Since 2015 Anna van der Breggen was incontournable on the Mur de Huy, no one else won the same race seven times in a row. “Yet there is no secret recipe. The Mur de Huy requires self-knowledge. The trick is to know exactly how fast you can go, without blowing yourself up, but that the pace is still high enough so the others have to let go. So you have to feel when it’s best to attack, or to gamble on a sprint. You just have to be able to judge your own body well. Still, the Mur de Huy will always be difficult, no matter what.”
Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio also agrees with this. In 2018, the South African rider came closest to victory, finishing second behind Van der Breggen. “Indeed, the Mur has no secret. You have to ride it up as hard as you can, but still have just that touch of energy left to be able to punch. If you go too deep into the red in the beginning, you don’t have the legs to make the difference. Anna was the specialist in that. Of course we want her successor to come from our team. That creates pressure, but it is mainly positive pressure. We will come to the start with a very strong team.”
For Moolman-Pasio, it is her last Flèche Wallonne. “It is my favourite race in the spring classics. I always finished in the top ten, also often in the top five. I revisited the 2018 race. At the steepest point, I pulled out with a couple of gears. I hurt Anna a bit with those punches. She blocked me for a moment, and then she was able to get loose of me on the flatter part. That gives me confidence. If I could intimidate the ‘Queen of the Flèche Wallonne’ for a brief second with a punch like that, then I definitely have a chance of finally winning the race this year.”
The course has been renewed. For the first time, the riders will have to go over the Mur de Huy and the Mur de Cherave three times. “That will change the race scenario a lot,” predicts Moolman-Pasio. “It wouldn’t surprise me if we only had five riders for the last climb of the Mur de Huy. It’s also possible that the race will be decided sooner, because the Mur de Cherave is almost as tough. Because it is harder, I expect a more open and selective race. That’s in our favour.”
The South African sees it as a plus that Anna van der Breggen is team leader in the Flèche Wallone. “It is definitely an advantage to have her in the car. She is our inspiration. She has shared her advice. What matters most is that Anna is still in touch with the peloton. A few months ago she was still riding in the peloton. So she can perfectly judge how we feel. When she says attack now, you just do it. Anna was always very strong tactically and instinctively. We have a strong team at the start. After our second places in Amstel Gold Race & Paris-Roubaix, we are very motivated to take the win at Flèche Wallonne”, she concluded.