It was a second podium in three days for Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), as the Dane once again battled the Julian Alaphilippe and failed to come out on top.
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Having gone clear with 500m to go, Alaphilippe jumped on to his wheel and waited until the final 200m to launch his attack and take the victory to continue Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s formidable spring Classics campaign.
Asked at the post-race press conference as to whether people should be giving him congratulations or commiserations after coming extremely close to victory yet again, Fuglsang remained upbeat. “No I think you can say congratulations for getting one step closer to the top step of the podium, and on Sunday [at the Amstel Gold Race 2019] I was disappointed with how we finished the race, how we sprinted for the victory,” he said.
“But today was all to the line and I gave it my best, and even with 100m to go Julian passed me but I managed to get back on him but there was nothing left. I think we had a good battle and in the end I did it the best way I could, to go from far and keep a steady but high pace.
“Normally, La Flèche Wallonne isn’t a race that fits me so I’m happy to finish on the podium and once again show that I’m in really good shape at the moment and I look forward to Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday.”
You would think having to duel the same rider so many times over the spring Classics campaign and never coming out on top could begin to get to you as a rider, could start playing with your head, but Fuglsang is determined taking the positives from his early season performances.
“These are the races that fit the kind of rider that Alaphilippe is. I mean I’m happy about the shape I’m in, and that I can challenge. In Amstel I still managed to beat him, I know it was for the third spot, but I still managed to beat him and if it wasn’t for the battle then it would not be as interesting to watch.
“It’s the third time this year and he’s better at one day races and that’s how it is, we’ve got one race to go [Liège-Bastogne-Liège]. My speciality at the end of the day is stage races and I would say that is where Alaphilippe has his weak side but he’s just more explosive in these types of finishes.”
Being different types of riders clearly helps to negate any ill-will between the two, with the Dane saying the pair are friends and share a healthy rivalry. “We have a good relationship and we speak together during the races,” Fuglsang added.
“Not too much, there’s not much time in these races, they’re quite hectic, so it’s more about keeping eyes up the road and getting to the finish line in one piece.
“But we are good friends and I respect him for the rider he is and I think he respects me and it’s no hard feelings whatever the result.”