So far Anna van der Breggen has ruled the women’s Ardennes Week with two WorldTour wins on the trot, adding her third consecutive La Fleche Wallonne Feminine title to her Amstel Gold Race victory over the weekend. In Wednesday’s men’s race the incredible season of Alejandro Valverde continues as he wins his fourth Walloon Arrow in a row and fifth in all.

The Women’s Race
The women faced 120-km and seven climbs, including two trips up the Mur de Huy, one of which was to the finish line.

Climb 1, Cote d’Ereffe came at the 16-km mark and it was there that the second effort to scamper away was neutralized. Crosswinds and a high pace had already strung the pack out with a few splits. A foursome then dashed away and had a minute’s gap by kilometre 29.

Behind the break winds were playing havoc with the peloton and a crash at kilometre 48 added to the chaos.

Boels-Dolmans and then Sunweb provided the chase engines.

After the second climb, the Cote d’Amay, only two riders remained in the escape and they had 37-seconds over the bunch. South African Ashleigh Moolman then attacked from the chase to join Cervelo-Bigla teammate Alison Dragoo in the escape.

As soon as the new formation was hauled back with 22-km to go, another Cervelo rider, Dane Marie Vilmann stole away with Ukrainian Tetyana Riabchenko of Lensworld-Kuota. They made it to the top of the second ascent of Cote d’Ereffe with a 32-second lead. Behind them the peloton shed rider after rider.

Niewiadoma Kicks It Off

A surge by Pole Katarzyna Niewiadoma on the Cote de Cherave with 7-km remaining dropped a lot of favourites. Niewiadoma flew past the fugitives. Elizabeth Deignan reached the WM3 rider out front. Wilmann, Moolman and Deignan’s teammate Van der Breggen chased hard. Only van der Breggen made it over before the final Huy showdown.

Van der Breggen immediately attacked on the base of the Huy. There was no touching the Olympic and European champion. Boels-Dolmans took the one-two as Deignan came runner up, her third WorldTour podium. Niewiadoma’s third also gave her three WorldTour podiums this year and five top-10’s. Coryn Rivera’s seventh place was good enough to keep her in the WorldTour lead.

Leah Kirchmann was the top Canadian in 31st place, +4:06 of van der Breggen.

The Men’s Race
One of the shorter WorldTour one-day races of the year, the chaps had just over 200-km and 8-climbs to negotiate, including three ascents of the Mur. Just the women’s course, the final haul up the Mur would be to the finish line.

Soon after the gun in Binche, two moves coalesced to form a six-man breakaway that had a four minute lead after 30-km of racing. There were no climbs in the first 3/5 of the course and by the first ascent, the C么te d’Amay at the 127-km point, the sextet had a 3:30 lead. Orica-Scott and Movistar did much of the pacemaking.

The race would enter the first of two clockwise laps via the first passage of the Mur. Dan Pearson of Aqua Blue Sport was one of the two escapees who could stay with their breakmates after Mur One.

On the C么te d’Ereffe with 46-km to go BMC’s Alessandro De Marchi (Italy) skipped away from the peloton to make things difficult for Movistar. Although the race all came together with 34-km remaining, De Marchi insisted on scooting away again, this time on the C么te de Cherave. He hit the second passage of the Mur with a gap that was 20-seconds at climb’s peak.

Bob Jungels (Luxembourg/Quick Step) attacked on the Mur’s downhill, linking up with De Marchi. They had a 30-second gap with 25-km to go. The duo maintained its gap over the second passage of the d’Ereffe. Jungels left his Italian partner behind with 12-km to go.

Jungels’ gap grew. The peloton yanked back De Marchi on the Cherave. Sky in general and Bora-Hansgrohe’s Rafal Majka (Poland) in particular led up the Cherave, where Jungels’ lead shrank back to 30-seconds.

The Mur

The peloton, now radically streamlined, had Cannondale on its pointy end as the Mur loomed. At the red flag, the 20% section on the climb still to come, Jungels had 10-seconds, but Sky swept him up with 600-metres to go.

It was hard riding in the final half-kilometres. Little David Gaudu (France/FDJ) tried a sharp dig but he was pulled back. With 175-metres remaining Valverde just rode away from everyone. He had plenty of time to fling an imaginary arrow and raise a handful of digits.

Dan Martin (Ireland/Quick Step) was runner-up and BMC’s Dylan Teuns an impressive third.

Valverde adds the one-day WorldTour race to his two 2017 WorldTour stage race victories at the Volta a Ciclista Catalunya and the Pais Vasco. He also took victory at the Ruta Del Sol and Costa Calida races.

Michael Woods was prominent on the Mur and his 11th place is one spot higher than last season.

Ardennes Week concludes Sunday with the fourth Monument of the WorldTour season and the eighth race of the Women’s WorldTour, Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

2017 La Fleche Wallonne Feminine

1) Anna van der Breggen (The Netherlands/Boels-Dolmans) 3:21:06
2) Elizabeth Deignan (Great Britain/Boels-Dolmans) +0:16
3) Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Poland/WM3 Energie) +0:25
31) Leah Kirchmann (Canada/Sunweb) +4:06
54) Karol-Ann Canuel (Canada/Boels-Dolmans) +4:27
66) Alison Jackson (Canada/Bepink Cogeas) +4:58

2017 La Fl猫che Wallonne

1) Alejandro Valverde (Spain/Movistar) 5:15:37
2) Dan Martin (Ireland/Quick Step) +0:01
3) Dylan Teuns (Belgium/BMC) s.t.
11) Michael Woods (Canada/Cannondale-Drapac) s.t.


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