Dylan Teuns secured his first-ever Classics victory today at La Flèche Wallonne 2022, as the Bahrain-Victorious proved too powerful for the rest of the peloton heading up the final climb of the Mur de Huy.
Coming into the final turn, Teuns had Alejandro Valverde - competing in his final La Flèche Wallonne - right on his back wheel. The Belgian managed to keep in front with more consistent speed though, leaving Valverde to settle for second place.
Valverde looked in prime position to take the win after following team-mate Enric Mas halfway up the hill and with 300m to go, and seemed even further in contention by building a gap up with Aleksandr Vlasov. However, a sharp effort by Teuns propelled him past the two riders, and he managed to keep that intensity up right until the line.
Vlasov came home in third, beating Julian Alaphilippe to the final step of the podium after the Frenchman was slightly impeded by Tadej Pogačar's inability to hang onto the front runners during the ascent.
HOW IT HAPPENED
The 86th edition of La Flèche Wallonne played out on a 202.1km route, with 11 sharp climbs between Blegny and the top of the Mur de Huy.
With the final 80km featuring three laps covering the climbs of Côte d’Ereffe, Côte de Cherave and the Mur de Huy, the riders were given plenty of chances to learn the best opportunities to launch any potential attacks. These three climbs all featured in the final 18.5km of the race too.
Côte d’Ereffe is a 2.1km climb at 5%, while Côte de Cherave 1.3km is long - the first kilometre of which is 8.5%. The climb to the Wall includes a 1.3km climb at 9.6%, but after 800m the gradient never drops below 10%, ensuring the field stretched out on the run to the finish line.
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) lined up for the final time at one of his favourite races today, the 41-year-old having won the Belgian race five times before. He faced stiff competition from Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) though, the Frenchman a more recent three-time winner of the event. Two-time Tour de France winner Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) also took to the start line too.
An attack in the opening 25km of the race by eight riders saw them open up a gap, but without any of the favourites within this group, the peloton let them build up a gap of a few minutes. This lasted for over 100km, though multiple riders from this group were dropped on some of the climbs.
Meanwhile, Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) abandoned the race after seemingly struggling to hold on in the peloton, while Pogačar suffered a flat tire 40km from the end. He quickly managed to regain ground to the bunch, with multiple accelerations in the peloton helping to bridge the gap to the breakaway groups further up the road.
Simon Carr (EF Education-EasyPost) was the first rider to pass the summit of Côte d'Ereffe for the final time, with less than 20km left in the race. However, with over 70 riders in the peloton, they soon caught up with the leading riders heading into the final 10km of the race.
With 5km to the finish line, Søren Kragh Andersen (Team DSM) surprised everyone by opening up a big gap to the rest of the riders, Mauri Vansevenant (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) the only rider choosing to match his pace. Ineos Grenadiers tried pulling in the peloton, ensuring the 15-second gap didn't rise any further as they geared up for their lead out.
Kragh Andersen and Vansevenant tried their best to hang on heading up the gruelling climb in Mur de Huy with just a kilometre to go, but were caught at the Flamme Rouge. Heading up the steep, unrelenting climb, riders were jockeying for position, ready to launch once they reached the final slightly shallower 100m.
Enric Mas (Movistar) moved to the front, Valverde directly behind him as he looked to secure his sixth Flèche Wallonne title. The Spaniard moved out with 300m to go, Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe) his closest competitor as they built up a gap of a few metres.
However, Dylan Teuns (Bahrain-Victorious) bided his time perfectly, launching past the pair with a strong pace. The Belgian comfortably managed to get past Vlasov, with only Valverde able to hang on. Teuns led into the final turn though, and Valverde's attempt to match his pace seemed in vain as he had little pace left upon reaching the flat final 100m.
Teuns managed to turn the pedals at a consistently powerful pace during those closing stages as he crossed the line first, with Valverde coming home in second. Vlasov finished third, beating Alaphilippe to the bronze medal after the Frenchman was impeded by Pogačar heading up the climb.
LA FLÈCHE WALLONNE 2022: BLEGNY TO MUR DE HUY (202.1KM)
1. Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain-Victorious, at 4-42-12
2. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar, at 2s
3. Aleksandr Vlasov, Bora-Hansgrohe, at same time
4. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, at 5s
5. Daniel Felipe Martínez (Col) Ineos Grenadiers, at 7s
6. Michael Woods (Can) Israel-Premier Tech, at same time
7. Ruben Guerreiro (Por) EF Education-EasyPost
8. Rudy Molard (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
9. Warren Barguil (Fra) Arkéa Samsic
10. Alexis Vuillermoz (Fra) TotalEnergies, all at same time
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