La Fleche Wallonne 2016: Alejandro Valverde claims record-breaking fourth win

Spaniard triumphs on Mur de Huy for third consecutive year

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) won La Fleche Wallonne for a record-breaking fourth time – and third in a row – after another climbing masterclass on the Mur de Huy.

Valverde was on the front as the climbing started, thanks to a huge effort throughout the day from his team, and the Spanish champion finished the job in style.

Etixx-QuickStep duo Julian Alaphilippe and Dan Martin followed in second and third, but even with strength in numbers in the final few hundred metres, the two could not stop Valverde’s dominance on the Huy.

Alejandro Valverde has won La Fleche Wallonne a record-breaking four times (pic: Sirotti)

The peloton broke up early in the race, with a 24-strong earning an early gap before it came back together before the climbing had even started.

It set the tone for the opening section of the race, with large groups looking to forge clear of the peloton but not earning any leeway.

Britain’s Steve Cummings (Dimension Data) finally seized the initiative and went clear on the run-in to the Cote de Bellaire, the day’s first climb, and his efforts helped a ten-man break distance the peloton.

The gap hovered around the three-minute mark at its maximum, prompting the Wirral-born rider to up the pace – a move which broke the break up.

Movistar pushed the pace in the peloton, and looked comfortable doing so for Alejandro Valverde, but Cummings, Sylvan Dillier (BMC Racing), Tosh van de Sande (Lotto-Soudal) and Matteo Bono (Lampre-Merida) continued to lead.

A crash in the peloton caught Frank Schleck (Trek-Segafredo) out, and Movistar’s pace lined the bunch out too as it started to thin in number.

Cummings continued to ride aggressively up the road, though, and first only Dillier could hold his wheel before the Dimension Data man opted to go it alone.

He led the way onto the Cote d’Ereffe, with his advantage still half-a-minute, but Movistar swallowed him up as they continued to put the hurt on riders at the back of the bunch.

Valverde led the way onto the Mur de Huy and made it three consecutive wins at La Fleche (pic: Claudio Peri/ANSA)

The Spanish team kept the pressure on, despite attacks off the front including Bob Jungels (Etixx-QuickStep) earning a small gap.

Georg Priedler (Giant-Alpecin) followed the move, and Ion Izaguirre (Movistar) joined the back as a passenger, while a strong group of contenders also followed in close pursuit.

Wout Poels (Team Sky) and Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEDGE) were both present, while Katusha – with two riders in the move – set the pace, and Movistar planted another passenger in Giovanni Visconti.

Tinkoff were not represented in either move though, and closed the gap – first catching the chasers, before closing in on Jungels and Izaguirre on the lower slopes of the Cote de Cherave, Priedler having gone back to the bunch.

Izaguirre was given the nod to attack, however, and re-opened his and Jungels’ lead, while Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) put a typically big dig in off the front of the peloton to bridge across.

Etixx-QuickStep hit the front of the peloton despite their team-mate’s presence up the road, however, and switched their focus to Dan Martin and Julian Alaphilippe as the break was caught.

It meant a bunch charge up the Mur de Huy, and Valverde was in pole position as the climbing started, with Albasini for company.

Joaquim Rodriguez lit it up, but could not escape the attentions of Valverde and Dan Martin (Etixx-QuickStep).

Martin kicked next, with Valverde on his wheel and team-mate Julian Alaphilippe also in tow but the Movistar man foiled the Etixx duo to claim his third consecutive win.

La Fleche Wallonne 2016: report

1) Alejandro Valverde (ESP) – Movistar –
2) Julian Alaphilippe (FRA) – Etixx-QuickStep – ST
3) Dan Martin (IRL) – Etixx-QuickStep
4) Wout Poels (NED) – Team Sky +4”
5) Enrico Gasparotto (ITA) – Wanty Groupe-Gobert +5”
6) Samuel Sanchez (ESP) – BMC Racing – ST
7) Michael Albasini (SUI) – Orica-GreenEDGE
8) Diego Ulissi (ITA) – Lampre-Merida
9) Warren Barguil (FRA) – Giant-Alpecin
10) Rui Costa (POR) – Lampre-Merida


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