This year’s edition of Flèche Wallonne will be a special one, at it celebrates four decades since the first passage over the now iconic Mur de Huy. Starting from Blegny, the 202.1km race will see the riders take three times on a tough circuit in the second half of the course, where a trio of demanding climbs awaits: Côte d’Ereffe (2.1km, 5%), Côte de Cherave (1.3km, 8.1%) and Mur de Huy (1.3km, 9.6%).
Alaphilippe just outside the podium at Flèche Wallonne
Julian Alaphilippe finished the Belgian Classic in fourth place Wednesday afternoon, with the Frenchman adding to his incredible record that has never seen him come over the line outside the top 5 in six participations since turning pro. Sporting the beautiful rainbow jersey he earned last September in Leuven and having bib number 1 on his back, Julian came into the race as the leader of Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, who did a fine job in controlling and bringing back the early breakaway, before moving with Mauri Vansevenant on the penultimate ascent of the race.
The 22-year-old Belgian, who at his debut here two years ago put in a huge and valiant ride, staying in front until four kilometers to go, when a crash spoiled his dreams of conquering the Mur de Huy, opened a gap of 15 seconds and put pressure on the peloton, who had to ramp up the speed in order to reel him in on the first slopes of the iconic climb that his year celebrated four decades since being introduced on the parcours.
Brought by Remco Evenepoel close to the front of the peloton just as the gradient began kicking up, Julian patiently waited for the final 200 meters of the race, just after the infamous S-bend, to make his move, but despite an all-out effort on the steep incline to the line, he couldn’t match the speed of Dylan Teuns (Bahrain Victorious) and concluded the day in fourth place, just five seconds behind the winner.
“First of all, I want to thank the entire team, because they worked hard and did a huge job for me. I wanted to win today, for myself and for the Wolfpack, I was very motivated and gave my best, but I just didn’t have the legs. There were other riders stronger than me at the end of the day, so I don’t have any regrets. It is as it is. Now I have to leave this behind and move my focus to Liège–Bastogne–Liège”, said Alaphilippe after his 15th top 10 result in an Ardennes Classic.
Photo credit: ©Luc Claessen / Getty Images