World champion Julian Alaphilippe won La Fleche Wallonne cycling classic in Belgium on Wednesday after reeling in Slovenia’s Primoz Roglic on the final mile long climb that hits gradients of more than 19 percent. The Frenchman, who also claimed victory in 2018 and 2019, sat up at the line and wagged a finger after his impressive late comeback.
“Honestly this one (of the three) does a lot of good, with the world championship jersey. I really enjoyed it. I’m really happy,” said Alaphilippe.
Roglic attacked near the bottom of the final Mur de Huey climb and only Alaphilippe and Alejandro Valverde were able to follow, as the Spaniard finished third, six seconds down.
Alaphilippe said he kept a low profile to conserve energy for the finale after feeling off-form this week.
“I conserved my energy all day long and I knew exactly what I had to do for the finale,” said the Deceuninck-Quick Step rider.
“I wanted to show I had the mentality and lift my arms up at the end of the race,” he said adding that at the end he had both the legs and the attitude to match Roglic.
Vuelta a Espana champion Roglic took defeat on the chin.
“Julian was definitely the strongest. Congratulations to him, he deserves to win,” said Roglic.
British rookie Tom Pidcock finished sixth, some 11 seconds down after falling and losing a shoe, but the power of his first performance here bodes well for Ineos’ new rider.
There were 12 categorized climbs and another dozen hills on the 120-mile run from Charleroi to the steep finish at the Mur de Huy climb.
Earlier, Tour de France champion Tadej Pogacar’s Team UAE Emirates withdrew from the men’s race just hours before the classic started due to Covid-19 cases.
Pogacar was scheduled to compete alongside last year’s Fleche Wallonne winner Marc Hirschi.
UAE Emirates said they aim to participate in Sunday’s Liege-Bastogne-Liege, another key early season race.
ANOTHER RAINBOW WIN
In the earlier women’s race Anna van der Breggen won for the seventh consecutive season before she retires to start a family.
Dutch rider van der Breggen edged Poland’s Katarzyna Niewiadoma in a two-way sprint with Italian Elisa Longo Borghini in third after 130km of racing in Belgium.
“It’s a strange thought that I am sitting here for the last time at this race,” she said.
“Next year I won’t bother the girls anymore, it’s up to somebody else. I’m really happy to finish it off like this with seven straight wins,” she added.
|1||ALAPHILIPPE Julian||Deceuninck – Quick Step||4:36:25|
|2||ROGLIČ Primož||Team Jumbo-Visma||0:00|
|3||VALVERDE Alejandro||Movistar Team||0:06|
|4||WOODS Michael||Israel Start-Up Nation||0:08|
|5||BARGUIL Warren||Team Arkéa Samsic||0:11|
|6||PIDCOCK Thomas||INEOS Grenadiers||0:11|
|7||GAUDU David||Groupama – FDJ||0:11|
|8||CHAVES Esteban||Team BikeExchange||0:11|
|9||CARAPAZ Richard||INEOS Grenadiers||0:11|
|10||SCHACHMANN Maximilian||BORA – hansgrohe||0:16|
|1||VAN DER BREGGEN Anna||SD Worx||3:28:27|
|2||NIEWIADOMA Katarzyna||Canyon SRAM Racing||0:02|
|3||LONGO BORGHINI Elisa||Trek-Segafredo Women||0:06|
|4||VAN VLEUTEN Annemiek||Movistar Team||0:06|
|5||GARCÍA Mavi||Alé BTC Ljubljana||0:22|
|6||LABOUS Juliette||Team DSM||0:28|
|7||WINDER Ruth||Trek-Segafredo Women||0:31|
|8||LUDWIG Cecilie Uttrup||FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope||0:32|
|9||SPRATT Amanda||Team BikeExchange||0:35|
|10||VOLLERING Demi||SD Worx||0:42|
RBA/AFP Photos: Bettini