CYCLING: Favorites Alaphilippe and van der Breggen capture La Fleche Wallonne

Tour de France leader Julian Alaphilippe (FRA).

Wednesday’s famed La Fleche Wallonne race was always going to be settled on the final climb up the Mur de Huy. Once again, there were familiar faces coming across the finish line first: France’s Julian Alaphilippe and Dutch star Anna van der Breggen.

For van der Breggen, this was her fifth consecutive win in this race, tying her for the most ever with countrywoman Marianne Vos, who finished fourth. The women’s race, which started and finished in Huy (pop.: 21,293), had the normal attacks and fades and the lead group was still together with 3 km left.

Then Floortje Mackalj (NED) made a move and built up a 15-second lead with just 1,000 m to go, but she was caught half-way up the Mur de Huy, with about 500 m remaining. The Amstel Gold Race winner, Kasia Niewiadoma (POL) attacked and edged slightly ahead, but she too was caught, this time with only 150 m to go. The trio of van der Breggen, Annemiek van Vleuten (NED) and Dane Annika Langvad rushed for the finish, but van der Breggen was too strong. She collected not only a fifth win in a row, but also her 13th career World Tour victory. Niewiadoma faded to sixth and Mackalj, to 18th.

Dutch riders have now won five of the eight Women’s World Tour races in 2019, but Italy’s Marta Bastianelli remains the overall leader with 710 points to 500 for van Vleuten.

The men’s race included the normal crashes, which took contenders Adam Yates (GBR) and Roman Kreuziger (CZE) out of the race. Three men had the lead with 6.5 km left, racing up the Cote de Cherave, but the leaders get bunched up again for the final, 1.3 km climb up the Mur de Huy. Poland’s Michal Kwiatkowski attacked with 600 m to go, but he was caught by Jakob Fuglsang (DEN) with just 150 m left … and then Alaphilippe sped by the capture his second straight La Fleche title at the line.

It was Alaphilippe’s third important title of the year, after Strade Bianche and Milan-Sanremo in Italy, and Fuglsang repeated his runner-up to Alaphilippe from Strade Bianche. Both will have another chance at each other in Sunday’s classic, Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Summaries:

UCI World Tour/La Fleche Wallonne
Ans to Mur du Huy (BEL) ~ 24 April 2019
(Full results here)

Final Standings (195.0 km): 1. Julian Alaphilippe (FRA), 4:55:14; 2. Jakob Fuglsang (DEN), 4:55:14; 3. Diego Ulissi (ITA), 4:55:20; 4. Bjorg Lambrecht (BEL), 4:55:22; 5. Maximilian Schachmann (GER), 4:55:22; 6. Bauke Mollema (NED, 4:55:22; 7. Patrick Konrad (AUT), 4:55:22; 8. Michael Matthews (AUS), 4:55:22; 9. Jelle Vanendert (BEL), 4:55:25; 10. Enrico Gasparotto (ITA), 4:55:25.

UCI Women’s World Tour/La Fleche Wallonne
Mur de Huy (BEL) ~ 24 April 2019
(Full results here)

Final Standings (118.5 km): 1. Anna van der Breggen (NED), 3:17:04; 2. Annemiek van Vleuten (NED), 3:17:05; 3. Annika Langvad (DEN), 3:17:08; 4. Marianne Vos (NED), 3:17:18; 5. Demi Vollering (NED), 3:17:20; 6. Kasia Niewiadoma (POL), 3:17:21; 7. Ashleigh Moolman (RSA), 3:17:24; 8. Cecile Uttrup Ludwig (DEN), 3:17:27; 9. Brodie Chapman (AUS), 3:17:3:17:30; 10. Mavi Garcia (ESP), 3:17:37.