Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) tamed the Mur de Huy to win La Fleche Wallonne and claim his first Spring Classics victory.
Lars Petter Nordhaug (Team Sky) and Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda) attacked in the final kilometres and held a 12 second advantage over the peloton at the foot of the 1,200m climb.
But the duo were soon swamped by the chasing group on the climb’s steep slopes and Rodriguez was one of four to attack, before riding away from Michael Albasini (GreenEdge), defending champion Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) and Amstel Gold Race runner-up Jelle Vanendert (Lotto-Belisol).
Rodriguez previously finished second in La Fleche Wallonne in 2010 and the 32-year-old’s victory deflects attention from his team’s most recent doping scandal, with Denis Galimzyanov admitting to using EPO earlier this week.
Anthony Roux (FDJ-Big Mat) and Dirk Bellemakers (Landbouwkrediet-Euphony) went clear to form a two-man break 55km into the 194km race from Charleroi to Huy, the second of three Ardennes Classics.
Andy Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan-Trek) attacked the peloton and went in pursuit of the duo as the race entered the final 45km, with Yuri Trofimov (Katusha) and Dmitriy Fofonov (Astana) following the 2010 Tour de France champion – but the trio were caught ahead of the second of three ascents of the Mur de Huy.
Roux and Bellemakers were reeled in with 15km to go, with Nordhaug and Hesjedal then going jumping from the front of the bunch as the race reached its crescendo.
Nordhaug faltered first, engulfed by the peloton on the Mur’s 25 per cent gradient, while Hesjedal made a second bid for glory – but the Canadian had no answer when Rodriguez attacked, with Gilbert, Albasini and Vanendert following the Spaniard but forced to settle for the minor placings.
La Fleche Wallonne
1) Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) – Katusha – 4:45.41 hours
2) Michael Albasini (Swi) – GreenEdge +4″
3) Philippe Gilbert (Bel) – BMC Racing
4) Jelle Vanendert (Bel) – Lotto-Belisol
5) Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) – Astana +7″
6) Daniel Martin (Irl) – Garmin-Barracuda +9″
7) Bauke Mollema (Ned) – Rabobank
8) Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) – Liquigas-Cannondale
9) Diego Ulissi (Ita) – Lampre-ISD
10) Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) – Lotto-Belisol+11″