Anna van der Breggen made it four wins in four years at La Flèche Wallonne today, the Olympic champion winning with two seconds to spare. At the end of what was an aggressive race, the Boels-Dolmans rider had been part of large group which caught a four woman breakaway, containing team mate Megan Guarnier at the bottom of the Mur de Huy.
Having worked her way up to Guarnier, in the final 200 metres of the 20 per cent climb she managed to sprint clear, the American eventually finishing third, with South African Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Cervélo-Bigla) second.
How it happened
Starting at the top of the Mur de Huy, where they would finish 118.5km later, the women’s race consisted of one large loop of 90km, followed by a shorter one of 28km.
Undulating all the way, the race contained three classified climbs, each ridden once on both the long and short loop.
An aggressive start saw many teams attacking, trying to form a breakaway. British registered Trek-Drops were especially active, but it was not until 32km had been ridden that former Swiss national champion Doris Schweizer (Team Virtu) escaped building a lead of 1-10 by the half-way mark.
After 50km four more riders attacked the peloton, chasing down Schweizer. Anna Santesteban (Alé-Cipollini, Omer Shapira (Cylance), Tereza Medvedova (BePink) and Dalia Mucciolo (Valcar PBM), eventually catching the Swiss with 62km gone.
As the kilometres ticked away five became four after Medvedova was dropped on the first ascent of the Côte d’Ereffe, on which the peloton began to eat into the advantage.
It was here the action from behind began, the climb causing a split in the main group. Then on the following ascent, the Côte de Cherave, an elite group of 14 riders escaped, only to be reduced to four by the time they crested the Mur de Huy for the first time.
Winner in 2014 and former world champion Pauline Ferrand-Prevot (Canyon-SRAM), Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans), Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton-Scott) and Janneke Ensing (Alé-Cipollini) then worked too build a lead approaching one minute.
Behind them the chase seemed disorganised, no team happy or able to to make significant in-roads, and with just 10km remaining the advantage still neared one minute.
However, when Moolman-Pasio’s Cervélo-Bigla joined forces with Movistar and Wiggle-High5 the gap finally began to tumble, though it was still 20 seconds as they passed the flamme rouge.
The Women’s WorldTour continues this Sunday with the second running of Liège-Bastogne-Liège, which will tackle 136km between Bastogne and Liège, taking in the same roads as the second half of the men’s event.
La Flèche Wallonne Femmes (118.5km)
1. Anna van der Breggen (Ned) Boels-Dolmans in 3-10-14
2. Ashleigh Moolman Pasio (RSA) Cervélo-Bigla at 02
3. Megan Guarnier (USA) Boels-Dolmans at st
4. Annemiek van Vleuten (Ned) Mitchelton-Scott at 06
5. Amanda Spratt (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott at 17
6. Shara Gillow (Aus) FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope at 19
7.Sabrina Stultiens (Ned) Waowdeals at 22
8.Sofia Bertizzolo (Ita) Astana Women at st
9. Anastasiia Iakovenko (Rus) BTC City Ljubljana at 25
10. Margarita Gacía (Esp) Movistar at 28