Philippe Gilbert romps to Flèche Wallonne victory
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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Philippe Gilbert romps to Flèche Wallonne victory

by Ben Atkins at 10:59 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics, Race Reports and Results, Flèche Wallonne
 
Amstel Gold winner makes Mur de Huy look easy as the rest flounder in his wake

Philippe GilbertPhilippe Gilbert (OmegaPharma-Lotto) emphasised his status as the number one rider in the hilly classics this season with an imperious victory in la Flèche Wallonne. The winner of last Sunday’s Amstel Gold Race attacked midway through the steepest part of the ferociously steep Mur de Huy and never looked back as he powered his way up to the finish. Last year’s second place Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) was, once again, best of the rest, with Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) in third; both were a long way behind the celebrating Gilbert though.

The race took the usual form of a long distance breakaway pulled back before the finish but, despite a flurry of attacks in the closing stages, it came down to a straight sprint up the dreaded Mur de Huy as usual.

Almost immediately there was an attack from Maciej Paterski (Liquigas-Cannondale); the peloton let him go and he was quickly joined by Maxime Vantomme (Katusha), Matti Helminen (Landbouwkrediet) and Preben Van Hecke (Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator). Nobody seemed concerned about the four riders and their lead quickly grew; by the 17km point, as they passed through the interestingly named village of Spy, it had grown to nine minutes.

By kilometre 30 the quartet’s lead was up to 11’15”, at the 45km point it had grown to 16’30”, and it was to top out at 17’10” after 50km. The Leopard Trek and Saxo Bank-SunGard teams moved forward to take control of the pace setting and the gap reduced slightly.

After 70km the four riders arrived at the Mur de Huy for the first of three times and, as Van Hecke led them over the top, the peloton was 15’30” behind; the bunch was led over by Rabobank’s Tom Slagter, but race favourites, and Tour de France rivals, Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-SunGard), and Andy and Fränk Schleck (Leopard Trek) were in prominent positions close to the front.

90km into the race, as the peloton made its way towards the first of the hills in the long loop around the Walloon countryside, disaster struck for Ireland as Dan Martin (Garmin-Cervélo) and Nicolas Roche (AG2R La Mondiale) both crashed and were forced to abandon.

Over the top of the next climb, the Côte de Peu d’Eau, the second climb of the day with 90km to go, Van Hecke, who was clearly chasing the climber’s prize, gapped the other three breakaways slightly; they rejoined the Belgian over the top though, with the Saxo Bank-SunGard, Leopard Trek and Sky led peloton now a little over 12 minutes behind them.

Proving that he’s not too big a star to help his team, Ronde van Vlaanderen winner Nick Nuyens was the Saxo Bank-SunGard rider making the pace at the front of the peloton.

As the peloton approached the Côte de Haut-Bois the BMC Racing pair of Martin Kohler and Jeff Louder surged clear of the pack. Without last year’s winner Cadel Evans, the American team had said it would try to make the race before the final climb of the Mur, and was being true to its word. Simon Geschke (Skil-Shimano) and Sébastien Delfosse (Landbouwkrediet) made their way across to the pair, but the attempted breakaway was shut down by the peloton over the top of the climb.

Saxo Bank-SunGard had now assumed almost total control of the peloton, with just one Leopard Trek rider lending support. With the gap to the leaders still almost nine minutes with 70km to go, the urgency increased slightly and Sky moved forward to help once more.

On the Côte de Groynne, with 60km to go, the lead had dropped to seven minutes; by the time the peloton reached the top though, the breakaway quartet was tackling the lower slopes of the Côte de Bohisseau. Helminen took the points this time, clearly intending to compete for the hills prize with Van Hecke.

Over the top of the climb, with 54km to go, the gap to the leaders had been slashed by another minute. The increased pace of the peloton was creating difficulties for a number of riders, with Sergio Paulinho (RadioShack) among those to be dropped.

Last year’s Tour de France fifth place Jurgen Van Den Broeck (OmegaPharma-Lotto) punctured at the base of the climb but chased back alone and managed to rejoin with no apparent difficulty.

Over the Côte de Bousalle, which topped out with 51km to go, Jens Voigt took over duty on the front of the pack and the gap began to tumble. Along with the Saxo Bank-SunGard team, the German veteran had cut the deficit to less than three minutes by the top of the Côte d'Ahin with 40k to go.

Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD) punctured on the climb, but was paced back on by his team; BMC Racing and Astana were moving their men forward.

Close to the top of the climb, Blel Kadri (AG2R La Mondiale) launched an attack; he managed to get clear with Andriy Grivko (Astana) trying to get across to him. The Ukrainian was soon pulled back though, only for further attacks to be launched.

Kadri was caught as the four leaders approached the town of Huy, and the second ascent of the Mur; their lead had been slashed to less than 2’30”.

OmegaPharma-Lotto decided that the time had come for it to take over at the front of the peloton and, over the top of the precipitously steep Mur, the group up front was now just over a minute ahead. Helminen was visibly struggling on the terrible gradients though and was left behind by the other three.

As the peloton crested the top, Enrico Gasparotto (Astana) made a move, which was quickly latched upon by Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Highroad); Thomas Löfkvist (Team Sky) and Alexander Kolobnev (Katusha) managed to get across and the four counterattackers quickly caught up with Helimen. The group of five was the joined by Gorka Verdugo (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Vasil Kiryienka (Movistar), but Heliman was unable to stay with them.

With the six riders still in sight of the peloton Michal Golas (Vacansoleil-DCM) managed to bridge across. OmegaPharma-Lotto was in control of the peloton once more though, with Leopard Trek still present, and they were unable to get very far ahead.

With 20km to go though, the six counterattackers made contact with the three leaders, but they were only 20 seconds ahead of the peloton, with OmegaPharma-Lotto in determined mood.

With the breakaway’s pace apparently not to his liking, Löfkvist attacked with 16km to go, taking Kiryienka with him. The others persisted in their efforts, but showed no signs of wanting to bring them back.

Just a few kilometres later the group was caught by the peloton though, leaving just Löfkvist and Kiryienka up front, as they approached the Côte d'Ereffe.

With both Vantomme and Kolobnev caught, Katusha took over on the front of the peloton, with Danilo Di Luca – the only previous winner in the race – stringing it out on the climb; the two up front led by 15 seconds over the top, but were in plain sight of the chasers.

Dries Devenyns (Quick Step) launched a counter attack over the top of the climb in a bid to join the two leaders; on the fast descent though, he was having trouble closing the gap. With 8km to go the Katusha team was really driving the pace and the lone Belgian was soon taken back.

Löfkvist was unable to stay with Kiryienka on a small rise and drifted back to the willing peloton; Kiryienka too would be soon be taken though.

As soon as the two riders were taken back by the peloton Jérôme Pineau (Quick Step) made his move; he was followed by Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil-DCM) and the two of them managed to get a gap of 18 seconds with 5km to go. Leopard Trek were back in control of the chase though, with OmegaPharma-Lotto, then Rabobank, taking over and so the two of them would surely not be able to stay away.

Regardless of the efforts behind them, Pineau and Marcato had 20 seconds with 3km to go, and were sharing the work as they approached Huy for the final time. Rabobank chipped it down to 17 seconds with 2km to go, but Pineau had teammates infiltrating the front of the peloton and progress was slow.

As the two leaders passed under the final kilometre banner they led by 13 sedonds; the climb was starting now though, and the favourites were massing behind them.

As the climb steepened they were caught by the Fabian Wegmann (Leopard Trek) led peloton, but Pineau persisted and refused to surrender.

As the climb reached its steepest part, with 400m to go, Gilbert was the first of the favourites to make his move. The Belgian was matched by Christophe Le Mével (Garmin-Cervélo) as the other big names swarmed behind him, but with 300m to go he kicked once again and opened up a huge gap over the rest.

Rodriguez and Katusha teammate Daniel Moreno (ironically a former teammate of Gilbert’s) did their best to close the gap in the hope that Gilbert had gone too soon, but the Belgian refused to fade and the gap just kept widening.

As he crested the top of the steepest section, and rolled onto the false flat to the finish line, Gilbert had time to sit up and blow kisses to the ecstatic Wallonian crowd, as he became the first Belgian to win the race since teammate Mario Aerts in 2002, and the first Walloon since Claude Criquielion in 1989.

With Gilbert on this form, the question the peloton must ask itself is who can stop the Belgian from taking an incredible Ardennes treble at Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday, matching the feat of Davide “Treble-in” Rebellin in 2004?

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2011 Flèche Wallonne Results: (201km)

  Click on the arrowsat the top of the column to sort the race results.
Country Result Name Team Time
bel BEL 1 Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) 04:54:57
esp ESP 2 Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Katusha) 00:00:03
esp ESP 3 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) 00:00:05
kaz KAZ 4 Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) 00:00:06
esp ESP 5 Igor Anton Hernandez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) s.t.
bel BEL 6 Jelle Vanendert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) s.t.
lux LUX 7 Fränk Schleck (Leopard-Trek) s.t.
esp ESP 8 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Katusha) 00:00:09
fra FRA 9 Christophe Le Mevel (Garmin-Cervelo) 00:00:12
ger GER 10 Paul Martens (Rabobank) s.t.
esp ESP 11 Alberto Contador Velasco (Saxo Bank-Sungard) 00:00:15
sui SUI 12 Michael Albasini (HTC-Highroad) 00:00:17
can CAN 13 Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Cervelo) 00:00:18
ned NED 14 Robert Gesink (Rabobank) 00:00:20
bel BEL 15 Bert De Waele (Landbouwkrediet) s.t.
bel BEL 16 Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) s.t.
bel BEL 17 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Omega Pharma-Lotto) 00:00:23
bel BEL 18 Ben Hermans (RadioShack) 00:00:26
col COL 19 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Team Sky) 00:00:28
esp ESP 20 Beñat Intxausti Elorriaga (Movistar) s.t.
fra FRA 21 Remy Di Gregorio (Astana) s.t.
aus AUS 22 Simon Gerrans (Team Sky) s.t.
irl IRL 23 Philip Deignan (RadioShack) s.t.
den DEN 24 Chris Anker Sörensen (Saxo Bank-Sungard) s.t.
blr BLR 25 Kanstantsin Siutsou (HTC-Highroad) s.t.
fra FRA 26 Alexandre Geniez (Skil-Shimano) s.t.
bel BEL 27 Jerome Baugnies (Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator) s.t.
ned NED 28 Rob Ruijgh (Vacansoleil-DCM) s.t.
fra FRA 29 Jonathan Hivert (Saur-Sojasun) 00:00:33
fra FRA 30 Julien El Fares (Cofidis) 00:00:34
ita ITA 31 Rinaldo Nocentini (Ag2r-La Mondiale) 00:00:36
esp ESP 32 Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Movistar) s.t.
ned NED 33 Wout Poels (Vacansoleil-DCM) s.t.
ned NED 34 Laurens Ten Dam (Rabobank) s.t.
bel BEL 35 Thomas Degand (Verandas Willems-Accent) s.t.
rus RUS 36 Eduard Vorganov (Katusha) s.t.
fra FRA 37 Arnold Jeannesson (FDJ) s.t.
aho AHO 38 Marc De Maar (Quick Step) s.t.
fra FRA 39 Cédric Pineau (FDJ) 00:00:42
kaz KAZ 40 Maxim Iglinskiy (Astana) 00:00:43
ned NED 41 Tom Jelte Slagter (Rabobank) 00:00:49
slo SLO 42 Janez Brajkovic (RadioShack) s.t.
den DEN 43 Nicki Sörensen (Saxo Bank-Sungard) s.t.
lux LUX 44 Andy Schleck (Leopard-Trek) s.t.
ita ITA 45 Francesco Bellotti (Liquigas-Cannondale) s.t.
fra FRA 46 Mickaël Buffaz (Cofidis) s.t.
bel BEL 47 Pieter Serry (Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator) 00:00:53
ned NED 48 Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil-DCM) 00:00:54
ita ITA 49 Ivan Santaromita (BMC Racing) s.t.
ita ITA 50 Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale) s.t.
fra FRA 51 Jérôme Pineau (Quick Step) s.t.
ita ITA 52 Marco Pinotti (HTC-Highroad) 00:01:00
swe SWE 53 Fredrik Kessiakoff (Astana) s.t.
ned NED 54 Bauke Mollema (Rabobank) 00:01:04
bel BEL 55 Kristof Vandewalle (Quick Step) 00:01:09
fra FRA 56 David Moncoutié (Cofidis) 00:01:10
bel BEL 57 Geert Verheyen (Landbouwkrediet) s.t.
fra FRA 58 Pierrick Fedrigo (FDJ) s.t.
esp ESP 59 Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (RadioShack) 00:01:14
ita ITA 60 Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil-DCM) s.t.
ita ITA 61 Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD) 00:01:19
ita ITA 62 Enrico Gasparotto (Astana) 00:01:20
bel BEL 63 Dries Devenyns (Quick Step) s.t.
ger GER 64 Fabian Wegmann (Leopard-Trek) s.t.
usa USA 65 Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Cervelo) s.t.
blr BLR 66 Vasil Kiryienka (Movistar) 00:01:24
esp ESP 67 Jesus Herrada Lopez (Movistar) s.t.
bel BEL 68 Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM) s.t.
ned NED 69 Pim Ligthart (Vacansoleil-DCM) s.t.
ita ITA 70 Dario Cataldo (Quick Step) s.t.
den DEN 71 Jakob Fuglsang (Leopard-Trek) 00:01:30
fra FRA 72 Blel Kadri (Ag2r-La Mondiale) s.t.
ger GER 73 Johannes Fröhlinger (Skil-Shimano) s.t.
fra FRA 74 John Gadret (Ag2r-La Mondiale) 00:01:38
ita ITA 75 Francesco Reda (Quick Step) s.t.
ger GER 76 Christian Knees (Team Sky) 00:01:40
fra FRA 77 Mathieu Sprick (Skil-Shimano) s.t.
ned NED 78 Bram Tankink (Rabobank) 00:01:42
ned NED 79 Addy Engels (Quick Step) s.t.
ita ITA 80 Danilo Di Luca (Katusha) 00:01:44
fra FRA 81 Ludovic Turpin (Saur-Sojasun) 00:01:49
rus RUS 82 Alexandr Kolobnev (Katusha) 00:01:55
usa USA 83 Craig Lewis (HTC-Highroad) 00:02:06
swe SWE 84 Thomas Löfkvist (Team Sky) 00:02:13
esp ESP 85 Jonathan Castroviejo Nicolas (Euskaltel-Euskadi) 00:02:18
ita ITA 86 Francesco Gavazzi (Lampre-ISD) 00:02:20
fra FRA 87 Sébastien Joly (Saur-Sojasun) 00:02:23
fra FRA 88 Jérôme Coppel (Saur-Sojasun) 00:02:28
ger GER 89 Tony Martin (HTC-Highroad) s.t.
esp ESP 90 Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Euskaltel-Euskadi) 00:02:34
esp ESP 91 Ivan Velasco Murillo (Euskaltel-Euskadi) s.t.
esp ESP 92 Gorka Verdugo Marcotegui (Euskaltel-Euskadi) s.t.
ukr UKR 93 Andriy Grivko (Astana) 00:02:37
rus RUS 94 Serguei Ivanov (Katusha) 00:02:44
fra FRA 95 Jean-Marc Marino (Saur-Sojasun) 00:02:58
fra FRA 96 Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r-La Mondiale) 00:04:12
ned NED 97 Dirk Bellemakers (Landbouwkrediet) 00:04:17
bel BEL 98 Pieter Jacobs (Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator) s.t.
ita ITA 99 Daniele Pietropolli (Lampre-ISD) 00:04:34
rus RUS 100 Yury Trofimov (Katusha) s.t.
sui SUI 101 David Loosli (Lampre-ISD) s.t.
fin FIN 102 Kjell Carlström (Team Sky) s.t.
bel BEL 103 Bert Scheirlinckx (Landbouwkrediet) 00:04:38
fra FRA 104 Thierry Hupond (Skil-Shimano) 00:04:45
ita ITA 105 Mauro Santambrogio (BMC Racing) 00:04:55
ita ITA 106 Simone Ponzi (Liquigas-Cannondale) s.t.
fra FRA 107 Amaël Moinard (BMC Racing) s.t.
esp ESP 108 Ion Izagirre Insausti (Euskaltel-Euskadi) 00:04:59
ger GER 109 Simon Geschke (Skil-Shimano) s.t.
bel BEL 110 Geert Steurs (Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator) 00:05:02
sui SUI 111 Mathias Frank (BMC Racing) 00:05:07
bel BEL 112 Staf Scheirlinckx (Verandas Willems-Accent) 00:05:40
fra FRA 113 Anthony Geslin (FDJ) 00:06:16
bel BEL 114 Gianni Meersman (FDJ) s.t.
pol POL 115 Michal Golas (Vacansoleil-DCM) s.t.
usa USA 116 Matthew Busche (RadioShack) s.t.
bel BEL 117 Maxime Monfort (Leopard-Trek) s.t.
fra FRA 118 David Le Lay (Ag2r-La Mondiale) s.t.
ita ITA 119 Paolo Longo Borghini (Liquigas-Cannondale) s.t.
fra FRA 120 Yannick Talabardon (Saur-Sojasun) s.t.
usa USA 121 Peter Stetina (Garmin-Cervelo) 00:06:22
pol POL 122 Maciej Paterski (Liquigas-Cannondale) s.t.
ned NED 123 Pieter Weening (Rabobank) 00:06:26
bel BEL 124 Maxime Vantomme (Katusha) 00:06:28
kaz KAZ 125 Assan Bazayev (Astana) s.t.
kaz KAZ 126 Dmitriy Fofonov (Astana) s.t.
usa USA 127 Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Highroad) 00:07:01
gbr GBR 128 David Millar (Garmin-Cervelo) s.t.
bel BEL 129 Preben Van Hecke (Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator) 00:07:22
esp ESP 130 Alan Perez Lezaun (Euskaltel-Euskadi) 00:09:58
bel BEL 131 Francis De Greef (Omega Pharma-Lotto) s.t.
bel BEL 132 Jurgen Van De Walle (Omega Pharma-Lotto) s.t.
sui SUI 133 Martin Kohler (BMC Racing) s.t.
esp ESP 134 Markel Irizar Aranburu (RadioShack) s.t.
bel BEL 135 Sébastien Delfosse (Landbouwkrediet) 00:10:03
fin FIN 136 Matti Helminen (Landbouwkrediet) s.t.
pol POL 137 Rafal Majka (Saxo Bank-Sungard) 00:10:05
bel BEL 138 Gert Dockx (Omega Pharma-Lotto) 00:10:12
bel BEL 139 Jan Bakelants (Omega Pharma-Lotto) s.t.

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