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La Flèche Wallonne Femmes 2022 Race Preview

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Flèche Wallonne Femmes Race History

La Flèche Wallonne Femmes or the Women’s Flèche Wallonne has been running since 1998. A relatively long history for a modern women’s cycling race. In its 20+ year history, the race has only seen 10 different winners. Anna van der Breggen has won Flèche Wallonne Femmes 7 times, Marianne Vos 5 times, with Fabiana Luperini and Nicole Cooke both 3-time winners.

Its relative long length of running now sees it take the place as 2nd oldest in the calendar. Only the Trofeo Alfredo Binda is older. The Flèche Wallonne Femmes follows a similar course as the men’s Flèche Wallonne. The races are held on the same day and both finish on top of the steep Mur de Huy.

The steep finish lends itself to climbers with a bit of extra punch. The early races were dominated by multiple GC winner Fabiana Luperini who was able to skip away on the hardest gradients. The years 2003-2006 saw Brit Nicole Cooke win 3 times in 4 years. The baton was passed on in 2007 when Cooke finished 2nd to Marianne Vos. Vos would win the next 3 editions.

The first half of the 2010s saw a period of different winners, not seen since the race’s first years. Emma Pooley won in 2010, with Evelyn Stevens’ 2012 win bookended by Marianne Vos’ 4th and 5th wins. Pauline Ferrand-Prévot won in 2014, the year she became World Champion and Anna van der Breggen in 2015. Van der Breggen has subsequently won the following 6 editions (for 7 wins in total) to assert her Valverde-like dominance over the race. With Van der Breggen now retired, we will finally see a different winner for the first time since 2014.

Previous Winners

2021
Anna van der Breggen
2020
Anna van der Breggen
2019
Anna van der Breggen

Race Profile

Fleche Wallonne Feminine 2022 Profile

TV Coverage

Wednesday 20th April 2022
Live on Eurosport/GCN
10:10-11:35 BST

Twitter: #FWwomen

La Flèche Wallonne Femmes Contenders

After dominating with Anna van der Breggen for so long, SD Worx probably quite rightly feel like this is their race. They have the heir apparent in Demi Vollering who has already been on the podium and never finished lower than 10th on the Muur de Huy. Relinquished from pacing her illustrious teammate, she will be the team’s major leader. She got off the mark, after a couple of close calls, with victory at Brabantse Pijl and will be the top favourite. Teammate Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio has finished in the top-10 8 times here and loves the Mur de Huy. It’s an ideal punchy climb for the South African but unfortunately for her, Van der Breggen has just been too good over the years. I expect to see her roll in not too far behind Vollering.

Flèche Wallonne is a bit of a gap on the palmares for Annemiek Van Vleuten. With the periods of domination by Vos and Van der Breggen, Van Vleuten’s best result on the Mur de Huy is 2nd in 2019 & 2015. We haven’t really seen the dominant Van Vleuten yet, even though she did win Omloop het Nieuwsblad and Setmana Ciclista Valenciana. Other riders now seem closer to the Dutch superstar than ever before. I expect to see Annemiek on the podium but probably not the top step.

This has always felt like the perfect race for Kasia Niewiadoma with the steep uphill finish that suits her puncheur strengths. She’s finished in every position from 2nd to 6th over the years and whilst she’ll always be a contender, a win always feels out of reach. 2nd at Brabantse Pijl recently was encouraging and whilst my head goes with Vollering, my heart is for Niewiadoma at Flèche Wallonne Féminine.

FDJ’s Marta Cavalli was hugely impressive in winning Amstel Gold Race. The Italian crested the Cauberg with the lead group and found a second wind to attack and disappear up the road. Flèche Wallonne Femmes isn’t a race that she has ever done particularly well in, so I’m not sure what to expect. With no Uttrup Ludwig due to Covid, Cavalli has been thrust into the lead role in theory. Brodie Chapman has been in career form recently, after finishing 9th at the Tour of Flanders, the Aussie won GP Féminin de Chambéry at the weekend. She’ll probably be working for the team but Chapman has been 9th here in the past as well.

We can’t ignore Elisa Longo Borghini after that win at Paris Roubaix. An impressive solo break saw her win the 2nd ever edition by simply outpowering her rivals. Common sense suggests that the legs won’t be 100% after that effort. Especially with only 3 days to recover. She’s finished on the podium 3 times at Flèche Wallonne Femmes, including last year. So if fit and fresh, she will be one to watch as usual. 

Elisa Longo Borghini

Amanda Spratt has been in the top-10 here in 3 of the last 4 editions. We’re starting to see more of the old Spratt in races now, as the form begins to return after her off-season surgery. Expectations should probably be towards the lower end of the top 10 but it’d be great to see the Australian begin to get those sorts of results again.

The Team DSM pairing of Liane Lippert and Juliette Labous should be a decent combination. Labous has been given the #1 bib for this race so should be considered the leader. Although a peak in-form Liane Lippert would be a great contender as well. Both riders have gone missing in previous editions but have peaked quite highly – Labous with 6th last year and Lippert 8th in 2020. Lippert has been 3rd in her last 2 races and Labous 5th in her last race too. I expect to see them make moves but other riders come over them before the summit of the Mur de Huy for a top-10 finish.

Like Spratt, Mavi Garcia has been in the top-10 in 3 of the last 4 editions. The Spaniard is ideally suited to the steepness of the Mur de Huy and 5th last year was a new best result. Garcia has been solid so far in 2022, missing a truly big result but always finishing high up there anyway. Her teammate Sofia Bertizzolo was also 8th here in 2018 and should prove a useful foil.

La Flèche Wallonne Femmes Outsiders

Krista-Doebel-Hickok-Setmana-Ciclista-Valenciana-Stage-2-2021
Krista Doebel-Hickok

American Krista Doebel-Hickok is an outsider for the EF Education-TIBCO-SVB team. She was 14th in last year’s edition and has been solid since starting her 2022 season in Europe with Trofeo Alfredo Binda and Amstel Gold Race. 

We’re yet to see the best from Sabrina Stultiens in 2022 but we know she can do well at Flèche Wallonne Femmes with a 7th place finish in 2018. 18th last year, she’s certainly capable of beating that this season. Her results in 2022 have been so so, the past results bring her into contention though.

Those who’ve followed Yara Kastelijn through her cyclocross career have always known that she is a good climber. We’ve seen hints of it this sprint with 13th at Amstel Gold Race and 15th at Strade Bianche. With Flèche Wallonne Femmes including another uphill finish and positioning being less important for most of the race, she could sneak into the top-10 for the first time this season.

Somehow, Clara Koppenburg‘s best result at Flèche Wallonne Femmes is only 36th. We know she’s a great climber but she’s maybe too much of a pure climber to truly excel at the Mur de Huy. The German riding for Cofidis this season is returning from quite a tough off-season with injuries but wherever there’s a climb she should be considered. There’s always a chance it’s a Rachel Neylan race for Cofidis with a pair of 15th places here before. She’s not quite been in the same great form as the end of 2021 however.

Finally, it’s worth giving Denise Betsema a mention. The cyclocross star rarely races on the road and we’ve not seen her since the Dutch nationals last June. Betsema was consistently the 2nd best rider behind Lucinda Brand in the cyclocross season and we know that gives her a big anaerobic power. It’s a long shot but worth keeping an eye on.

Top 3 Prediction