dolmans team set the tempo for much of the early going. Pauline Ferrand-Prévot lost ground and was forced to chase back on after a tangle left her with mechanical problems at kilometer 49, but the World champion was back in the peloton five kilometers prior to the first climb up the Mur de Huy.
The first major offensive came after 81 kilometers of racing, when Lauren Komanski (Team USA) launched an attack and was quickly joined by Lizzie Williams (Orica-AIS). The duo’s lead never went beyond 20 seconds and they were finally caught in Andenne (km 92.5). The frenetic pace up the Côte de Bohissau (km 97.5) split the peloton in half, leaving a 25-strong lead group with most of the big favorites but without Jolien D’Hoore (Wiggle), riding in the UCI World Cup leader’s white jersey.
Roxanne Knetemann (Rabo-Lov) and Annemiek van Vleuten (Bigla) jumped off the front and opened up a gap, but the Wiggle and Boels Domans squads drove a high pace to limit the damage. A select group of riders started to close in on the breakaway attempt on the steep sections of the Côte de Cherave, and Anna van der Breggen managed to catch the two leaders before the summit. Van der Breggen took advantage of her teammate’s presence at the front to launch her own attack on the Mur de Huy with 450 meters to go and solo to the win, with van Vleuten and Guarnier ultimately crossing the line behind to take the remaining steps on the podium.