Ferrand-Prevot rides out from the long shadow of Vos

Frenchwoman rides to victory at Flèche Wallonne with the support of the world champion

HUY, Belgium (VN) — When the world champion is in the wind all day, pulling for you, and she says to attack now, you’d better do it, then and there.

Thankfully, that’s just what Pauline Ferrand-Prevot (Rabo-Liv) was able to do at Flèche Wallonne Femmes Wednesday. It was a sort of victory that happened in slow motion for Ferrand-Prevon. She had enough of a gap to celebrate, but the sheer exhaustion and steepness of the Mur de Huy’s sharp finish reduced the sprint to something like survival. The pressure was on her heavy, with teammate Marianne Vos sacrificing herself, likely knowing full well that she — Vos — could win Flèche Wallonne for a sixth time.

“It was a great responsibility for me. … I was a bit afraid because I thought I may disappoint her. I was doing the whole race on her wheel and on the last climb she told me to attack. I’m very, very happy to have a world champion working for me,” said the effervescent 22-year-old. “Marianne told me I had to wait to see the finish line … if you attack too early it’s very difficult to maintain. So I did what she told me … it was a very close sprint. I’m very happy to win.”

Lizzie Armitstead (Boels Dolmans) finished second and Elisa Longo Borghini (Hitec Products) was third. American Evelyn Stevens (Specialized-lululemon) finished fourth. Vos, in spite of her efforts, came in sixth, 13 seconds back.

It was just a day before the race that the team gave Ferrand-Prevot leadership and the win marked the first UCI Women’s Road World Cup victory for a French rider in 10 years. Ferrand-Prevot, the youngest rider in the 2012 Olympic road race (she finished eighth) is also an elite mountain bike racer and hopes to race both disciplines at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.