British champion Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) finished second at La Fleche Wallonne Femmes to maintain her overall UCI Women’s Road World Cup lead.
Armitstead – who has finished on the podium at all of her one-day races this season – was beaten by Rabobank-Liv’s Pauline Ferrand-Prevot on the Mur de Huy.
But her second place on the fierce slopes of the famous climb mean Armitstead still leads overall after four events so far this season.
Returning world champion Marianne Vos (Rabobank Liv) finished sixth on her return to road racing meanwhile.
Earlier in the day, Russian Julia Ilinykh made a short-lived break for freedom but otherwise the race stayed together as the pace was kept high in the peloton.
The undulating course saw several riders spat out the back of the bunch however, with the Cote de Bohisseau and Cote de Boussalle both shredding the leading group as Longo Borghini (Hitec Products) kept the average speeds ferociously high.
Former champions Vos, Evelyn Stevens (Specialized-Lululemon) and Great Britain’s Emma Pooley (Lotto-Belisol Ladies) all remained in the leading group, as did Armitstead and Ferrand-Prevot.
Ashleigh Moolman (Hitec Products) led the way over the first ascent of the Mur de Huy, and team-mate Audrey Cordon also remained active on the final circuit – launching a solo attack.
It was Vos who led the way over the Boussalle however as she showed the sort of strength which has brought her five career victories in La Fleche Wallonne despite her recent break.
The leading group totalled just 35 riders on the final circuit, with attacks and counter-attacks – including one from Wiggle-Honda’s Linda Villumsen – all proving to be short-lived.
Villumsen – a team-mate of British team pursuit stars Dani King, Laura Trott and Jo Rowsell – was the one who’s attack held strongest, approaching 35 seconds as they entered Huy.
The race was to be decided in an uphill sprint on the fierce ramps of the famous Wall however, Ferrand-Prevot proving too strong at the denouement for Armitstead.
Longo Borghini’s earlier efforts did not go in vain as she earned the final spot on the podium, while Pooley – herself racing at World Cup level for the first time this year – crossed alongside Vos.
King and Trott both finished the race nine minutes back, though Rowsell was unable to as all three bid to continue finding form on the road.
British cheer was reserved for Armitstead however, whose fine form means she remains clear at the top of the World Cup rankings.
La Fleche Wallonne Femmes 2014: result
1) Pauline Ferrand-Prevot (FRA) – Rabobank-Liv – 3.26.43hrs
2) Lizzie Armitstead (GBR) – Boels-Dolmans +1”
3) Elisa Longo Borghini (ITA) – Hitec Products +4”
4) Evelyn Stevens (USA) – Specialized-Lululemon +7”
5) Ashleigh Moolman (RSA) – Hitec Products +11”
6) Marianne Vos (NED) – Rabobank-Liv +13”
7) Emma Pooley (GBR) – Lotto Belisol Ladies – ST
8) Linda Villumsen (NZL) – Wiggle-Honda +21”
9) Claudia Hausler (GER) – Giant-Shimano +24”
10) Ellen van Dijk (NED) – Boels-Dolmans +28”