Julian Alaphilippe said that "this one really feels good" after taking his third victory at La Flèche Wallonne ahead of Slovenian star Primož Roglič atop of the Mur de Huy.
Alaphilippe (Deceuninck - Quick-Step) was hardly seen throughout the race until the build-up to the final climb where he was guided to the front by his team. The world champion came into the race thinking he may not have had the form to take the win, but put on an impressive display to chase down and pass Roglič on the final climb.
Speaking after the race he said: "I wanted to show people I was strong in the head. I haven’t won a lot since the beginning of the season, it was important to me to raise my arms again.
"I wanted so much to win again on such a hard race. I’m proud of my team-mates, they did a wonderful job to put me in the best position.
"Mikkel Honoré dropped me in perfect conditions at the bottom of the Mur de Huy. Then, the legs do the talking. I knew it wasn’t gonna be easy with Roglič, Valverde and everyone in my wheel. This one really feels good, with the jersey."
After struggling to find wins in the first part of his season, it seems that Alaphilippe has refound that explosive spark that sees him take so many victories again.
Before this race, the world champion had only managed the one victory at Tirreno-Adriatico where he held off a very fast finishing Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) and Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) in an uphill sprint finish.
Aside from that, results have been scarce with a solid second overall at the Tour de la Provence being one of the other highlights for the French star.
This win has clearly meant a lot to him and will give him confidence as he goes forward into Liège-Bastogne-Liège and his other goals this season.
Alaphilippe had a lot to do with 400 metres to go on the Mur de Huy as Roglič opened up his attack to the line very early. Fortunately for the world champion, Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) decided to try and follow Roglič's move which allowed Alaphilippe to move up.
Valverde then kicked off the front at the 300 metres to go mark, Alaphilippe kicked with him and then set off after Roglič, swiftly making up ground and catching him with just 75 metres to go. Roglič tried to kick again but Alaphilippe had to pace to take the win in the rainbow bands.
Alaphilippe joined Anna van der Breggen as the men's and women's race winners, meaning both world champions took the victory. Van der Breggen winning for the seventh and final time in her career.
Movistar star veteran Valverde seemed happy after the race, despite being unable to follow Alaphilippe: "I had great legs", he said. "For sure I’m in a great condition. I’ve been feeling good since the Volta a Catalunya and I’ve shown it again today.
"I’m really happy to be so close to the best, Primož [Roglič] and Julian [Alaphilippe]. I had great legs but I had to make a big effort to get back because I was in a bad position entering the Mur.
"I’ve been second, I’ve won five times, I had to be third too! I don’t know [if it’s the last time I race the Flèche Wallonne]. I feel great and I don’t know if I’ll continue. On Sunday, we have Liège, and positioning is not so important there, we’ll see how it goes."
Liège-Bastogne-Liège is indeed the next race on the horizon for the riders going for victory today on the Mur de Huy with UAE Team Emirates expected to return to the fold after having to miss La Flèche Wallonne due to positive Covid-19 tests, which Tadej Pogačar called "false positives".
'La Doyenne' is set to take place this Sunday (April 25) and will likely see very similar faces battling for victory yet again.
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