The Take out - Fleche Wallonne
Not getting what you paid for - I’m a simple man, I like getting what I paid for. If I go to the pub and order a big juicy scotch fillet steak with pepper sauce cooked medium rare, then I expect to be brought a big juicy scotch fillet with pepper sauce cooked medium rare. At Fleche Wallonne, the scene was set for steak, and they brought us a chicken schnitzel out of nowhere. Boy oh boy, was this result out of the blue. This is generally a race where 200 guys meet in Belgium, race around for a couple hours and then Alejandro Valverde wins. Kudos Julian Alaphilippe for upsetting the natural order. After having two podiums at Fleche before, he was the natural successor to Valverde’s throne at the top of the Mur.
2. Gang Ups – The race was a big old version of playground gang-ups as everybody tried their best to beat Valverde and Movistar. It made for the most entertaining Fleche in recent years as it was gung-ho for the final 50km. That was probably due to the ultra-high levels of desperation in the peloton as Valverde was apparently unbeatable if a bunch came to the Mur together. Movistar handled it pretty well though; they contained it as best as they could, Mikel Landa died a thousand deaths on the front of the peloton, and then they let the race just bring itself back together as the pace was pushed on the final climb.
3. Jack Haig – Jack Haig rode pretty well to nearly surprise everyone and ride to the victory. He rode pretty well at Brabantse Pijl last week too; either he really likes racing on Wednesdays or he’s got a future in these races. The lanky ginger was superb on the run-in to the Mur: he dropped Nibali and looked around in disbelief a couple of times before pushing on with Schachmann who sold him out by sitting on during the few kms before the final climb.
The Mur – 26% near the top and averaging 16% in the last km!
DS Brian Holm comes emphasises the victory.
Good to see Valverde giving Landa a shout out – Landa was the reason he got anywhere near the podium.
Quickstep are now hashtagging #TheWolfpack – are we yes or no on self-appointed nicknames?
- The race was the most aggressive edition we’ve seen for a while; that was probably a result of teams being desperate for a way to beat Valverde.
- Dan Martin had an absolute shocker for someone with multiple podiums at this race. He got dropped on the second time up the Mur and still probably hasn’t finished yet.
- Ride of the Day probably goes to Cesare Benedetti; he was pushing the beak all day and jumped on the back of the Haig-Nibali group when they came through.
- Michael Matthews had an extraordinary ride to finish 5th; I’d foolishly assumed the Mur was way too step for him. Watch out Liege
- Valverde will be big time looking for revenge on Sunday. A Merckx style 100km break might be on the cards.
- Jelle Vandendert showed his great form by setting up the day’s winner, but it wasn’t his teammate. Timmy Wellens died with a few hundred metres to go, and the gap that opened up in front of him was probably what hurt Valverde who looked wary of going too early.
- Is Nibali in good form? It’s hard to tell. He is the sort of guy that always has a chance of winning, even when he’s not in form. He’s a 5’9”, 60kg Jens Voight.
See you back at the social club,