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La Flèche: Valverde Unassailable

Movistar's Alejandro Valverde waits out the pack and sprints to the win.

Sure, it's last year's photo. What difference does it make?
Sure, it's last year's photo. What difference does it make?
Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Nobody will accuse Alejandro Valverde of impatience. The Movi classics star has made a living inside the last 50 meters of selective races, and he added another big win at La Flèche Wallonne today with his trademark ability to wait. On the Mur de Huy, where only the foolish attack from the bottom, the defending champion found himself inside the final 200 meters with all his rivals on his wheel, waiting to pounce. But Valverde simply stayed in his leading position, accelerated with 100 meters to go, and held off Julian Alaphilippe of Etixx-Quick Step and Michael Albasini of Orica-GreenEdge for the victory.

The race played out the way it usually does. An early break of Thomas De Gendt (LTS), Peter Vanspeybrouck (TSV), Jérome Baugnies (WGG), Reinier Honig (ROP), Daniele Ratto (UHC), Mike Teunissen (TLJ) and Brice Feillu (BSE) made their way up the road, hoping against hope. Meanwhile, behind them the peloton was a mess. Bob Jungels (Trek) and Philippe Gilbert (BMC) departed the race after crashes, and several other falls held people up, including Chris Froome of Sky, their Tour de France leader, who fell twice and was last seen riding gingerly toward the line. The last of the break was reeled in on the climb of the Côte d'Eraffe inside the final 15km. The newly inserted Côte de Cherave did produce some acceleration and positioning, as well as an attack from Lotto-Soudal's Tim Wellens, with Katusha's Giampaolo Caruso in hot pursuit, trying to bring Wellens back for his leaders Joaquim Rodriguez and Dani Moreno. Wellens' efforts came to nothing once the ascent of the Mur de Huy began.

From there, the action consisted of everyone watching Valverde. If anyone had the legs to attack, they apparently chose not to use them, though it's more likely that the pace was simply high enough and the riders tired enough to prevent anything from long range. This race often produces the climbers' version of a bunch sprint, with the winner being the one who launches last, but with everyone vying to be that guy the launches never seemed to happen at all. Valverde, the fastest finisher on such a course, simply kept the pace high and raised it to the finish line, preventing all thoughts of coming around him. It was his third victory at La Flèche, tying him for the all time best with Davide Rebellin and Moreno Argentin, both of Italy. Results:

1. VALVERDE BELMONTE Alejandro MOV 05:08:22
2. ALAPHILIPPE Julian EQS 00:00:00
3. ALBASINI Michael OGE 00:00:00
4. RODRIGUEZ OLIVER Joaquin KAT 00:00:00
5. MORENO FERNANDEZ Daniel KAT 00:00:00
6. VUILLERMOZ Alexis ALM 00:00:04
7. HENAO MONTOYA Sergio SKY 00:00:04
8. FUGLSANG Jakob AST 00:00:04
9. SLAGTER Tom Jelte TCG 00:00:04
10. KELDERMAN Wilco TLJ 00:00:04
11. KREUZIGER Roman TCS 00:00:08
12. NOCENTINI Rinaldo ALM 00:00:10
13. TEUNS Dylan BMC 00:00:10
14. ROLLAND Pierre EUC 00:00:13
15. GASPAROTTO Enrico WGG 00:00:13
16. HIVERT Jonathan BSE 00:00:16
17. FRANK Mathias IAM 00:00:16
18. SCARPONI Michele AST 00:00:16
19. MOLLEMA Bauke TFR 00:00:19
20. NIBALI Vincenzo AST 00:00:19