Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) played his cards to perfection and showed blistering pace and strength on the Mur de Huy to win his second Flèche Wallonne, ahead of Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) and Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-QuickStep). Valverde, who won this race in 2006, sat on the front of the peloton and waited until the final 200 meters to launch an attack and claim the 199.5km race, his fourth victory in an Ardennes classic.
Valverde, who turns 34 on Friday, had been pushed off the podium at Sunday’s Amstel Gold race as Belgian Philippe Gilbert burst clear to win by five seconds from Jelle Vanendert and Simon Gerrans from Australia.
Ireland’s Daniel Martin (Garmin-Sharp) and Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) finished strongly, but could not match the Movistar team leader’s strength and experience. Martin managed to stage a great recovery after being hampered by a crash at the foot of the Mur de Huy. The Garmin rider briefly looked like he might have the legs to make it to the line. Martin finished three seconds down with Kwiatkowski another second further back. Valverde kept his cool until the climb began to crest, at around 200 metres to go, before launching his attack. Nobody was able to get close to Valverde as he powered away and the Spaniard built up a sizable gap by the time he reached the finish line. The Movistar rider has been on scintillating form this season and Flèche Wallonne is his eighth victory this season.
“The Ardennes have been resisting me in the last few years – always getting podium places, but no victories,” Valverde said. “I was coming here a bit frustrated. I felt strong at the Amstel, but not as well as today. I had good legs from the beginning; when you feel well, you have to take all chances. It turned out perfectly well at the end, but sometimes, you’re doing well but you run out of luck, which I really had today.”
Defending champion Dani Moreno (Katusha) could finish only ninth with Amstel Gold Race winner Philippe Gilbert 10th.
After a series of strong finishes including a great showing in the Tour of the Basque Country, Valverde has proved to be in fantastic form and is a real contender for the GC in this years Tour de France.