For the third year in a row, Olympic and European champion Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans) took the victory in Flèche Wallonne. It’s a win that comes just after Amstel Gold Race, putting her in the ideal position to get what would be an amazing achievement: a hat-trick (yes, another one) in the Ardennes classics, if she’s able to win Liège-Bastogne-Liège next Sunday. But that’s another story.
Van der Breggen seems to have a winning formula for Flèche: making a race of attrition with her teammates, attacking on the Côte de Cherave, then attacking again from a very small group on the flat section between Cherave and Huy, then climbing up Huy like no other. Of course, you need a lot of strength and self-confidence to do something like that. And a great team. She’s got it all.
The early breakaway of the day was formed by Sofie De Vuyst (Lares-Waowdeals), Katia Ragusa (BePink-Cogeas), Allie Dragoo (Cervélo-Bigla) and Anisha Vekemans (Lotto-Soudal). Then Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, who had been involved in an early crash, attacked from the peloton before the first ascent to Huy. She bridged across the leaders, relying first on the help of teammate Dragoo, and alone later as she dropped all the other escapees. It was a short-lived move anyway.
Cervélo-Bigla continued to make an aggressive race with an attack by Marie Vilmann that was followed by Tetyana Riabchenko (Lensworld-Kuota). They didn’t go far, neither did the move Annemiek van Vleuten (Orica-Scott) tried before Cherave. It was on Cherave when the strongest finally went clear. The expected acceleration by Kasia Niewiadoma (WM3) was matched by two Boels riders: Anna van der Breggen and Lizzie Deignan.
Playing their advantage in numbers against the Polish rider, Boels-Dolmans had a very favourable situation at that moment. Van der Breggen attacked and, using her TT skills, reached the first slopes of the Mur de Huy with a considerable gap, enough for her to win with a comfortable margin. Tired by the effort of the chase, Niewiadoma couldn’t stay with Deignan on the Mur so, same as in AGR, it was an 1-2 for Boels. Van Vleuten was the best of the rest getting a 4th place that puts her just 6 points away from the WWT leader jersey, still kept by Coryn Rivera (Sunweb) after a huge effort on a parcours that didn’t suit her.