Fleche Wallonne 2013: The Big Preview
La Fleche Wallonne takes place on Wednesday (April 17), the second of three hilly Ardennes Classics that kicked off with the Amstel Gold Race last Sunday and conclude with Liege-Bastogne-Liege this coming Sunday (April 21).
Twelve climbs punctuate the second section of the 205-kilometre race route from Binche to the final ascent of the Mur de Huy - the iconic climb that usually splinters what remains of any lead group. It's a route that favours both climbers and attackers.
Last year, Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) launched a stinging attack on the final ascent of the Mur de Huy to leave his rivals trailing and take the victory. However, an untimely crash in the Amstel Gold Race last Sunday has left the Spaniard in less than great shape to defend his title.
Aside from Rodriguez, the start list boasts the usual selection of classics hardmen and Grand Tour riders looking to sharpen their form. Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) won the race in 2011 when he took a clean sweep of all three Ardennes Classics. This year he returns and faces Peter Sagan (Cannondale), who has been on form all season but surprisingly faded in the warm weather during Sunday's Amstel Gold Race.
Also lining up are Paris-Nice winner Richie Porte (Sky), Andy Schleck (RadioShack-Leopard), Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp), Tom Jelte Slagter (Blanco), Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Merida), Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar).
Three British riders appear on the provisional start list: Josh Edmondson, Jonathan Tiernan-Locke (both Sky) and Steve Cummings (BMC Racing).
La Fleche Wallonne Feminine
The women's version of the race, La Fleche Wallonne Feminine, takes place before the men's race and is part of the UCI World Cup. The race covers 131.5km, taking place on two punishing loops around Huy with 12 climbs in total, culminating in an ascent of the Mur de Huy
Last year, American Evelyn Stevens (Specialized-lululemon) took the victory. Brit Emma Pooley won the race in 2010, and the now retired Nicole Cooke won it on three occasions.
With Stevens absent due to injury, the runaway favourite for the women's event this year is Marianne Vos (Rabobank) - second last year but a winner on four previous occasions. Can anyone stop her?
Fleche Wallonne 2013: Route
Wednesday, April 17
Fleche Wallonne 2013: Climbs
Start: 0km, Binche
76.5km, Côte de Naninne (2.6km at 3.7%)
90km, Côte de Groynne (2.0km at 3.5%)
108.5km, Mur de Huy (1.3km at 9.3%)
127.5km, Côte d'Ereffe (2.1km at 5.9%)
146km, Côte de Peu d'Eau (2.7km at 3.9%)
151km, Côte de Bellaire (1.0km at 6.8%)
158.5km, Côte de Bohisseau (1.3km at 7.6%)
161.5km, Côte de Bousalle (1.7km at 4.9%)
173.5km, Mur de Huy (1.3km at 9.3%)
190km, Côte d'Amay (1.5km at 6.7%)
196.5km, Côte de Villers-le-Bouillet (1.2km at 7.5%)
Finish: 205km, Mur de Huy (1.3km at 9.3%)
Fleche Wallonne 2013: Teams
BMC Racing Team
Fleche Wallonne 2013: TV guide
La Fleche Wallonne will be show live by digital and satellite channel British Eurosport
Wednesday April 17, 14:00-16:1, Fleche Wallonne LIVE, British Eurosport
Wednesday April 17, 18:15-19:45, Fleche Wallonne highlights, British Eurosport
Joaquim Rodriguez wins in 2012
Fleche Wallonne: Recent winners
2012 Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha
2011 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
2010 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing
2009 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Serramenti-PVC Diquigiovanni
2008 Kim Kirchen (Lux) High Road
2007 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner
2006 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne
2005 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas
2004 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner
2003 Igor Astarloa (Spa) Saeco
2002 Mario Aerts (Bel) Lotto-Adecco
Fleche Wallonne: Last year's top ten (2012)
1. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha in 4-45-41
2. Michael Albasini (Sui) Green Edge at 4 secs
3. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC
4. Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Lotto-Belisol all at st.
5. Roman Kyserlovski (Cro) Astana at 7 secs
6. Dan Martin (Ire) Garmin-Barrcauda at 9 secs
7. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank
8. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale
9. Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-ISD all at st.
10. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto-Belisol at 11 secs