Valverde writes history with fourth win in Fleche Wallonne

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) made history by becoming the first rider to win Fleche Wallonne four times when he rode to another dominant victory on the steep Mur de Huy. Having attentively responded to all attacks on the final climb, he made his acceleration inside the final 200m and managed to distance the Etixx-QuickStep pair of Julian Alaphilippe and Daniel Martin to make it three in a row in the Belgian classic.

As usual, it all came down to the final up the 1.3km climb of Mur de Huy whose extreme gradients of 26% always makes it a brutal end to a tough race. This year the race had been even harder as it had been raced an amazing speed but after a late attack from Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal), Ion Izagirre (Movistar) and Bob Jungels (Etixx-QuickStep) was neutralized with 2km to go, it was all lined up for the puncheurs.

LottoNL-Jumbo hit the front with Enrico Battaglin before Pieter Serry took over for Etixx-QuickStep. Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) the group onto the climb and under the flamme rouge, with Valverde riding attentively in third position behind Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEDGE).

When Visconti swung off, Albasini stayed on the front and as Valverde, Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Daniel Martin moved up next to him, four of the biggest favourites were lined out, ready to battle.

Valverde briefly upped the pace of the exploding front group but it was Rodriguez who launched the first attack. However, Valverde responded attentively and stayed on his compatriot’s wheel.

Instead, it was the counterattack from Martin that made the difference. Valverde jumped straight onto his wheel and only Julian Alaphilippe could hang onto the duo. Martin tried to tire Valverde by riding on the front but the Spaniard showed no signs of weakness and it was always just a matter of time before he would make his move.

He jumped inside the final 200m and after he had initially tried to follow, Alaphilippe had to surrender. Valverde had plenty of time to celebrate his win, with Alaphilippe and Martin crossing the line in second and third respectively. Wout Poels (Sky) and Enrico Gasparotto (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) completed the podium.

With Fleche Wallonne done and dusted, the series of Ardennes classics only has one race left. On Sunday, the riders will be back in action in the biggest of the hilly classics, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, which is also the next WorldTour race.

La Flèche Wallonne 2016 results:

1 Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)


2 Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx – Quick-Step)


3 Daniel Martin (Etixx – Quick-Step)


4 Wouter Poels (Sky)


5 Enrico Gasparotto (Wanty – Groupe Gobert)


6 Samuel Sanchez (BMC)


7 Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEdge)


8 Diego Ulissi (Lampre – Merida)


9 Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin)


10 Rui Costa (Lampre – Merida)