La Fleche Wallonne 2012: The Big Preview

La Fleche Wallonne in Belgium on Wednesday –
the second round of the 2012 Ardennes Classics – is likely to surprise. The usual names, including last year’s winner Philippe Gilbert, are off-target.

Gilbert will be without his BMC Racing team-mate, Cadel Evans. Tour de France champion and 2010 winner, Evans announced on Monday that he’ll skip Fleche and Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

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“Cadel has the Tour of Romandie coming in one week and with this infection, we don’t want to take any risks,” team doctor, Max Testa said in a press release. “The weather won’t be helpful – it’s going to be rainy and cold.”

The weather forecast is ugly: high of 11°C, cloudy and chance of showers. Team BMC Racing said that Evans continues to recover from a sinus infection, which saw him abandon the Amstel Gold Race on Sunday.

The lack of an all-out favourite will add even more suspense at the start line outside Charleroi’s football stadium. The riders face 194 kilometres and 10 climbs to the finish in Huy, including three climbs up the city’s wall, the Mur de Huy.

After a likely escape on the large loop to the south, the race will climax with three climbs: the Côte d’Amay, the Côte de Villers-le-Bouillet and the final ramp in Huy. Expect to see Gilbert, Damiano Cunego and Jelle Vanendert.

The men’s race is preceded by La Fleche Wallonne Femmes, part of the UCI Women’s World Cup. Nicole Cooke, Sharon Laws, Katie Colclough and 2010 winner Emma Pooley are among the British riders in attendance. Cooke won the race in 2003, 2005 and 2006. Marianne Vos is the defending champion.

La Fleche Wallonne 2012: The contenders
Joaquin Rodroguez (Katusha)
Purito placed second in the last two years. He is eager to take the top step, however, his Amstel result, 24th, doesn’t indicate much.
Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing)
The Belgian champ seems to be coming on form as he’s moving up gradually into the rankings. He placed sixth on Sunday, his best result yet.
Jelle Vanendert (Lotto-Belisol)
The Belgian nearly hauled in Gasparotto in Amstel. He said, “With this condition I have high hopes for both Fleche and Liege.”
Enrico Gasparotto (Astana)
The Amstel-Fleche double? The Italian will have confidence from his win, but will likely make way for another surprise winner.
Frank Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan)
He’s a long shot, but may surprise. Schleck would need to attack ahead of the Huy and hold off the punchy riders, like Rodriguez.

La Fleche Wallonne 2012: Route
Wednesday, April 18
Distance: 194km
Starts: Charleroi
Finishes: Huy

La Fleche Wallonne 2012: Climbs
Start: 0km – Charleroi
70.5km – Mur de Huy (1.3km long, 9.3% average)

110.0km – Côte de Peu d’Eau (2.7km long, 3.9% average)
115.5km – Côte de Haut-Bois (1.6km long, 4.8% average)
141.0km – Côte de Groynne (2.0km long, 3.5% average)
147.0km – Côte de Bohisseau (1.3km long, 7.6% average)
150.0km – Côte de Bousalle (1.7km long, 4.9% average)
163.0km – Mur de Huy (1.3km long, 9.3% average)

179.5km – Côte d’Amay (1.5km long, 6.7% average)
185.5km – Côte de Villers-le-Bouillet (1.2km long, 7.5% average)
Finish: 194.0km – Huy (Mur de Huy – 1.3km long, 9.3% average

La Fleche Wallonne 2012: Teams
Accent Jobs-Willems Verandas
Ag2r La Mondiale
BMC Racing
Omega Pharma-QuickStep
Saxo Bank
Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator
Type 1-Sanofi

La Fleche Wallonne 2012: TV guide
La Fleche Wallonne will be show live by digital channel British Eurosport
Wednesday April 18, 13:30-15:30, LIVE La Fleche Wallonne, British Eurosport
Wednesday April 18, 22:20-23:20, La Fleche Wallonne highlights, British Eurosport
Thursday April 19, 11:30-12:30, La Fleche Wallonne highlights, British Eurosport

Philippe Gilbert in 2011

La Fleche Wallonne: Recent winners
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

La Fleche Wallonne: Last year’s top ten (2011)
1. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma Lotto in 4-54-57
2. Joaquin Rodriguez (Esp) Katusha at 3 secs
3. Samuel Sanchez (Esp) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 5 secs
4. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana at 6 secs
5. Igor Anton (Esp) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 6 secs
6. Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Omega Pharma Lotto at 6 secs
7. Frank Schleck (Lux) Leopard-Trek at 6 secs
8. Daniel Moreno (Esp) Katusha at 9 secs
9. Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) Garmin-Cervelo at 12 secs
10. Paul Martens (Ger) Rabobank at 12 secs

Related links

Spring Classics 2012: Coverage index