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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, April 20, 2023

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La Flèche Wallone reports

We posted the orgaziner's report with the results.

Here's the report from race winner Tadej Pogacar's UAE Team Emirates:

The run of successes of Tadej Pogačar continued also in Fleche Wallone, where on the iconic final hill of the Mur de Huy (1,3 km at 9,5%) the UAE Team Emirates’ captain conquered his 12th seasonal success.

Pogacar is the day's strongest rider. Sirotti photo.

The Slovenian rider managed perfectly the situation in the final kilometre, after having received an outstanding assistance from the Emirati team during the race. UAE Team Emirates set the pace of the peloton in the heat of the moment in the competition and neutralized a three rider breakaway that, in the final part of the race, had a maximum advantage of 40”.

Pogačar was led into the front position in the approach of the Mur and there he controlled his opponents, before speeding up in the final 200 meters and obtaining some meters of advantage that allowed him to cross the finish line with hands up, preceding Mattias Skjelmose (Trek-Segafredo) and Mikel Landa (Bahrain-Victorious).

For UAE Team Emirates, the count of victory in 2023 is up to 20.

Pogačar: “I left it all on the final climb, it’s so hard but it’s a spectacular finish.
The work of the team made the difference, it gives me a lot of morale when my teammates do such an amazing job and today their work gave me an extra motivation.

"There were moments in which the race was nervous, I also almost crashed, but the team did a very good job, keeping me in the front. We were aware that we would have needed to pull the peloton from the beginning, it was all on us to make the race demanding in the end and it was as planned.

"You never get bored of crossing the line first. I enjoyed that today and I am really grateful I am living this moment now with such great shape: I am trying to exploit it as much as I can.

"Liege-Bastogne-Liege will be a different race, with longer climbs; I have a good form, but there will be opponents such as Remco Evenepoel and other riders coming fresher and so it will be one of the most competitive race of the season”.

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Here's the report from third-place Mikel Landa's Team Baharin Victorious:

Mikel Landa impressed on Mur de Huy as he took third place at the 87th edition Flèche Wallone behind Skjelmose (Trek Segafredo) and race winner Tadej Pogacar (UAE Emirates).

After Bahrain Victorious won the race with Dylan Teuns last year, the team were looking for a similar performance with race leader Mikel Landa. Like last year, it came down to the punchy finale on the Mur de Huy, which averages out at 9.5% over 1.3km.

The podium, from left: Mattias Skjelmose Jensen (2nd), Tadej Pogacar (1st) & Mikel Landa (3rd)

Race favourite and eventual winner Tadej Pogacar attacked in the final few hundred meters, moving away from the rest, while Landa and Skjelmose remained in touch to secure the podium. After a bout of illness, Landa is delighted with the podium finish: “I didn’t have the confidence all through the day. I was not feeling super, but in the end, the race became hard, and I had good enough legs at the final. I also had the team with me, and I’m happy, and with the help of them, I get more confidence and get to the finish line.

"I’m looking forward to Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and I think today’s race is good for my condition and my confidence. So yes, I’m very confident about Liège.”

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Here’s the report from Tiesj Benoot’s Team Jumbo-Visma:

The riders started the classic just before noon and completed it in just under 200 kilometres, crossing the Muur van Huy three times. Flèche Wallonne's course follows a traditional pattern: a lead group breaks away early on, is later reeled in, and the race is decided on the final climb to the top of the Muur van Huy.

This also applied to the 2023 edition. The last remaining breakaway rider was caught in the first few metres of the Muur. Benoot manoeuvred himself into a good position at the foot of the climb with the help of his teammates. Then it was time to move towards the front. The winner of Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne got slightly boxed in but still managed to advance to seventh place. Tadej Pogacar proved too good for the competition and won the race.

Tiesj Benoot wins the 2023 Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. Sirotti photo

"I can live with the result", Benoot said. "I was in a good position at the foot of the climb. I then dropped a few places because I got boxed in. I felt I could still pick up speed until five hundred metres from the finish, and I overtook many riders. With this result, I can continue towards Sunday's race. The Flèche Wallonne is for true specialists. I can be proud of how I presented myself at the front."

Sports director Frans Maassen agreed with his rider. "As a team, we are at peace with the result. We would have never signed for a seventh and eleventh place beforehand, but given that we didn't have any true specialists for this work in the race, this is a respectable outcome. It also gives us confidence for Sunday, when the next monument is on the programme with Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Today it came down to good timing and a strong last kilometre. I think we managed to do both."

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And here's the report from Maxim van Gils' Team Lotto Dstny

Lotto Dstny rider Maxim Van Gils has again shown his climbing legs, this time with an 8th place at La Flèche Wallonne. Despite several attacks in the end, the one-day Ardennes Classic was once again decided on the third and final time up the horribly steep Mur de Huy. It was the Slovenian Pogacar who had the fastest acceleration uphill, Van Gils rode a strong climb and eventually finished 8th. Neo-pro Lennert Van Eetvelt came in 22nd at his Flèche Wallonne debut.

The pack hits the race's final circuit.

Van Gils delivered a strong final climb but didn’t have his best legs, the youngster said after the finish “My teammates did a great job to protect me but I maybe didn’t have the great feeling I was hoping for. I wasn’t in the best position once we hit the foot of the Mur but I could still move up and finish inside the top ten. Flèche Wallonne might be a ‘waiting game’, I can tell you it’s been quite the tough race.”

At 20 kilometres from the finish, several riders hit the deck including Andreas Kron. The Dane could quickly get up and return to the bunch, where he sacrificed himself for his teammates. “Andreas made the switch after his crash and assisted me in the final, he’s really an exemplary teammate. We again showed to be a good tandem and this only gives us more confidence towards Liège-Bastogne-Liège this Sunday, where I hope to end my spring season on a high”, concludes Van Gils.

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