Pauline Ferrand-Prevot wins Fleche Wallonne Feminine

American Evelyn Stevens, the 2012 champion, finishes fourth at the annual race in Belgium

Pauline Ferrand-Prevot (Rabo Women) prevailed in Wednesday’s La Flèche Wallonne Féminine, the biggest victory of her career.

Ferrand-Prevot is the two-time defending French time trial champion and placed eighth in the Olympic road race in 2012.

She finished one second ahead of Lizzie Armitstead (Boels Dolmans) and was four seconds better than Elisa Longo Borghini (Hitec Products) Wednesday in Belgium.

American Evelyn Stevens (Specialized-lululemon), the 2012 champion, finished seven seconds back in fourth.

The race finished with a painful climb of the Mur de Huy, a 1.3-kilometer ascent that averages more than 9 percent. Its steepest section is 26 percent.

“It was me, Lizzie and Pauline battling each other,” Stevens said of the final climb. “I was probably a little too quick to go, and then Elisa Longo passed me right at the end.”

Stevens was asked about the steep pitches on the climb that can bring out the best — and worst — of bike racers.

“You think about your legs burning, and then just stab the knife six more times,” she said. “When you win it, it feels pretty good. When you don’t, it feels awful.”