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La Flèche Wallonne: Not a Preview

You all know the story for Flèche Wallonne. The peloton will arrive together at the bottom of the Mûr de Huy, and the uphill sprinter who feels the freshest will win. So this isn't a preview. Can the race get better?

2014 La Fleche Wallonne Photo by Bryn Lennon - Velo/Getty Images

Is there a more predictable race on the calendar than La Flèche Wallonne? I certainly can't think of a one-day race which is more formulaic. Of course you know what the formula is: Long day's ride, a couple of pointless attacks, three or four of the favourites crash, and we have the world's slowest sprint finish, which is more often than not won by Alejandro Valverde. And while the Mûr de Huy is fine, and it certainly gives us five minutes of action at the end of a race, is it the best an Ardennes Classic can do?

So what are the other options? While most of us at the cafe are a little touchy around the subject of dropping things that translate to "wall" from races, is getting rid of the Mûr de Huy the only option for La Flèche? Well, it's not always been there. In fact, the race used to be closer to a cobbled classic than what it is now. While of course that's not practical today - there's no chance a space on the calendar could be found unless you want to shoehorn it in as a minor semi-classic, with the cobbles men having packed up their extra handlebar tape and Patrick Lefevre having sent an annoyed tweet - it would be tempting to see another cobbled race. However, it's pretty firmly cemented in its current position in the calendar by this point.

So what about if the Mûr were just gotten rid of, and the same course was raced with, what for now appears to be the pathetic attempt at inducing late attacks, the Côte de Cherave becoming the last climb, and an alternative, flat finish being found. Well, while that would probably leave more leeway for an attack to win, it would just be another version of Liège, with less at stake. Is that really practical for ASO, who presumably want two distinguishable races. At least Flèche brings in at least five minutes of TV viewers, who want to catch the admittedly hugely exciting sprint up the Mûr de Huy. Even if they finished on a less difficult hill, or a few kilometres after the summit, well, remember Amstel? No, it's gone a bit blurry for me too. No one wants a "classic" without attacks. So again, how can it be fixed?

Without tearing up the rule book, and going to a totally different location, changing everything about the race, and annoying the tourism council of Huy, if such a thing exists. I've got to say that there aren't many good options. Even if the course did change dramatically, it could cause more harm than good, whether becoming a boring Amstel or a pointless mini-Liège. So then, the final option. Don't fix it. Leave it as it is, tell people to enjoy it for the predictable sprint that it will always be. At least it's a race with an identity, even if not everyone is a fan of that identity.