Flèche Wallonne: What the stars said after charge up Mur de Huy
Anna van der Breggen and Julian Alaphilippe complete world champion's podium sweep, while Michael Woods and Annemiek van Vleuten rue missed chances.
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Flèche Wallonne and cycling’s most exciting “wall” at the Mur de Huy did not disappoint.
Wednesday’s action-packed races delivered a world champion podium sweep, with Anna van der Breggen and Julian Alaphilippe taking the flowers.
Both kept their personal streaks alive, with van der Breggen winning an unprecedented seventh time in a row, while the French star won for his third consecutive Flèche title after missing last year’s edition.
Here’s what the main protagonists had to say after a thrilling day of racing in the Belgian Ardennes.
Anna van der Breggen (SD Worx) — record seventh straight win
Anna van der Breggen proved she’s in a class of her own. The reigning world champion overcame illness earlier this month to win a fierce battle up the Mur de Huy to extend her winning streak to seven in the Belgian classic. That’s an all-time mark, giving her two more victories than Marianne Vos or Alejandro Valverde, both with five.
“The race was hard, from the beginning. We made some tactical mistakes in the race, that’s why we had to chase. But the team did really great to close the gap. I’m really happy that I can do it still and could take this win. This was the most difficult win out of seven, because of the chase. It was a good battle with Kasia, she was strong! It’s a strange thought that this is my last time to race the Flèche Wallonne. Next time I won’t bother the girls anymore. It’s up to somebody else. I’m really happy to end up like this. Seven straight wins. It’s incredible!”
Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) — third career victory
It would be a double world champion podium at Flèche Wallonne after Alaphilippe surged past an attacking Primož Roglič to win for the third time in his career. It’s actually his third consecutive victory up the Mur because he did not race in the 2020 version. The Frenchman was ecstatic at the line after taking one back against Roglič, who pipped him at the line in the 2020 Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
Also read: Julian Alaphilippe stampedes to title
“Since the start of the season I haven’t won a lot and even though that didn’t stop me from having fun, I really wanted to raise my arms again. The team did a great job today, working tirelessly and protecting me, and I was well-placed thanks to them when I needed to be. Mikkel [Honoré] dropped me off at the bottom of the Mur in the first positions, and in the end, I knew what I had to do. It’s the legs that make the difference on this hard climb. It wasn’t easy with Roglič out front and Valverde on my wheel, who were both very strong, but I managed to pull it off. Winning in this jersey gives me an amazing feeling, and at the same time, a huge confidence boost.”
Michael Woods (Israel Start-Up Nation) — ‘I was better than fourth’
The Canadian was hoping to finish off Flèche Wallonne with a breakthrough victory, but Woods got caught up in traffic on the Mur, and was not in position to follow the decisive accelerations.
Also read: Michael Woods and his return from injury
“I’ve got a real bitter taste in my mouth right now because I felt like I was better than fourth today. It was certainly frustrating, especially because the team rode so well for me. Krists put me in a really good position and I chose not to follow him at the very end because I thought it would be better to slot in and watch where Roglič was. But that wasn’t the original plan. The original plan was for me to stick with [Krists] and I regret not doing that because it put me in a bit of a fight and then I got botched several times, pushed several times, and I ended up in a really bad position, and just couldn’t respond when the guys went. LBL is going to be even bigger for us. It’s a monument. No Canadian has ever won a monument and I think that where my legs are it is certainly a possibility for me to do well there.”
Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) — ‘Strongest won’
Primož Roglič jumped with just under 400m to go on the Mur, and looked to have momentum on his side in his Flèche Wallonne debut. Behind him, Alaphilippe and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) gave chase, and the Frenchman timed his surge perfectly to make the catch with 75m to go to relegate the Slovenian into second.
Also read: Why it matters that Roglič and Pogačar are racing in the Ardennes
“Julian was the strongest rider on the climb. He deserved to win. The final climb is really difficult and tough, but it’s one that suits me. I was in a good position and went for it. When you feel that the legs are good, you just have to attack. That is what I did. Unfortunately, I got caught up just before the finish. That’s racing. I’m looking forward to Liege-Bastogne-Liege. My form is good and I want to show again what I can do. Hopefully I can compete for the podium again.”
Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) — ‘No regrets’
The Polish star hit her career best at Flèche Wallonne with second. Solid teamwork put her in ideal position to take on the Mur de Huy, only to run into a stubborn van der Breggen. As she said, no regrets.
“I felt strong today, and I knew that no one could really drop me right at the start of the Mur. So, I kept more relaxed and as the climb went on I came next to Anna and I tried to keep calm. At 150m to go, Anna was next to me and I was thinking I could take a gap and so I put some more pressure on. Even when she attacked me I truly believed that I could stay on her wheel. But in the end, Anna knows how to win on that climb, and I couldn’t stay with her for the last meters. I have no regrets. I’m satisfied with my race and I’m very happy to be on the podium.”
Danny Stam, sport director at SD Worx
The Dutch sport director was in awe of Anna van der Breggen in what will be her final edition of Flèche Wallonne. The Dutch star retires at the end of 2021.
“This victory once again proves the rare class of Anna van der Breggen. She was still ill in the run-up to the Amstel Gold Race. She apparently needed that race to get her top form for this Flèche Wallonne. Why is she so good at climbing the Mur de Huy? I mainly think it is confidence. If you’ve won here a few times, then you know exactly where to attack and how to build up. Then you dare to rely on your own strength. But of course you have to be able to do it seven times in a row. ”
Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) — another close call
Annemiek van Vleuten’s trophy case is overflowing, but she’s never won up the Mur de Huy. She was stymied once again by longtime rival and compatriot van der Breggen, and had to settle on fourth for the third time.
“I feel a bit stupid about that finish. At maybe 75-50 meters from the finish, I looked behind, felt like the gap to Elisa was really big and she wasn’t going to make it up. It feels bad to have lost that third place and I’ll need some time to digest it. I should have just pushed a bit harder. At least it wasn’t for the victory, otherwise I would probably be crying at this moment, but I still feed bad about it.”
🏹✅ Una @flechewallonne con buen sabor de boca… y ganas de @LiegeBastogneL 💪👵
🚀🥉 @alejanvalverde, fenomenal 3º en #FlecheWallonne → https://t.co/xLpqvNRJLg
👩🦰🌟4️⃣ @AvVleuten, siempre al ataque, roza podio → https://t.co/OcUBQmvPNX
📸 @PhotoGomezSport / @bettiniphoto pic.twitter.com/RUtAl744g9
— Movistar Team (@Movistar_Team) April 21, 2021