Davide Rebellin has done it again. The Italian timed a late acceleration to perfection to win Fleche Wallonne for a third time in six years and prove that at 37, he?s still a force to be reckoned with.
First in 2004 and again in 2007, Rebellin said that his 2009 victory was the ?nicest of the three.?
It was certainly calculated to perfection. After gambling, correctly, that the race would come back together at the foot of the Mur de Huy, Rebellin rode parallel on one side of the final climb as Australian Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) shredded the field on the other. Evans was, intentionally or unintentionally, was doing all the spadework for the Italian, whilst Rebellin was watching and waiting for his moment.
Then just as Andy Schleck (SaxoBank) seemed close to making a decisive move, Rebellin upped the pace a little further and opened a gap of a couple of bike-lengths in no time at all. Come the summit it was up to two seconds, with Italy?s Damiano Cunego in third.
Nine times a top ten finisher in Fleche, the 37-year-old Rebellin recognised the 195.5 kilometre hilly Classic was a race where he knew exactly what to do to win.
?I knew once I got to half-way up the Mur still on the front that I could win.?
?Evans did a great job destroying the field, and after that it was up to me to go for it.?
?I had had an awful Amstel, with an upset stomach and bronchitis. But I felt better and better throughout the day here.?
?I gambled everything on the last climb. And that?s what worked out the best.?
Hat-tricks were certainly in fashion in Fleche on Wednesday. Just a couple of hours before Rebellin?s Marianne Vos (DSB) had taken her third straight win in the same race.
For Rebellin?s Continental Pro team Serramenti Diquigiovanni, winning in Fleche Wallonne was ample proof that the Italian squad?s invite to the Ardennes Classics was more than justified.
It is also the team?s 19th victory of the season, making them the winning-est squad to date in the peloton.
All four of Britain?s riders taking part completed the course, with Chris Froome (Barloworld) the best placed in 34th. Ireland?s Dan Martin (Garmin), in his second race since Paris-Nice, finished a respectable 56th, whilst rookie pro Ben Swift (Katusha) continued his great first season and first Fleche Wallonne in 86th spot.
?The last 100 kilometres were very rapid, and I was constantly trying to get to the front,? Swift told Cycling Weekly.
?I?ve still got Amstel in my legs, I got 56th there after helping the team. Now I?ve got a bit of a break and a training camp with the team.?
?I?m really pleased to be up there after such a long break, I even gave it a couple of digs on the second last climb,? Martin added.
?Now I?ll see what I can do in Liege-Bastogne-Liege on Sunday.?
Big losers on the day were the Belgians. The home side?s best finisher was Ben Hermans (Vlaanderen-Topsport) in 14th place. Unsung hero of the day was Christophe Moreau (Agitubel) who made a courageous, if unsuccessful, 163 kilometre break, which only ended 24 kilometres from the line.
Fleche Wallonne 2009: results
1. Davide Rebellin (Ita) Serramenti-PVC Diquigiovanni
2. Andy Schleck (Lux) Saxo Bank at 2 seconds
3. Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre at same time
4. Samuel Sanchez (Esp) Euskaltel Euskadi at 7 seconds
5. Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence Lotto
6. Tomas Lövkvist (Swe) Columbia-Highroad at same time
7. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Caisse d’Epargne at 11 seconds
8. Simon Gerrans (Aus) Cervelo test team
9. Michael Albasini (Sui) Columbia-Highroad at same time
10. Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2r at 15 seconds
34 Chris Froome (GBr) Barloworld at 43sec
72 Dan Fleeman (GBr) Cervélo at 2min 55sec
84 Ben Swift (GBr) Katusha at 3min 06sec
92 Steve Cummings (GBr) Barloworld at 3min 09sec
Britain’s Steve Cummings puts in a big effort
Riders climb the iconic Mur de Huy