The 78th La Flèche Wallonne served up another healthy dose of excitement on the Mur de Huy, the brutal 1,300m slope synonymous with this second instalment of the Ardennes Classics.
Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde enjoyed a second triumph after winning in 2006, but more pertinently for his team and his rivals, recorded his sixth victory of the season. Choosing the veteran Spaniard to lead the team at the Tour de France instead of last year’s runner-up, Nairo Quintana, had once looked foolhardy. Has Valverde already justified his selection?
Ireland’s Daniel Martin (Garmin Sharp) enjoyed something of an annus mirabilis last season, and with a strong second place on the Mur, now looks well-placed to defend his title at Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Has Martin hit form in time to claim a second Monument Classic victory?
We find ourselves on informal terms with cultural icons. From Senna to Kylie, such is their recognition that the full name is superfluous. So it is with the Mur. What is it about the wall of Huy that attracts such reverence?
With Preben Van Hecke up the road for much of the race, his performance at La Flèche Wallonne again proved his value to any team. Why hasn’t a WorldTour squad signed this moving billboard, a rider who routinely command hours of television coverage each season?
We’ll admit to a soft spot for Lotto-Belisol, the Belgian team that goes wheel-to-wheel with the peloton’s richest squads, despite competing on a fraction of the budget. The renaissance of Jelle Vanendert, sixth at Flèche after finishing second at the Amstel Gold Race, is testimony to the spirit of a team that offered a pay cut to a rider struggling for form, rather than the door. Can the genial Belgian repay the faith of team managers and earn himself a pay rise with victory at Liege on Sunday?
Read on for our five observations from the 2014 La Flèche Wallonne and add your own in the RCUK Forum.
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