Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) won a second successive La Flèche Wallonne with a well-timed jump on Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) to continue his formidable form in the spring Classics.
Fuglsang attacked at 500m to go, with Alaphilippe taking his wheel and the pair going clear in what was a repeat of what could have been after the duo threw away a chance at victory at the Amstel Gold Race three days earlier.
Alaphilippe held Fuglsang’s wheel for a few hundred metres before stamping on his pedals and coming around the Astana man, holding off a late charge from the Dane.
Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates) was across the line next, six seconds down, with Bjorg Lambrecht (Lotto-Soudal) fourth and Maximilian Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) fifth.
After a flurry of attacks throughout the day, the race all came back together with 7km remaining. Deceuninck – Quick-Step and Bora-Hansgrohe maintained a blistering pace to keep the race together as the peloton climbed the Mur de Huy for the third and final time.
This was Alaphilippe’s third spring Classics victory, after taking the win in Milan-San Remo and Strade Bianche, in what has been an incredible campaign for both the Frenchman and his Deceuninck – Quick-Step team.
In the women’s race, Anna van der Breggen claimed a record-equalling fifth successive win, drawing level with Marianne Vos, making her winning move on the lower section of the Mur de Huy.
How it happened
This year’s route took place entirely within the Province of Liège, starting in Seraing. The opening 80 kilometres featured climbs of the Côte de la Vecquée and La Redoute, soon followed by the Côte de Mont and the Côte d’Amay.
The 29 kilometre finishing circuit – which the riders completed twice – saw them climb the Côte d’Ereffe, Côte de Cherave and Mur de Huy – finishing atop the Mur after 198.5 kilometres of racing.
After a flurry of early attacks, the day’s breakaway was properly established 20km into the race, the five escapees being Koen Bouwman (Jumbo-Visma), Joseph Rosskopf (CCC Team), Robin Carpenter (Rally UHC Cycling), Kenneth Van Rooy (Sport Vlaanderen-Balkoise) and Tom Wirgten (Wallonie Bruxelles), gaining a maximum gap of 5-45 after 30km on the road.
With 40km to go and a consistently high pace throughout the day, the pressure started to mount in what is a typically nervy race, and resulted in a number of crashes in the peloton. First up was a crash with 35km remaining involving Ion Izagirre (Astana), Eddie Dunbar (Team Sky), Michał Golas (Team Sky) and Dion Smith (Mitchelton-Scott).
Then, at 32km to go and just before the riders climbed the Mur de Huy for the penultimate time, television pictures showed Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida), his face bloodied, lying on the tarmac, with Roman Kreuziger (Dimension Data) on the deck displaying plenty of road rash. Adam Yates was also involved, but managed to get back up on his bike, but a bloodied elbow and nasty looking cut below the radio pack on his back meaning his day as a potential contender for the win was over.
At the top of the Mur de Huy, with around 30km remaining, the breakaway had pretty much been reeled back in, with splits in the peloton appearing soon after. A group briefly managed to establish themselves off the front, featuring a number of strong riders, including Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal), Alessandro De Marchi (CCC), Maximilian Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe), Wout Poels (Team Sky), Gorka Izagirre (Astana), Dylan Teuns (Bahrain-Merida), Luis Léon Sánchez (Astana) and Enric Mas (Deceuninck – Quick-Step). However, the only stayed out in the front for 3km.
A number of riders then start to test the bunch, with Tomasz Marczyński (Lotto-Soudal) jumping clear at 19km to go, with Matej Mohorič (Bahrain-Merida) going off in pursuit a couple of kilometres later. Deceuninck – Quick-Step did a lot of work on the front to try and keep the race together.
Mohorič joined Marczyński with 9km left to race, but with only a 16-second gap on the peloton. Jay McCarthy (Bora-Hansgrohe) then surged forward with under 7km to go, raising the pace and catching Marczyński and Mohorič on the Cherave.
With 5km to go, Jelle Vanendert (Lotto-Soudal), Alaphilippe and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) were at the front of the peloton, being led out by Enric Mas (Deceuninck-Quick-Step). Bora-Hansgrohe then joined Deceuninck – Quick-Step on the front of the peloton, setting a high pace and thwarting any potential attacks, the race stuck together as the riders start the Mur de Huy for the final time.
Michał Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) led up the climb, before Fuglsang hinted at an attack before going for it, with Alaphilippe jumping to his wheel before coming round him in the final 200m, the Frenchman holding off a late charge from Fuglsang to take the win.
La Flèche Wallonne 2019: Seraing to Mur de Huy (198.5km)
1 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, in 4-55-14
2 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana, at same time
3 Diego Ulissi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates, at 6 seconds
4 Bjorg Lambrecht (Bel) Lotto-Soudal, at 8s
5 Maximilian Schachmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
6 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo
7 Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe
8 Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb, all at same time
9 Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Lotto-Soudal, at 11s
10 Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Dimension Data, at same time