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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, April 21, 2022

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2021 Tour de France | 2021 Giro d'Italia

Every strike brings me closer to the next home run. - Babe Ruth

Tour de France: the Inside Story

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La Flèche Wallonne reports

We posted the report from the race organizer with the results.

Here's the report from winner Dylan Teuns' Team Bahrain Victorious:

With triumph, pride and exertion etched across his face, Bahrain Victorious’ 30 year old Belgian, Dylan Teuns, spread his arms wide and crossed the line of La Flèche Wallone several bike lengths ahead of the undisputed King of the Mur de Huy, Alejandro Valverde (MOV) & Aleksandr Vlasov (BOH).

Dylan Theuns

Dylan Teuns wins a big one. Photo: ASO/G. Demouveaux

“It’s unbelievable. It’s a dream that comes true to win today on the Mur in front of my fans, wife and family. It’s a super special one. I always dreamed of a classic victory and today it happens finally.”

Bahrain Victorious had shown strength in numbers earlier in the race, forcing a split when crosswinds threatened and continued to do so as more selections were made on the later climbs. First Jack Haig attacked on the Côte de Cherave, then Wout Poels went on the front just after the leaders went over the Mur for the 2nd of 3 times, and finally, Damiano Caruso put himself into the wind at the foot of the Côte d’Ereffe.

After the final 2 leaders – Soren Kragh Andersen (DSM) & Mauri Vansevenant (QST) – had been caught, Teuns, (3rd here in 2017) found himself in a large group of nearly 20 riders as the famous 800 metres of ‘The Mur’ rose like a wall ahead of them.

Leaving the current Tour de France & world champions in his wake, Teuns wove his way through the group and was left alone with Valverde at the 300 metre mark. Despite all his experience, the 5 time Fleche winner simply couldn’t keep up with the Victorious hero of the day.

Dylan’s victory is the 14th of his career, and the first in a one-day race, although it crowns a super-successful April campaign: top ten finishes in 4 from 5 classics.

“The moment I crossed the flame rouge I was really confident. I had something left in the legs and made an extra acceleration and was enough to take the victory. I’m in the shape of my life, I showed that at the Classics. Now I’m heading to Liège with big motivation.”

It takes the tally to 13 wins by Bahrain Victorious riders in 2022, and comes after Matej Mohorič’s ‘monumental’ Milan-Sanremo performance a month ago.

Gorazd Štangelj, Sports Director in Wallone, commended the entire team’s performance on the day:

“With the quality of the names on the start list I wouldn’t say we expected this result. We were fighting for a good result and we didn’t want to wait, so we tried some moves on the circuit, and kept Dylan & Wout for the finale. The best riders came to the bottom of the final climb but Dylan had incredible legs, and he showed he has that extra star quality today.”

Meanwhile in Italy, Pello Bilbao, Mikel Landa, Santiago Buitrago & Hermann Pernsteiner all finished in the favourites’ group on stage 3 of the Tour of the Alps between Lana & Villabassa, meaning Bilbao retains the green leaders’ jersey, and Buitrago is the joint best young rider.

Stage 4 of 5 on Thursday sees the riders tackle 142.4kms between Villabassa and Kals am Grossglockner, and will see plenty of attacks from our rivals throughout the day, before a 13km climb to the finish line with a maximum gradient of 9.6%.

Game on!

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Here's the report from second-place Alejandro Valverde's Team Movistar:

An indescribable set of emotions. For an endless few meters, Alejandro Valverde and the Movistar Team made their fans dream on Wednesday of an incredible sixth Flèche Wallonne success for the Spanish ‘Campionissimo’. Only Dylan Teuns (TBV) could take the better from ‘Bala’ over the last climb of the Mur de Huy, tackled brilliantly by the whole squad here led by Chente García Acosta, which went – as it’s just normal with Alejandro – out on the road with an aim to win.

The efforts from the likes of Lazkano, Mas, Izagirre and Mühlberger from the very start and, most importantly, a fantastic leadout into the last climb by an excellent Carlos Verona and Enric Mas -the latter with a strong pace over the ascent itself- all allowed Valverde seeking for his ‘sprinting distance’ and launching his effort almost from where he’s always done, 150 meters out, to just lose breath on the last few pedal strokes. An incredible effort from a man who will turn 42 years young on Monday, and will be able to retire on top of his game.

2022 Fleche Wallonne podium

The podium, from left: the ageless Alejandro Valverde (2nd), Dylan Teuns (1st) & Aleksandr Vlasov (3rd)

REACTION / Alejandro Valverde:
“I’ve got to stay happy with this. I just missed a bit of energy, in the end my arms hurt more than my legs because of all the effort I had to do to keep pushing on that final climb, but I tried it until the end and Teuns was just stronger, no doubts – congrats to him. Thanks to the whole team because of the job they did, everyone, no discussion, from first to last. Verona, Gregor, Oier, Lluís, Gorka – they took care of me perfectly all day, and at that last climb, Enric set a furious pace which helped me reaching those final slopes in perfect position.

"Dylan made a great progression, a steady move, and it was hard for me to match him – it might also have been the fastest climb in history, or at least from those I’ve done in the past few years in Flèche Wallonne. Sometimes you’ve got the impression that you could have maybe struggled a bit more in order to stand a bigger chance at victory, but today, I gave everything. It’s a second place which tasts like a victory. Coming here after such a difficult Volta a Catalunya, and taking second straight away, makes me so happy. I’ll be turning 42 in five days, it was my last Flèche – I wanted to test those legs, I knew from my training rides at home that I was doing well, but racing is another different story. Coming here and taking a good result, even with the suffering, gives me hope for Liège on Sunday.”

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Third-place Aleksandr Vlasov's Bora-hansgrohe team sent me this report:

Starting for the first time in Blegny, in the east of the Ardennes, the Flèche Wallonne spring classic featured eleven climbs on its 202km course. After about 120 kilometres, the riders began the first of three loops surrounding Huy, which make up the last 80 km of the race, and on which the Mur de Huy had to be taken on three times.

With an average gradient of 9.6 per cent and sections of up to 19 per cent, the Mur threw everything at the riders. On its second crossing, there were only a handful of riders at the front of the race until the last escapees were caught 9km before the finish. A relatively large field then tackled the last kilometres together. After several attacks ahead of the final were neutralised, the race came down to the steep finale. 250 metres ahead of the finish, Teuns launched an attack that only Valverde and Aleks Vlasov could follow. In the end, the Belgian rider proved to be the strongest in the uphill sprint, with Aleks taking third place.

2022 Fleche Wallonne peloton

The peloton has nice weather for the race. Photo: ASO/Gautier Demouveaux

"I am very happy with my first participation in Flèche Wallonne. The race was quite nervous because everyone was fighting for position. I knew that I had to start the final climb as far ahead as possible, and then in the finale I tried to follow Valverde. I really gave it my all today and it paid off in the end. And who knows, after my podium finish here, maybe I will try it again next year. Now we’re focusing on Liège-Bastogne-Liège. I'm in good shape now, so we'll see what's possible there." - Aleks Vlasov

"Particularly after his strong performance at the Tour of the Basque Country, we knew that with Aleks Vlasov we had a rider who could fight for the victory here. We had four rookies, including Aleks, who were riding Flèche Wallonne for the first time today. We looked at the course in detail yesterday and formulated a clear plan to support Aleks 100 per cent. And we implemented it perfectly. Alex did exactly what we had discussed beforehand: cling to Valverde's rear wheel with 300 metres before the finish and find a good position. The other six riders all did a great job. Some of them are coming back from altitude training camps, and some of them are returning from injury, but everyone did their job well. So as the Sports Director, I'm very pleased with the result." - Jens Zemke, Sports Director

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And here's the report fron fourth-place Julian Alaphilippe's Team Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl:

Julian Alaphilippe finished the Belgian Classic in fourth place Wednesday afternoon, with the Frenchman adding to his incredible record that has never seen him come over the line outside the top 5 in six participations since turning pro. Sporting the beautiful rainbow jersey he earned last September in Leuven and having bib number 1 on his back, Julian came into the race as the leader of Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, who did a fine job in controlling and bringing back the early breakaway, before moving with Mauri Vansevenant on the penultimate ascent of the race.

The 22-year-old Belgian, who at his debut here two years ago put in a huge and valiant ride, staying in front until four kilometers to go, when a crash spoiled his dreams of conquering the Mur de Huy, opened a gap of 15 seconds and put pressure on the peloton, who had to ramp up the speed in order to reel him in on the first slopes of the iconic climb that his year celebrated four decades since being introduced on the parcours.

Brought by Remco Evenepoel close to the front of the peloton just as the gradient began kicking up, Julian patiently waited for the final 200 meters of the race, just after the infamous S-bend, to make his move, but despite an all-out effort on the steep incline to the line, he couldn’t match the speed of Dylan Teuns (Bahrain Victorious) and concluded the day in fourth place, just five seconds behind the winner.

Julian Alaphilippe

Julian Alaphilippe just missed getting on the podium. Sirotti photo

“First of all, I want to thank the entire team, because they worked hard and did a huge job for me. I wanted to win today, for myself and for the Wolfpack, I was very motivated and gave my best, but I just didn’t have the legs. There were other riders stronger than me at the end of the day, so I don’t have any regrets. It is as it is. Now I have to leave this behind and move my focus to Liège–Bastogne–Liège”, said Alaphilippe after his 15th top 10 result in an Ardennes Classic.

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