Emma Pooley and Nicole Cooke head up a strong British contingent at La Fleche Wallonne Femmes in Belgium on Wednesday.

Both are former winners of the UCI World Cup race, which takes place before the men’s WorldTour event on the same day. Pooley (AA Drink-Leontien.nl) won in 2010, and Cooke (Faren Honda) scored a trio of wins in 2003, 2005 and 2006. Cooke was second in 2010 behind Pooley and fifth last year.

British riders Sharon Laws (AA Drink-Leontien.nl) and Emma Silversides (Sengers) are also on the start list for the race, with Emma Trott (Dolmans-Boels), Katie Colclough (Specialized-Lululemon) and Lucy Martin (AA Drink-Leontien.nl) listed as reserves.

One thing stands in the way of Pooley, Cooke or anyone else taking the victory on Wednesday – defending champion Marianne Vos (Stichting Rabo Women) of the Netherlands. Vos has made the race her own – as she has with so many other events – winning four of the past five editions. She has already won two of the three rounds of the 2012 UCI World Cup.

Last year Pooley was forced to miss the race due to injury, setting up an enticing edition of the event this week given particular resonance in Olympic year.

The exact line-up of the British women’s Olympic team is far from settled, and selectors will be looking at the form of riders at races such as Fleche Wallonne Femmes to gauge form. Defending Olympic champion Cooke has already taken a win this year, a stage of the Energiewacht Tour earlier in April, showing that she is building form nicely ahead of the summer Games.

By her own high standards, the past two season have not brought in many victories for Cooke, and her position as British number one has been somewhat usurped by road race national champion Lizzie Armitstead and Pooley. Armitstead is absent from the race, with team-mate Pooley leading the AA Drink squad.

At 123km, the women’s edition of Fleche Wallonne is 71km shorter than men’s edition yet still includes two ascents of the tough Mur de Huy climb, one at the finish. The riders tackle nine climbs in total and it’s a race that suits climbers – such as Pooley – and tough, punchy riders – such as Vos and Cooke.

German Tour of Flanders winner Judith Arndt (GreenEdge) and Swede Emma Johansson (Hitec-Mistral) have also fared well at Fleche Wallonne in recent years, and both will be looking to take their first win in the race on Wednesday.

La Fleche Wallonne Femmes 2012: Route

Belgium

Wednesday, April 18

Distance: 123km

Start: Huy

Finish: Huy

La Fleche Wallonne Femmes 2012: Climbs

Start: 0km – Huy

39.0km – Côte de Peu d’Eau – 2.7km long, 3.9% average

44.5km – Côte de Haut-Bois – 1.6km long, 4.8% average

69.5km – Côte de Groynne – 2.0km long, 3.5% average

76.0km – Côte de Bohisseau – 1.3km long, 7.6% average

79.0km – Côte de Bousalle – 1.7km long, 4.9% average

92.0km – Mur de Huy – 1.3km long, 9.3% average

108.0km – Côte d’Amay – 1.5 km long, 6.7% average

114.5km – Côte de Villers-le-Bouillet – 1.2 km long, 7.5% average

Finish: 123.0km – Huy (Mur de Huy) – 1.3km long, 9.3% average

La Feche Wallonne Femmes: Recent winners

2011 Marianne Vos (Netherlands)

2010 Emma Pooley (Great Britain)

2009 Marianne Vos (Netherlands)

2008 Marianne Vos (Netherlands)

2007 Marianne Vos (Netherlands)

2006 Nicole Cooke (Great Britain)

2005 Nicole Cooke (Great Britain)

2004 Sonia Huguet (France)

2003 Nicole Cooke (Great Britain)

2002 Fabiana Luperini (Italy)

Related links

La Fleche Wallonne 2012: The Big Preview (men’s race)

2010: Pooley wins women’s Feche Wallonne, Cooke second

  • dai bananas brother

    We are looking forward to welcoming Nicole back home to Bro Morgannwg when she retains the Olympic RR.. As it happens the National Eisteddfod is being held in the area as well, starting on August 4, why not make a weekend of it and bring the bike down? Great cycling country and you’ll be sick to death of watching the TV by then. Dai’s missus says that she is sick of it already as it happens, in respect of the ‘Home of Cycling’ channel audio output that is.