FLECHE WALLONNE PREVIEW: WHO'S GOING TO WIN?
It's Fleche Wallonne and it's all about the Mur de Huy.
Anyone who's ridden it knows it is a very steep hill. And, at 1,300 metres, it's not that short either.
It starts out pretty steep, then kicks up, then takes an S-shaped bend and kicks up some more.
Basically, this is the equivalent of a Tour de France sprint finish in super slow-mo.
So, if you want to win here, you need to be an excellent climber but also have enough zip in your legs to make a gap.
It all points towards Alejandro Valverde, winner here in 2006 and runner-up last year. So, with no further ado, here are our top ten favourites.
|1 Alejandro Valverde|
Best Fleche Wallonne: 1st in 2006
Unibet's odds to win: 6.00
CW's verdict: Yes, we picked him to win Amstel Gold, and yes he came up short on the Cauberg. But the Mur de Huy is a different musette of bocadillos altogether (that's Spanish for sandwiches, by the way).
|2 Damiano Cunego|
Best Fleche Wallonne: 14th in 2005
Unibet's odds to win: 6.00
CW's verdict: We under-estimated the Italian somewhat on Sunday. Partly that was because he had no history at Amstel Gold. Partly it was because we felt he'd target Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Now we've seen he means business we've shunted him up the list a bit. It won't be a surprise if he wins in Huy to set up the Triple Crown.
|3 Robert Gesink|
Best Fleche Wallonne: 9th in 2007
Unibet's odds to win: 14.00
CW's verdict: We may be getting a bit carried away bigging up the young Dutchman, but remember last year when he started the final ascent of the Mur way back and snaked his way past dozens of bodies to finish ninth. If he positions himself better at the foot of the climb he can make the podium.
|4 Kim Kirchen|
Best Fleche Wallonne: 2nd in 2005
Unibet's odds to win: 17.00
CW's verdict: Tried to get things started at Amstel Gold and, alarmingly, was made to look a bit pedestrian on Eyersbosweg by Johan Van Summeren - the giraffe. We're not being discouraged, though. Kirchen has at least one good ride in him this week.
|5 Frank Schleck|
Best Fleche Wallonne: 4th in 2006
Unibet's odds to win: 7.00
CW's verdict: Went for a long one on the Cauberg and was caught out by Cunego, who scored revenge for Alpe d'Huez in 2006. Schleck is more of a power climber and we'd have thought the Cauberg would suit him more than the Mur de Huy. There are better candidates here.
|6 Joaquin Rodriguez|
Best Fleche Wallonne: 24th in 2005
Unibet's odds to win: 4.50
CW's verdict: Unibet.com must have done some business on the Spanish champion because he's currently their favourite. Okay, so he was in decent form at Amstel Gold and he won on that insanely steep hill in Tirreno-Adriatico last month, but a winner here? We think not. His captain is Valverde and he won't forget it. Could be an interesting foot soldier though, so look for him to attack just before or early on the final ascent of the Mur.
|7 Davide Rebellin|
Best Fleche Wallonne: 1st in 2004 and 2007
Unibet's odds to win: 6.00
CW's verdict: Made to look a bit ponderous on the Cauberg. How will he cope on the Mur? At his age, 12 months is a long, long time and although he's not lost his tactical edge, his legs are beginning to fade ever so slightly. It'll be a surprise if he wins but not if he's in the top five or so.
|8 Thomas Dekker|
Best Fleche Wallonne: 39th in 2006
Unibet's odds to win: 20.00
CW's verdict: The Dutch were disappointed in his performance on Sunday, but then the expectations were sky high in his home country. Has never fared well in Fleche Wallonne before but there's a first time for everything.
|9 Fabian Wegmann|
Best Fleche Wallonne: 10th in 2005
Unibet's odds to win: 25.00
CW's verdict: With Stefan Schumacher under par, Wegmann is likely to be Gerolsteiner's number two. He's got a good pedigree too - eleventh in each of the past two years, tenth in 2006 and 13th in 2005. Could break into the top ten this time.
|10 Rinaldo Nocentini|
Best Fleche Wallonne: 6th in 2007
Unibet's odds to win: N/A
CW's verdict: Wild card who could upset the applecart and set the cat among the pigeons, if that isn't too many analogies. Italian climber who loves hills like the Mur de Huy.
Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) - Did nicely at the Tour of the Basque Country so clearly in good form. Will probably save himself for Sunday.
Karsten Kroon (Rabobank) - Not good enough on the hills to be a danger on the Mur.
Oscar Freire (Rabobank) - Needs it to be an unconventional race for him to have a chance.
Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) - Not in good enough form.
Yaroslav Popovych (Silence-Lotto) - A better bet than Evans.
Carlos Barredo (Quick Step) - Belgian team desperately needs a leader. He could be the one.
Maxime Montfort (Cofidis) - Didn't perform on Sunday. Must do better. Local boy here, so will be super motivated.
John Gadret (Ag2r) - Was a revelation last year. Hasn't done much since. Will he climb out of the shadows once again? No, probably not.
Riccardo Ricco (Saunier Duval) - Assuming he's over the fever that kept him out of Amstel Gold. His fan club were on the Mur de Huy very early on race day so they are obviously expecting a decent ride.
2006 Alejandro Valverde (Spain) Caisse d’Epargne
2005 Danilo Di Luca (Italy) Liquigas
2004 Davide Rebellin (Italy) Gerolsteiner
2003 Igor Astarloa (Spain) Saeco
2002 Mario Aerts (Belgium) Lotto-Adecco
2001 Rik Verbrugghe (Belgium) Lotto-Adecco
2000 Francesco Casagrande (Italy) Vini Caldirola
1999 Michele Bartoli (Italy) Mapei
1998 Bo Hamburger (Denmark) Casino
|FLECHE WALLONNE ON YOU TUBE|
1996 Armstrong wins
|BRITS AT FLECHE WALLONNE|
Tom Simpson 1965
Brian Robinson 1955
Paul Watson 1987
Tom Simpson 1960
Robert Millar 1990
Tom Simpson 1963
Alan Ramsbottom 1963
Alan Ramsbottom 1965
Robert Millar 1987
Michael Wright 1965
John Kennedy 1960
Barry Hoban 1969
Barry Hoban 1968
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