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Preview: Flèche Wallonne Femmes

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Wednesday 20th April 2011

It's that time again....  Mur de Huy! 

Women's Flèche Wallonne 2010. Photo: Patrick Verhoest

The women's race is 109.5km, around 100km shorter than the men's, and starts and finishes in Huy, unlike the men, who start in Charleroi.  You can compare the women's route above with the men's here - but the men ride 70km, including their first climb of the Mur that the women don't ride, but once they've conquered that, both pelotons will take the same route out of Huy, making a big loop that take sin the Côte de Peu d'Eau and Côte de Haut-Bois.  The women then head north, while the men will divert around Gevses and Faulx-les-Tombes, but then the routes converge again - Côte de Groynne, Côte de Bohisseau, Côte d'Ahin, the Mur de Huy, and then the same small loop out to Marchin, over the Côte d'Ereffe and finishing with a second climb of the Mur de Huy.  It's superb organisation, and great for spectators, especially on the Mur, where there are 5 passages in total, between the two pelotons.  It's also a lot of fun that aside from the extra climb of the Mur that the men do, the women climb all the same hills. 



It's not just a great race, it's also the fourth round of the Road World Cup, and the end of the Spring Classics part of the series.  Hopefully it'll be all-competition, all the way.  Below the jump I'll give you some more info about the race, with a video of how it played out last year, and who to look for for.  There's no tv that I can see, but as ever, anything you find.... the comments will love it!

Last year, the race was dominated by Cervélo, who fired off attacks every time the road went uphill, making the other big teams have to spend valuable effort chasing them down.  It was beautiful riding, setting up Emma Pooley for the win, who said after the race that she "was supposed to wait for the steep section but I got impatient and was nervous I’d fall off my bike in the excitement, so I went a bit early". 


Pooley won't be there to defend her title this year, as she broke her collarbone in training, but there will be more than enough competition without her.  Both Marianne Vos and Nicole Cooke have won the race three times since it was first raced in 1998, and both will be want to be the first to four titles.  Cooke was also second last year, but her form is a bit of a mystery at the moment, while Vos has been spectacular.  Will she have the climbing legs as well as the sprinting legs?  Or will Emma Johansson, who's finished in second and third place in her time, win her first World Cup of the season?  Or can HTC-Highroad, who in their eight-year history, have never won this race, take it for the first time?  With Evelyn Stevens and Judith Arndt (who's been on the podium four times so far) they have a great chance. 

It's a race that can favour both the mountain goats and the punchy Classics types, so I find it impossible to call - but my team for the Cycling Fever game is full of riders like Claudia Häusler and Olga Zabelinskaya, Noemi Cantele, Tatiana Guderzo, Amber Neben and as many members of Nederland Bloeit as I can fit.  It'll be interesting to see how Nederland Bloeit play their hand - will they ride for a fourth win for Vos, or to keep the World Cup jersey with Annemiek van Vleuten - or both? 

The full startlist is here - and as we've come to expect, the ASO race site is full of fun stuff - lots of wonderfully geeky stats, with details of all the climbs and times etc under the different tabs of the parcours page


The current Road World Cup standings look like this after Saturday's Ronde van Drenthe:

1.   Annemiek van Vleuten (Ned) Nederland Bloeit, 134 points
2.   Marianne Vos (Ned) Nederland Bloeit, 110
3.   Emma Johansson (Ned) Hitec UCK, 95
4.   Emma Pooley (Gbr) Garmin-Cervélo, 86
5.   Tatiana Antoshina (Rus) Gauss, 58
6.   Martine Bras (Ned) Dolamsn Landscaping, 58
7.   Kirsten Wild (Ned) AA, 54
8.   Grace Verbeke (Bel) TopSport Vlaanderen, 49
9.   Judith Arndt (Ger) HTC-Highroad, 48
10.  Ina-Yoko Teutenberg (Ger) HTC-Highroad, 37

With the full standings on the UCI website.  The first twenty riders across the line will score World Cup points - and perhaps more importantly for Podium Café, vds-w points.  If you're a VDS who's wishing they'd picked a whole different team, you can always put together a startlist for the Cycling Fever World Cup game - it's quick and simple, just 12 riders you think will do well!

So one more bit of fun from last year - Anna Wilson (Millward), a former Road world Cup winner and World silver medallist in the Time Trial and Road Race, who was second in the race in 2001 - rides the Mur, as part of her recon as the T-Mobile DS for the 2009 race.  Bec found it last year, and I love it - I love the way Millward keeps on smiling, despite the fact that I'm sure the LAST thing any cyclist wants to do, when riding the Mur, is chat about how it feels!


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