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Rebellin wins Flèche Wallonne

There’s no secret why Davide Rebellin pointed to his head after winning his third La Flèche Wallonne title on Wednesday. The Italian veteran proved he had the legs to summit the Mur de Huy alongside the other strongmen of the Ardennes races. But it was the cagy Italian’s brains that earned him the winning margin on the slopes of the feared climb. “It might just be the best of my three wins," Rebellin said. “I've been working hard in that respect (climbing)."

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By Fred Dreier

Rebellin scores a rare triple in Fleche Wallonne.

Rebellin scores a rare triple in Fleche Wallonne.

Photo: Agence France Presse

There’s no secret why Davide Rebellin pointed to his head after winning his third La Flèche Wallonne title on Wednesday. The Italian veteran proved he had the legs to summit the Mur de Huy alongside the other strongmen of the Ardennes races. But it was the cagy Italian’s brains that earned him the winning margin on the slopes of the feared climb.

“It might just be the best of my three wins,” Rebellin said. “I’ve been working hard in that respect (climbing).”

Rebellin hit the base of the Mur tucked into a large peloton of 64 riders that survived the race’s attack-filled final 30 kilometers. Saxo Bank rider Nicki Sorenson drove the group, looking to set up Andy Schleck, as the peloton rounded the sharp right hand turn onto the Mur.

But a suicide attack by David Lelay of Agritubel forced the favorites to show their cards earlier than expected. Lelay quickly gained a three-second advantage on the climb’s steepest ramp. It was Silence-Lotto’s Cadel Evans who took up the initiative to reel the Frenchman back in with Schleck on his wheel and Rebellin in third.

Silence Lotto drives the chase.

Silence Lotto drives the chase.

Photo: Graham Watson

The Australian pulled Lelay back, but inevitably ran out of gas. Rebellin saw Evans lose momentum and then fired his salvo and sprinted around for the win.

“I felt good on the climb, which wasn’t that long but was very difficult,” added Rebellin, who owns a silver medal from the 2008 Olympics.

With the win, Rebellin becomes the fourth man to have won Flèche Wallonne three times (he also won it in 2006 and 2007). Belgians Eddy Merckx and Marcel Klint, and Italian Moreno Argentin are the other three-time winners.

Evans said he was disappointed with his form, having watched chances of a Flèche Wallonne victory erased on the Mur for the second-consecutive year. In 2008 Evans tried to ride the field off his wheel at the base of the Mur, only to see Luxembourger Kim Kirchen relegate him to second. This year the Australian was passed by Cunego and Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) in the waning meters and had to settle for fifth.

Pleasant spring weather for a spring classic.

Pleasant spring weather for a spring classic.

Photo: Graham Watson

“I was chasing [Lelay] and was gearing up for the sprint when [Fabian] Wegmann took me right toward the barriers and that was it,” said Evans.

Solo Mission for Moreau

The large group hit the Mur after 195 kilometers of racing, most of which saw French hero Christophe Moreau (Agritubel) ride solo off the front with Japanese rider Fumiyuki Beppu (Skil-Shimano). The duo gained their advantage eight kilometers into the race, and by the time they hit the first of three climbs up the Mur, Moreau and Beppu had a 15-minute lead.

Moreau goes on his own.

Moreau goes on his own.

Photo: Graham Watson

The Flèche Wallonne course begins in the French-speaking city of Charleroi, then follows the Meuse river to Huy where it loops twice over the steep Mur. Beppu and Moreau’s advantage was down to 11 minutes on their second assault of the Mur, and by the time the two set out on the final long loop, the peloton was bringing the gap down quickly

Moreau dropped Beppu with 78 kilometers to go, and behind the Frenchman the peloton had come to life. With 36 kilometers remaining a group of 13 riders rolled off the front which included danger men Oscar Periero (Caisse d’Epargne), Jakob Fuglsang and Chris Anker Sorenson (Saxo Bank), Wegmann and Enrico Gasparotto (Lampre).

Scarponi on the attack.

Scarponi on the attack.

Photo: Graham Watson

The chase to neutralize the break on the Cote de Bonneville shed the defending champ Kirchen, who has struggled to regain his form after suffering broken ribs in a pileup during the Amgen Tour of California. Also shed on the climb were Americans Thomas Peterson and Jason Donald of the Garmin-Slipstream squad.

After a flurry of attacks it was Rebellin’s Diquigiovanni teammate Jose Serpa who opened up a dangerous 17-second gap on the Cote de Bousalle. And when the Caisse d’Epargne-led peloton shut him down Diquigiovanni’s Michele Scarponi joined a six-man break that got away on the penultimate climb, the Cote de Ahin.

The moves undoubtedly took pressure off of the veteran Rebellin, who bided his time for the assault on the Mur. The group came together on the run-in to Huy, shortly thereafter the Italian made his move.

“I knew I had to continue to finish off the great work by my team,” said Rebellin.

Photo Gallery

Results

Preliminary Top 50
1. Davide Rebellin (Ita), Serramenti PVC, 4:42:15
2. Andy Schleck (Lux), Saxo Bank, at 0:02
3. Damiano Cunego (Ita), Lampre-NGC, at 0:02
4. Samuel Sanchez (Spa), Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 0:07
5. Cadel Evans (Aus), Silence-Lotto, at 0:07
6. Thomas Lövkvist (Swe), Columbia-Highroad, at 0:07
7. Alejandro Valverde (Spa), Caisse d’Epargne, at 0:11
8. Simon Gerrans (Aus), Cervelo Test, at 0:11
9. Michael Albasini (Swi), Columbia-Highroad, at 0:11
10. Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita), Ag2r La Mondiale, at 0:15
11. Clément Lhotellerie (Fra), Vacansoleil, at 0:18
12. David Lelay (Fra), Agritubel, at 0:21
13. Serguei Ivanov (Rus), Katusha, at 0:21
14. Ben Hermans (Bel), Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator, at 0:21
15. Chris Sørensen (Den), Saxo Bank, at 0:21
16. Dries Devenyns (Bel), Quick Step, at 0:24
17. Bert De Waele (Bel), Landbouwkrediet-Colnago, at 0:26
18. Fabian Wegmann (Ger), Milram, at 0:26
19. Enrico Gasparotto (Ita), Lampre-NGC, at 0:26
20. Guillaume Levarlet (Fra), Française Des Jeux, at 0:26
21. Alexandr Kolobnev (Rus), Saxo Bank, at 0:29
22. Dario Cataldo (Ita), Quick Step, at 0:32
23. John-Lee Augustyn (RSA), Barloworld, at 0:32
24. Nicki Sørensen (Den), Saxo Bank, at 0:32
25. Ryder Hesjedal (Can), Garmin-Slipstream, at 0:34
26. Matteo Carrara (Ita), Vacansoleil, at 0:36
27. Maxim Iglinsky (Kaz), Astana, at 0:36
28. Michele Scarponi (Ita), Serramenti PVC , at 0:39
29. Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa), Caisse d’Epargne, at 0:39
30. Pierrick Fedrigo (Fra), BBox Bouygues Telecom, at 0:39
31. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita), Liquigas, at 0:39
32. Christian Knees (Ger), Milram, at 0:43
33. Amaël Moinard (Fra), Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne, at 0:39
34. Christopher Froome (GBr), Barloworld, at 0:39
35. Philippe Gilbert (Bel), Silence-Lotto, at 0:48
36. Gerben Löwik (Ned), Vacansoleil, at 0:51
37. Matthieu Sprick (Fra), BBox Bouygues Telecom, at 0:51
38. Jelle Vanendert (Bel), Silence-Lotto, at 0:54
39. Alexandre Botcharov (Rus), Katusha, at 0:54
40. Marco Pinotti (Ita), Columbia-Highroad, at 0:54
41. Jonathan Hivert (Fra), Skil-Shimano, at 0:54
42. Sergey Lagutin (Uzb), Vacansoleil, at 0:57
43. Haimar Zubeldia (Spa), Astana, at 1:03
44. Maxime Monfort (Bel), Columbia-Highroad, at 1:03
45. Christophe Le Mevel (Fra), Française Des Jeux, at 1:07
46. Sandy Casar (Fra), Française Des Jeux, at 1:09
47. Benoît Vaugrenard (Fra), Française Des Jeux, at 1:12
48. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel), Silence-Lotto, at 1:13
49. Francis De Greef (Bel), Silence-Lotto, at 1:13
50. Karsten Kroon (Ned), Saxo Bank, at 1:13