Flèche Wallonne Femmes

The Dutchwoman, backed by a superb ‘telephone’ team from start to finish, gains confidence and a new podium finish in Huy before meeting Liège, one of her favourite races.

It’s hard to do a better race than these six. As was the case two weeks ago in the Tour of Flanders, the Movistar Team bordered on perfection in the Flecha Walloon held this Wednesday, and only the sprint and a superior rival – today, Marta Cavalli (FDJ) – prevented their unwavering leader, Annemiek van Vleuten, achieved her fourth victory of the course.

The group work of Katrine Aalerud and Sara Martín in the initial phase of the race; the great physical recovery of Jelena Erić after Roubaix, with a long escape after which she even helped to position her teammates in the last heights; and the splendid final effort of Arlenis Sierra and Paula Patiño, who led ‘Miek’ in the first position to the base of the last Wall of Huy, ended with the Dutchwoman climbing to the podium for the third time in the Belgian race, just four days from a new monument in ‘Liège’.

Comments / Annemiek van Vleuten:

“The team had a perfect race. It gives you a lot of pride and happiness to see such a committed team, one hundred per cent, in your options, and everyone has contributed to this result. I didn’t have to expend an ounce of force before the final part. In Cherave, it was very important to enter well, the approaches were perfect, and then entering the Wall of Huy, having Arlenis and Paula there leading the peloton in that way… It was the first time in my life, and never it’s too late to learn, that I’ve made the perfect Wall. Every year I started far behind, here we have raced with perfect planning for the finish line and on the climb, with the help of Alejandro (Valverde) who gave me good advice, I think I have done perfectly.

I have done exactly what Alejandro told me. Very strong pace, especially from the two hardest corners; raise a little more if you could after that, and I’ve had legs for it; and in the absence of 150 meters, the sprint, with whatever he had, just as he advised me. I have seen the stars, literally; I couldn’t even see, but I felt that Cavalli was coming from behind and he was coming to empty me. I haven’t left an ounce of energy unused on that climb.

The team, as I say, has been perfect; I think we can leave here with a lot of confidence, for the next races and especially for challenges like the Tour de France. With the most climbing team reaching these levels of performance, I am calm and confident that we are going to reach the summer in perfect condition. Facing Liège, we will go with enthusiasm, because the legs have been very good and few people have been able to follow me in Huy, in addition to the fact that the climbs are somewhat longer.

I really can’t leave disappointed with this second place. There was a moment 200 meters from the finish when I thought I had it, but Cavalli has had yet another change. What has prevented me from winning are things that are out of my control, like that.”