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Julian Alaphilippe repeats as La Flèche Wallonne champion

Frenchman extends WorldTour lead over runner-up Fuglsang

Julian Alaphilippe and Jakob Fuglsang, whose lack of information saw them throw away Sunday’s Amstel Gold Race, continued their intriguing 2019 WorldTour rivalry in Wednesday’s La Flèche Wallonne, with the Frenchman beating out the Dane for victory on the dreaded Mur to retain his title. Alaphilippe bested Fuglsang in Strade Bianche. In last week’s disaster, Fuglsang had at least been able to salvage a podium. Alaphilippe’s other big WorldTour one-day victory this season is Milan-San Remo.

The Course

The riders faced 11 hills over 195.5 km. They would climb Mur de Huy remained at three, with Ereffe (2.1 km of 5 percent) and Cherave (1.3 km of 8.1 percent) appearing three times this edition, instead of two. With 76.5 km remaining, just after the first ascents of Ereffe and Cherave, the riders entered the finishing circuits. Atop the third passage of the Mur stood the finish line. The 1.3-kilometre Mur de Huy averages just over nine per cent and hits nasty grades of 26 per cent.

Very rarely does a solo rider or even a small group go for the win on the last Mur, it’s usually a bunch with the team leaders delivered to the front for the big showdown.

The Breakaway

Five riders zipped away early and reached the first climb of the Cote de Tancremont at the 46-km mark with a gap of 4:10. With about 83-km remaining, Canadian legend Svein Tuft, now plying his trade for Rally, was involved in a crash.

By the top of the first of three passages of the Mur de Huy, the break was down to three riders who had 2:40 over the peloton.

Into the second circuit, a move of seven tried to bridge over to the trio up front.

Just after Alaphilippe suffered a flat between Ereffe 2 and Cherave 2, Gorka Izagirre put in a strong surge from the peloton to make it over to the chase group, now 1:15 behind the breakaway. Behind, a hard crash took down Gorka’s brother Jon, among others. Meanwhile, Peter Sagan and Dan Martin dropped away from the peloton on the Cherave. The pace was furious.

With the second ascent of the Mur looming, the peloton swept up the Gorka chase and homed in on the break. Another wreck took down Roman Kreuziger, Domenico Pozzovivo and pre-race favourite Adam Yates.

The Final Circuit

The last of the fugitives were swept up as the greatly reduced peloton heard the bell. Twenty riders headed towards Ereffe 3. Movistar worked to bring Valverde and Alaphillipe, creating a platoon of 50.

Lotto-Soudal’s Tomasz Marczyński powered away on Ereffe 3, drawing Matej Mohorič of Bahrain-Merida. The torrid pace of Alaphilippe’s teammate Enric Mas on Cherave 3 brought them back with 6 km to go.

The Mur

There were no attacks in the first half of the Mur until Fuglsang launched. Alaphilippe powered after him and passed him for his third WorldTour one-day race triumph of the season. Italian Diego Ulissi was third place, his first Ardennes Classic podium.

Alaphilippe withdrew from the Itzulia Basque Country with crash injuries but has gone second place, fourth place, win since his return to racing.

Fuglsang is enjoying a career best season, having also come third in the Tirreno-Adriatico stage race. Before Wednesday’s race, Fuglsang was 224 points behind Alaphilippe in the WorldTour standings and six ahead of Oliver Naesen.

Michael Woods, who didn’t finish Amstel Gold after having been in a counterattack, placed 55th.

2019 La Flèche Wallonne
1) Julian Alaphilippe (France/Deceuninck-Quick Step) 4:55:14
2) Jakob Fuglsang (Denmark/Astana) s.t.
3) Diego Ulissi (Italy/UAE-Emirates) +0:06
55) Michael Woods (Canada/EF Education First) +6:19