Words by Owen Rogers
Pauline Ferrand-Prevot (Rabo-Liv) took the biggest result of her career today, timing her sprint up the Mur de Huy to perfection and taking her first World Cup win at Flèche Wallonne. The 22-year-old French woman benefited from perfect team tactics, which saw World Champion Marianne Vos working on the front to bring back the numerous attacks which punctuated the final 40 kilometres.
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The race was another aggressive one, with each of the 12 climbs serving to thin the field of 139 riders, allowing an elite group to form and fight out the final. Each of the top teams were well represented, sending riders up the road to draw out their rivals. The moment a brief attack from Emma Pooley was brought back with 10 kilometres left, Linda Villumsen (Wiggle-Honda) escaped, building a lead of over 40 seconds, eventually being caught just 250 metres from the line.
It was roles reversed for the Rabo team, with Marianne Vos working for the French winner throughout the race. “I was afraid that I might disappoint her,” Ferrand-Prevot said afterwards, “for the whole race I was riding on her wheel. She told me that I had to wait to see the finish line and I attacked at really the last moment, it was a really close sprint, but I am very happy today.”
In the final 100 metres Ferrand-Prevot was pulled clear of the fractured group by Lizzie Armitstead, who held on to take a third successive World Cup second place, telling Cycling Weekly “With 150 metres to go, when you’re in that much pain you think right, let’s go, Pauline was in my wheel the whole time and it was difficult to hold her off.”
The result further cements Armitstead’s position at the head of the World Cup standings, her nearest rivals finishing well down the points. The next round is in China on May 18th, though Lizzie is among many top riders not racing as it comes too soon after the Women’s Tour of Britain.
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