La Fleche Wallonne Preview: Valverde looking for fourth Wallonne win, and third in three years

The riders take on La Fleche Wallonne next as the Ardennes Classics ramp up.

La Fleche Wallonne Preview: Valverde looking for fourth Wallonne win, and third in three years
The peloton in full flow at last year's Fleche Wallonne / Cycling Weekly

The Ardennes Classics continue on Wednesday with La Fleche Wallonne which will see the riders climb the Mur de Huy three times before contesting victory on that famous climb into the finish.

It promises to be another tactical and enthralling battle which will see some heavyweights of the cycling world collide in Belgium, and with riders looking to improve their form ahead of the Grand Tours which are approaching, every race counts at this stage of the season.

The early Classic races this year have been some of the best yet; Paris-Roubaix was racing at its unpredictable best; as was the Tour of Flanders. But although, the Amstel Gold Race last Sunday didn’t provide the same excitement, it was a still a tactical affair in which Enrico Gasparotto claimed his second Amstel title.

Mur de Huy promises to show exciting racing

The Huy is an iconic climb in the cycling fraternity. It may not have the same prestige as the Alpe de Huez or Mont Ventoux, but its steep gradient is a killer and will certainly flush out the weaker riders when the race comes to the finale.

The riders will have to face the Huy three times before the finale on the climb; so it’s going to be interesting to see who will have the legs later in the race.

The climb was included in the Tour de France last year and it was Ag2r La Mondiale’s Alexis Vuillermoz who triumphed that day, and with the Frenchman lining up tomorrow he might be an outside bet for victory.

Another rider who has performed well on the Huy in the past is Etixx-Quickstep’s Dan Martin, and if the Irishman is in contention in the finale other riders will have to take note, and mark the explosive Irish rider.

But there will be plenty of riders looking for that momentous victory. Orica-GreenEdge who tasted victory at Roubaix with Matt Hayman, will look to Michael Albasini for a victory; and in Katusha’s ranks they have the experienced Joaqium Rodriguez who is a superb climber and will be a rider who is not be underestimated by the rest of the peloton.

Alejandro Valverde looking for fourth Fleche Wallonne title

One man who is looking to create a bit of history this week is Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde. Although his main objective this season is the Giro D’Italia and possibly the Tour, he is looking to win the La Fleche for a fourth time, which would take him past the likes of Eddy Merckx to become the rider with the most all-time wins at Wallonne.

Valverde sprinting to victory last year at Fleche Wallonne / Cycling News
Valverde sprinting to victory last year at Fleche Wallonne / Cycling News

He has won the previous two editions in 2014 and 2015 and with his win at the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon last weekend, the Spaniard is certainly the favourite for the title; but whether the script will go to plan is another thing.

It won’t be as tactical as other Classics races this year, but it certainly will provide excitement, and the last ascent of the Huy will be one where the riders will fight for positioning. Ultimately it will come down to who has the best legs after what will no doubt be a gruelling day in the saddle.