World champion Anna van der Breggen has criticised the organiser of both Flèche Wallonne and Sunday’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège as neither race will be shown live.
Of the eight Women’s WorldTour races so far in 2019, Wednesday’s Flèche Wallonne was the first not to be shown either on an online live stream or broadcast on television. Other races below the top tier have also stepped up in recent seasons.
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The race is staged by Tour de France organiser, ASO and the only live coverage available was at the finish line, where the final ascent of the Mur de Huy was shown. Live coverage of the men’s race, which ran concurrently, did not start until after the women’s race had concluded.
In contrast Flanders Classics, who organise many of the cobbled Classics in northern Belgium, streamed all five of their races live on the Proximus Facebook page.
“It’s time,” said Boels-Dolmans rider Van der Breggen, after winning her fifth consecutive Flèche Wallonne.
“It’s one of our biggest races together with Liège. We are fighting all day, we had echelons on the road, so it’s a pity you only saw the last climb because that is the end and the fight is before that.
“I think Amstel was a good example of how to do it, and by now I think we deserve to have live coverage and that people can follow us because many people would like to.”
Despite Van der Breggen’s serial success, the race itself was exciting, with numerous attacks throughout its 118.5km. Only on the final climb did the rainbow jersey come to the fore and tackle the famous slow motion sprint finish.
Van der Breggen and her Dutch team have been under pressure this year, with Wednesday’s success their first WorldTour victory so far this season.
In previous years they have dominated, and even in the unusually fallow 2017 they dominated the Ardennes, winning all three races, beginning with Amstel Gold.
With sponsors based in the area all three races of Ardennes week are hugely important to the team, and with sponsors based on the route Amstel Gold is most of all. Despite winning the two previous editions Annika Langvad’s fourth place was their best placing this year
That put huge pressure on the team as they rolled out of Huy for Flèche Wallonne and manager Danny Stam admitted to Cycling Weekly he was relieved after the win.
“It’s not a secret that we are under pressure. Everybody always says something when you are not winning, this was our answer,” he said.
“The Mur de Huy is the key, Anna loves this climb. but for me she is a big, extreme champion. If you can win this race one you have won it four times already and everybody knows you want to win and need to win, you are a special champion.”
Van der Breggen certainly seems to have the measure of one of cycling’s toughest finishes. In the last four years she has won it from the traditional short sprint, from a lone break and, like this year, a slightly longer effort sprint.
“I don’t have a secret, it’s different every year. The second last climb is really hard and it’s always a hard final, that’s good for me. I know how to ride it and to pace it, if you go too early you will not win.”
For all Van der Breggen’s knowledge, skill and strength, the one thing Van der Breggen cannot wait for is proper coverage of those women’s events which consistently provide an exciting spectacle.
“We want coverage next year.”