Italy’s Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) won Fleche Wallonne with a perfectly-timed surge to the top of the Mur de Huy, the race’s key climb.
The 36 year-old Italian was not part of a late attack that included Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne) and Danilo Di Luca and so had the strength to power clear at the top of the steep climb and win by six seconds. Valverde finished second and Di Luca was third ahead of Matthias Kessler (Astana) and Riccardo Ricco (Saunier Duval).
Rebellin won Fleche Wallonne in 2004 when he dominated the Ardennes classics. His form in the hilly race and his second place in last Sunday?s Amstel Gold Race make him the favourite for Sunday?s Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Thanks to his win, Rebellin also extended his lead in the ProTour to 50 points on second placed Oscar Freire (Rabobank).
?I waited for the right moment before moving even if I knew I could have lost when Valverde and Di Luca attacked,? Rebellin said.
Valverde and Di Luca finished on the podium but both made tactical mistakes in the final 15km of the race when they were part of a breakaway group. Di Luca wasted precious energy trying to hold off the bunch, while Valverde jumped across to the move but then sent his team mate Joaquim Rodriguez on the attack instead of getting him to work to keep the break clear.
Thanks to some hard chasing by Ag2r and then Astana, the bunch caught the attackers and Rodriguez just before the final ascent of the Mur de Huy. Valverde stayed near the front but did not have the legs to go with Rebellin when he accelerated to the line.
FLECHE WALLONNE: RESULTS
1 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner 4-48-06 (42.173 km/h)
2 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne 0.06
3 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas same time
4 Matthias Kessler (Ger) Astana 0.08
5 Riccardo Riccò (Ita) Saunier Duval-Prodir s.t
6 Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) Ag2r Prévoyance 0.13
7 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC 0.16
8 John Gadret (Fra) Ag2r Prévoyance 0.19
9 Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank s.t
10 Tadej Valjavec (Slo) Lampre-Fondital s.t
1 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner 132 pts
2 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank 82
3 Stuart O’Grady (Aus) Team CSC 79
4 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner 75
5 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne 67