It was the big question before the start. Can worldchampion Anna van der Breggen win La Flèche Wallonne for a 7th time? After a frightening battle on the Mur of Huy between Kasia Niewiadoma and ‘VDB’ the answer is yes. She can win this classic in the Ardennes for the 7th time. An historical achievement!
At 8:30 hours the peloton rolled out of Huy for their race over 130 kilometers with finish on top of the Mur de Huy. After the first passage of the finish the race the race exploded with a lot of attacks. Ruth Winder of Trek-Segafredo get a decent lead but due to the great chase of Demi Vollering, the following group with a lot of top riders could come back at the bottom of the final climb.
It was Anna van der Breggen who set pace, with only Kasia Niewiadoma who could follow. Side by side they rode to the finish, but in the final 100 meters Anna gave an extra punch and could cross the finish line first.
“The race was hard, from the beginning on”, Van der Breggen said directly after the finish. “We made some tactical mistakes in the race, that’s why we had to chase. But the team did really great to close the gap. I’m really happy that I can do it still and could take this win. This was the most difficult win out of 7, because of the chase. It was a good battle with Kasia, she was strong! It’s a strange thought that this is my last time to race the Flèche Wallonne. Next time I won’t bother the girls anymore. It’s up to somebody else. I’m really happy to end up like this. Seven straight wins. It’s incredible!”
Van der Breggen talked wit great respect about Demi Vollering, who did a great job by bringing the group back to Ruth Winder. “To close the gap is incredible. If you make a decision like that as such a young girl, it says a lot about her future”.
Sports director Danny Stam was of course delighted with the seventh victory of the team this season. “This victory once again proves the rare class of Anna van der Breggen. She was still ill in the run-up to the Amstel Gold Race. She apparently needed that race to get her top form for this Flèche Wallonne. Why is she so good at climbing the Wall of Huy? I mainly think it is confidence. If you've won here a few times, then you know exactly where to attack and how to build up. Then you dare to rely on your own strength. But of course you have to be able to do it seven times in a row. ”
We have one Ardennes Classic left, which is Liege-Bastogne-Liege on sunday. Van der Breggen: “I think this race suits me a bit less, as the finish is pretty flat. We will see and try our best again. First enjoy today.”
Photo credits: Getty Sport