Emma Pooley (AA Drink-Leontien.nl) failed to finish the Flèche Wallonne this afternoon, as her challenge for a second title was derailed by a freak motorbike crash and a series of mechanical problems.
In front, American climber Evelyn Stevens (Specialized-Lululemon) beat favourite Marianne Vos (Rabobank) in slow-motion battle for the line on the Mur de Huy, coming back past her with 50 metres to go.
It was not Pooley’s day. While riding at the front of the bunch early on, a motorbike crashed into her as it tried to overtake the peloton. Several other riders came down too.
After changing bikes, a rider then rode into her. “It totally screwed my rear mech,” Pooley said. “Then it was okay, the mechanic bent it back again.”
Two bikes, no rear mech
Pooley still crossed the Mur de Huy for the first time at the front of the bunch, with 35 kilometres to go.
However, she abandoned soon afterwards as her rear mech failed: both her racing bike and spare had wrecked rear mechs. “The bike came off worse than me, basically,” she said.
“I was worried I wasn’t in good shape anyway, but it’s a shame I didn’t get to try,” 2010 champion Pooley said. “we were riding with me as a leader so I feel like it’s my fault.”
While her luck was well and truly broken, at least there were no fractured bones. Pooley did suffer cuts and abrasions on her hand, elbow and face.
Crook Cooke abandons
Olympic champion Nicole Cooke (Faren-Honda) abandoned the race in the first hour, suffering with illness. “I raced to see if I’d recovered – I hadn’t,” she told CW afterwards.
One British rider did finish: Pooley’s AA Drink teammate Sharon Laws placed twentieth, 1-20 down on Stevens, who was jumping up and down with joy after the finish at beating Vos.
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“I’ve always wanted to win this race,” the former New York stockbroker said. “Wall Street is hard, but it never physically cracks you, like cycling.”
Women’s Flèche Wallonne, Huy, 123 kilometres
1. Evelyn Stevens (Usa) Specialized Lululemon 3-26-32
2. Marianne Vos (Ned) Rabobank at 4secs
3. Linda Villumsen (Nzl) GreenEdge-AIS at 20secs
4. Lucinda Brand (Ned) AA Drink-Leontien.nl at 27secs
5. Ashleigh Moolman (Rsa) LBL at 41secs
6. Judith Arndt (Ger) GreenEdge-AIS
7. Megan Guarnier (Usa) Team TIBCO at 44secs
8. Clara Hughes (Can) Specialized-Lululemon at 48secs
9. Emma Johansson (Swe) Hitec Products
10. Karol-Ann Canuel (Can) Vienne Futuroscope at 51secs
20. Sharon Laws (Gbr) AA Drink-Leontien.nl at 1-10
DNF Emma Pooley (Gbr) AA Drink-Leontien.nl
DNF Nicole Cooke (Gbr) Faren-Honda