The Mur de Huy, a steep climb in the heart of Belgium’s Wallonia region, has become an iconic symbol of professional cycling’s one-day races, or the Ardennes Classics. This punishing ascent, with its steep gradients and unforgiving terrain, has played a significant role in shaping the outcomes of many cycling races. In this article, we will explore the general history of the Mur de Huy, its significance in the Flèche Wallonne and Flèche Wallonne Féminine races, and some of the legendary riders who have conquered this formidable climb.
The General History of the Mur de Huy
The Mur de Huy, which translates to “Wall of Huy,” is a short but incredibly steep climb located in the city of Huy, Belgium. The ascent, which is just 1.3 kilometres in length, features an average gradient of 9.3% and ramps up to a staggering 26% at its steepest point. The Mur de Huy has been a part of professional cycling since the 1930s when it was first included in the 1982 edition of the Flèche Wallonne race. 121 metres of elevation is gained in just 1300 metres of racing. The 2015 Tour de France also saw a stage finish on its slopes, which was won by Joaquim Rodríguez.
As one of the most challenging climbs in professional cycling, the Mur de Huy has long been a decisive factor in determining the winners of races that include this punishing ascent. The climb’s strategic significance, combined with the electric atmosphere provided by the thousands of passionate fans who line the route each year, has made the Mur de Huy a must-see spectacle for cycling enthusiasts.
The Mur de Huy in the Flèche Wallonne Race
The Flèche Wallonne is a one-day professional men’s road race held annually in the Wallonia region of Belgium. The race, which is part of the UCI WorldTour calendar, was first held in 1936 and has featured the Mur de Huy as its most iconic and decisive climb since 1982 and its finish from one of 1983, 1984 or 1985 depending on various sources. Before then, the finish line was flatter but still in Huy itself. The race typically culminates with a final, gruelling ascent of the Mur de Huy, with riders battling both the climb and each other for the prestigious win.
Over the years, the Flèche Wallonne has become synonymous with the Mur de Huy, as the climb has played a pivotal role in determining the race’s outcome. The ascent’s steep gradients and narrow roads make positioning and timing crucial, with riders often jostling for position and launching attacks on the lower slopes in an attempt to gain an advantage before the steepest sections.
The Mur de Huy in the Flèche Wallonne Féminine Race
The Flèche Wallonne Féminine, the women’s version of the Flèche Wallonne race, was first held in 1998, and like its male counterpart, the Mur de Huy has played a critical role in shaping the race’s outcome. The women’s race, also part of the UCI Women’s WorldTour, has grown in prestige and popularity, drawing many of the world’s best female cyclists to compete on the same challenging course as the men.
In the Flèche Wallonne Féminine, the Mur de Huy has become an equally iconic and decisive factor, with the race’s outcome often decided on the steep slopes of this punishing climb. The women’s race shares the same dramatic and thrilling finale, as riders battle fatigue, the gradient, and each other in a bid for victory.
Celebrating Champions of the Mur de Huy
The Mur de Huy has been the battleground for many unforgettable triumphs and heroic displays of determination by the world’s top cyclists. Over the years, some of the sport’s most distinguished riders have etched their names into the annals of cycling history by conquering the formidable climb. Here, we celebrate a few of those champions who have left an indelible mark on the Mur de Huy.
- Alejandro Valverde (Spain): Known as “the King of the Mur,” Alejandro Valverde has a record of five victories at the Flèche Wallonne (2006, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017). His exceptional climbing skills and tactical acumen have made him a dominant force on the Mur de Huy.
- Anna van der Breggen (Netherlands): With an impressive seven consecutive victories in the Flèche Wallonne Féminine (2015-2021), Anna van der Breggen has solidified her status as one of the greatest female cyclists of all time. Her unparalleled mastery of the Mur de Huy has left an indelible mark on the race’s history.
- Marianne Vos (Netherlands): Another Dutch powerhouse, Marianne Vos has triumphed on the Mur de Huy five times (2007, 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2013) in the Flèche Wallonne Féminine. Her exceptional talent and tenacity have made her one of the most decorated female cyclists in the sport.
These riders, along with countless others who have battled the Mur de Huy, have cemented the ascent’s status as a legendary proving ground for the world’s greatest cyclists. The dramatic finale on the slopes of the Mur continues to captivate fans and inspire future generations of riders to conquer the most iconic climb in the Ardennes Classics.