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The Movistar rider attacked clear of her rivals with 400 meters to go, hoping to keep them behind her all the way to the line.
She went so deep that she began seeing stars in her eyes, and even though she felt she had done a perfect ascent of the Huy, it wasn’t enough to get rid of Marta Cavalli, who would drop Van Vleuten in the final 50m.
“It was a perfect race from our team. Super good to see everyone 100 percent committed to ride for me, I feel super honored also with that, but also everyone contributed to this,” Van Vleuten said.
“I didn’t spend any energy somewhere on the road. I had all the time perfect leadouts into Cherave, which was really important, and then, also, in the final, having Arlenis and Paula with me for a perfect leadout into the Mur — it was the first time in my life, and you’re never too old to learn, that I did the Mur perfectly.”
Van Vleuten has a good record on the Mur de Huy, finishing second twice before this year’s edition and taking fourth on three other occasions. She put a lot into her preparation for this year’s La Flèche Wallonne and looked to her Movistar teammate Alejandro Valverde, a five-time winner of the men’s La Flèche Wallonne, for help.
— La Flèche Wallonne (@flechewallonne) April 20, 2022
Using everything she’d learned from Valverde, Van Vleuten led from the front and put everything she had into the final ascent of the Mur de Huy.
“I always started it too much behind in the past, and here I just rode to the plan, a plan I made yesterday with help from Alejandro,” she explained.
“I did exactly what he told me. Super hard tempo, especially after the two hardest corners; keeping the tempo even higher after those if I had good legs, as he told me; and then with 150 meters to go, trying to go all out, just like he told me. I saw black stars, everything was black in my face, because of Cavalli coming I had to give my absolute everything. I did not leave any firework unused on this climb.”
Wednesday’s runner-up finish is Van Vleuten’s third visit to the second step on the podium in the last six weeks. After a strong start to the year, she hasn’t been able to grab a win since her victory at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad at the end of February.
Despite missing out by a small margin on the Mur de Huy, Van Vleuten is taking confidence out of her team’s performance ahead of some major targets later this season. She’s also looking forward for another shot at victory this weekend at Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
“From the team, as I said, it was perfect; it’s a race we can take massive confidence from for the next events, especially for the Tour de France,” Van Vleuten said. “With our climbers getting there, we’re reaching to the point of having a perfect squad. For Liège, we can take confidence out of this because my legs were good and not many rivals could follow me on the Mur, plus the climbs are a bit longer in Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
“I can’t feel disappointed today. I had one moment when I thought I could win it, with 200 meters to go, then Cavalli was still able to jump. It’s not something I can control.”