The unstoppable Marianne Vos! Flèche Wallonne Femmes 2011

The women's Flèche Wallonne runs on pretty much the same course as the men's - minus the initial 70km warm-up section, and with one less climb of the Mur de Huy.  In its 14-year history, three different riders have won it three times.  It looks like a race decided on the Mur, but in recent years, it's been more about the team-work - both in terms of sending off attacks to tire out the opponents, and chasing down breakaways.  You can read more about the course in the race preview, but below the jump I'll tell you a little about how the race played out - and as we get more information (and fingers crossed some kind of video!) hopefully people will add it into the comments. 

(If you're saying to yourself "what I really want to know is how my WVDS team is doing", check out Jens' latest wvds update - it's got the full results, right down to 133!)

The race started out with random attack attempts, including Amber Rais of Diadora, but the race was being controlled heavily by Nederland Bloeit.  The big danger attack came from HTC's Evelyn Stevens, who attacked at around 50km out.  Stevens is definitely a "danger" rider.  This is only her second pro season (she started riding as a grown-up, leaving a high earning Wall Street career for the nomadic life of a pro cyclist - if you haven't already, read this great profile of her - she's got a superb story, and seems to have a lovely personality! And you can see her getting BG bike fitted here) but she's a brilliant climber, and last year took off on a long solo effort to win a hilly stage of the Giro Donne - so although she gained around 1min 15 secs, she was chased hard, and by the time she crossed the Mur de Huy for the first time, only had 20 seconds on an elite group of 20-30 riders. 

The chasing group of around 20 riders let her keep the lead, until around 20km to go, when they caught her, after she'd been out for over 40km.  At 10km to go, attacks split the leading group - and on the descent into Huy, in the final 5km, Olga Zabelinskaya (who descends like a demon) attacked for an attempt at a solo win.  Marianne Vos went with her, and at 3km to go they had around 10 seconds - with HTC leading the furious chase.  They were caught, and the front group hit the foot of the Mur together.  One of the HTC riders attacked on the steepest section ( says  Neben, but the results suggest Arndt) - with Emma Johansson on her wheel, and Vos behind.  At 150m to go, Vos turned on the acceleration, and won the race with 3 seconds on Johansson and 6 seconds on Arndt - and with a superb "bow and arrow" victory salute.  This makes her the first rider to win the race four times, and the podium was generally an experienced one - Johansson having finished 2nd in '09 and 3rd last year, and Arndt taking a podium place for the fifth time. 

1.   Marianne Vos (Ned) Nederland Bloeit, 2:58:27
2.   Emma Johansson (Swe) Hitec UCK, + 0:03
3.   Judith Arndt (Ger) HTC-Highroad, + 0:06
4.   Elena Berlato (Ita) Top Girls Fassa Bortolo, + 0:15
5.   Nicole Cooke (GBr) MCipollini-Giambenini, s.t.
6.   Annemiek van Vleuten (Ned) Nederland Bloeit, + 0:21
7.   Pauline Ferrand-Prévot (Fra) France, s.t.
8.   Martine Bras (Ned) Dolmans Landscaping, + 0:24
9.   Tatiana Guderzo (Ita) MCipollini-Giambenini, + 0:26
10. Kristin McGrath (USA) USA, + 0:27

11. Rasa Leleivyte (Ltu) Vaiano Solaristech, s.t.
12. Olga Zabelinskay (Rus) Diadora-Pasta Zara, s.t.
13. Tatiana Antoshina ((Rus) Gauss, s.t.
14. Elisa Longo Borghini (Ita) Top Girls Fassa Bortolo, + 0:30
15. Ludivine Henrion (Bel) Lotto Honda, + 0:35
16. Karol-Ann Canuel (Can) Vienne Futuroscope, s.t.
17. Sharon Laws (GBr) Garmin-Cervélo, + 0:38
18. Edwige Pitel (Fra) Vienne Futuroscope, + 0:45
19. Carmen McNellis Small (USA) Tibco-To the top, + 0:47
20. Lucinda Brand (Ned) AA, + 0:49

Full results on the race website

EDIT!  I didn't know this when I wrote this, but Gavia has just interviewed Evelyn Stevens for us!  Head over and read it, and find out more about the breakaway rider of the day!

There are some great results in there, outside of the usual stars.  Especially promising is Pauline Ferrand-Prévot's 7th place - she only turned 19 in February, and she'll be concentrating on her mountain biking in the summer.  She's been a Junior World Champion across road and MTB, and is definitely one to watch.  Martine Bras is continuing her superb season with Dolmans - this is her first time in the top 20, let alone the top 10.  And American Kristin McGrath deserves huge credit for her 10th place.

Spare a thought, though, for riders caught up in crashes - apparently a motorbike just stopped in the middle of the peloton, and HTC's Amanda Miller had no choice but to aim for the pavement, and crashAustralia's Ruth Corset was also caught up in a crash (possibly the same incident) - here's hoping everyone is well.

There are photos of the race on Cyclingnews and there'll be lot put up on the race report at later today.  I got most of my information on how the race played out from Manel Lacambra's twitter - thanks Manel!

Vos' win (her second World Cup win in five days) takes her past her team-mate, Annemiek van Vleuten, to take the lead in the World Cup series, at the half-way point in the competition.  Van Vleuten's 6th place puts her in 2nd place, and Emma Johansson stays in 3rd place overall.  The current top 10 looks like this (Full standings are here):

1.   Marianne Vos (Ned) Nederland Bloeit, 185 points
2.   Annemiek van Vleuten (Ned) Nederland Bloeit, 158
3.   Emma Johansson (Swe) Hitec UCK, 145
4.   Emma Pooley (GBr) Garmin-Cervélo, 86
5.   Judith Arndt (Ger) HTC-Highroad, 83
6.   Martine Bras (Ned) Dolmans Landscaping, 76
7.   Tatiana Antoshina (Rus) Gauss, 66
8.   Kirsten Wild (Ned) AA, 54
9.   Grace Verbeke (Bel) TopSport Vlaanderen, 49
10. Elena Berlato (Ita) TopGirls Fassa Bortolo, 41

The women's peloton will split into those who'll ride Omloop van Borsele in the Netherlands on Saturday, GP Stad Roeselare in Belgium on Sunday and GP Liberazione in Italy on Monday.  The next round of the World Cup is one for the sprinters - the Tour of Chongming Island in China on 15th May.  Onwards!

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