We all know the song... La Flèche Wallonne happens tomorrow and it’s not going to be very interesting, until the last two minutes, which will be good, clean (ahem) fun. Some people have come to accept this, that since 2004 it’s always the same format, so why not just go with the flow? Others will be mad about that. This post is for you. I am going to find ways to make tomorrow entertaining, even if Alejandro Valverde isn’t going to do anything of the sort. Here are a few ideas.
- You could watch the 2003 Flèche Wallonne on tape beforehand to get excited. This is the last time the race was won by something other than sitting around waiting for the final climb to happen. Then it was Aitor Osa and Igor Astarloa, a pair of Basque riders, who ditched the peloton with 11km to go on the penultimate climb of the day. The pair stayed away to the line, giving Spain its first-ever victory in the event, which had been going on since the 1930s. Of course, Osa went on to be known for Operacion Puerto and Astarloa would pocket a world title before being convicted of cheating. So maybe the 2003 Flèche isn’t worth your time. [Sigh.] At least that year’s edition of Liege... never mind.
- You could watch the Ronde van Vlaanderen until the final climb starts. You know how a good race is like a Pixies song? Starts off innocuously, then all hell breaks loose, then it calms down, then goes mental again? Nobody would say that about the Flèche, but so what? Feel free to just punch in this month’s best race, the Tour of Flanders, and watch that until Twitter tells you there’s like 5km left in the race.
- You could bend the time-space continuum to add the Mur de Huy to the Ronde van Vlaanderen. This is definitely my best idea yet -- just have a bunch of people riding the Ronde, then once they are heading into Oudenaarde for the finale, find some way to deposit them all at the foot of the Mur de Huy. Think about this: Gilbert comes off the Paterberg with 40 seconds still in hand, and he’s cruising to victory... but all of a sudden he’s at the bottom of the Mur de Huy! And the climbers are in full cry! Can he hold them off, after being all alone at the front of the race for 50km? I don’t know, but I would definitely stick around to find out.
- You could watch the women’s race. They haven’t had a strategic, action-packed race at La Flèche since ... 2016, when Anna van der Breggen took off on the penultimate climb, split the field, and made a final winning move with like 2.5km to go to put it away over a depleted Evenly Stevens. The women know how to race the classics — all out, and they rarely fail to provide explosive action.
- You could just accept it. Look, someone needs to be a Wednesday race. Gent-Wevelgem worked its way out of Wednesday jail on the basis of a lot of merit. Brabantse Pijl may get moved around, and it too is pretty fun. La Flèche ain’t going anywhere. It isn’t changing the course in meaningful ways. It isn’t going to stop being itself. It’s just a race that allows people to work a full day and tune into the final 10 minutes as they think about heading home from work. It’s perfect for what it is. Even if Valverde wins.