Anna van der Breggen (Rabobank-Liv) won Flèche Wallonne Feminine earlier today, perfectly executing the team plan to finish 12 seconds of the second-placed rider. The Dutchwoman had bridged to a two-woman escape, joining team mate Roxanne Knetemann and former colleague Annemiek van Vleuten (Bigla).
At the base of the final climb of the Mur de Huy 25 year old van der Breggen attacked them and rode solo to the finish.
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Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) was the first British rider to finish, crossing the line 1.49 down in 21st position, having worked for third-placed team mate, Megan Guarnier. Armitstead, who was second in the 2014 edition of the race, had been unwell in the preceding week and the plan was to ride in a supporting role.
“I had one speed in me today,” Armitstead told Cycling Weekly at the finish. “I wouldn’t have been able to go with any attacks so I did what I did what I could for the team.”
Indeed, the Commonwealth Champion was on the front for a considerable chunk of the race before attacking at the base of the penultimate climb. “The plan was for me to go, so they would follow and the girls could go over the top, but it didn’t quite work out.”
Wearing the British champion’s jersey, Laura Trott finished in 48th place, five minutes behind van der Breggen. It was her third participation in the event and her favourite, telling us, “I found it a lot better than I have done in recent years, it wasn’t anywhere near as sketchy. Normally, because it’s a World Cup it can be a bit twitchy in the bunch.
“It was different because the two other times I’ve done it, it’s split going over the Mur, so I positioned myself at the front and I got over it at the group.”
In the end, however, it was lack of road miles which put paid to her hopes. “I can get to about 80 or 90 km and that’s all I’ve got. I’ve come form the track and I’m just getting used to riding in the bunch again. But going up the third climb on the last lap I said there’s no way I’m not finishing this race.”
Despite previous podium appearances, the victory was van der Breggen’s first World Cup win and the first for Rabo-Liv this year, and she was clearly satisfied with her victory.
“I couldn’t believe it really, the moment you cross the finish line as the first one, you cannot believe,” van der Breggen told us. “It was planned like this yesterday evening. We were all felling good, the girls were closing all the gaps. We said we’re going win. I was relaxed and they did all they had to do. It really feels like a team win and that is extra nice.”
After four rounds van der Breggen now leads the World Cup standings with a 64 point lead over Annemiek van Vleuten (Bigla), who finished in second place in Huy.
Fleche Wallonne Feminine 2015, 121km
1. Anna van der Breggen (Ned) Rabobank-Liv in 3-18-46
2. Annemiek van Vleuten (Ned) Bigla at 12 secs
3. Megan Guarnier (USA) Boels-Dolmans at 20 secs
4. Ashleigh Moolman (RSA) Bigla at 32 secs
5. Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Pol) Rabobank-Liv at 40 secs
6. Evelyn Stevens (USA) Boels-Dolmans at 44 secs
7. Roxane Knetemann (Ned) Rabobank-Liv at 46 secs
8. Pauline Ferrand-Prevot (Fra) Rabobank-Liv at 57 secs
9. Alena Amialiusik (Blr) Velocio-SRAM at 1-07
10. Emma Johansson (Swe) Orica-AIS at same time
21. Lizzie Armitstead (GBr) Boels-Dolmans at 1-49
35. Molly Weaver (GBr) Matrix Fitness at 4-22
48. Laura Trott (GBr) Matrix Fitness at 5-00
70. Elinor Barker (GBr) Matrix Fitness at 7-02
89. Sharon Laws (GBr) Bigla at 9-29