Pogacar Wins La Fleche Wallonne
The 2023 edition of La Fleche Wallonne took place on a hilly 194.3-kilometer route from Herve to Mur de Huy in Belgium. Last year’s race was won by Dylan Teuns (Bahrain-Victorious) who took the win ahead of Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team), Alexander Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe), and Julian Alaphilippe (QuickStep-Alpha Vinyl).
The hostilities in the 2023 edition of the race started early and with 80 kilometers left of the race a breakaway group featuring eight riders had a one minute and thirty seconds lead on the chasing peloton. The hopefuls were Daryl Impey (Israel-PremierTech), Lawrence Naesen (AG2R-Citroen), Georg Zimmermann (Intermarche-Circus-Wanty), Jacob Hindsgaul (Uno-X Pro Cycling Team), Søren Kragh Andersen (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Raul Garcia Pierna (Equipo Kern Pharma), Johan Meens (Bingoal WB), and Jetse Bol (Burgos-BH).
The advantage of the front group had been reduced to 01:20 after the legendary Mur de Huy with 75 kilometers left of the mid-week classic, while Naesen was dropped from the front group. UAE Team Emirates were setting the pace in the main peloton in support of their leader Tadej Pogacar.
On the Cote d’Ereffe hill with 56 kilometers left of the race, Soudal-QuickStep’s Pieter Serry launched a solo attack from the main peloton. Menawhile, the seven-man front group had been reduced to a trio featuring Zimmermann, Hindsgaul, and Kragh Andersen.
Serry was caught by the peloton three kilometers later.
On the second passage of the Mur de Huy with about 38 kilometers left of La Fleche Wallonne 2023 the front duo still featured Kragh Andersen and Zimmermann and they had a 01:10 minute lead on the chasing peloton that was spearheaded by UAE Team Emirates closely followed by Groupama-FDJ and EF Education-EasyPost.
With 29 kilometers left a front quartet had been formed featuring Zimmermann, Kragh Andersen, Samuele Battistella (Astana), and Louis Vervaeke (Soudal-QuickStep). The riders had a twenty-five second advantage on the main peloton that was now led by EF Education-EasyPost.
21 kilometers from the finish a crash occurred in the main peloton. The crash involved Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar Team), Andreas Kron (Lotto-Dstny), Victor Lafay (Cofidis), Gijs Leemreize (Jumbo-Vista), Fabien Grellier (TotalEnergies), Jimmy Janssens (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Jesus Herrada (Cofidis), and Neilson Powless, who also crashed in Sunday’s Amstel Gold Race.
With 13 kilometers left of today’s challenging chassic the UAE Team Emirates were setting a fierce pace at the front of the peloton while the front group had been reduced to a trio featuring Battistella, Vervaeke, and Kragh Andersen.
On the Cote de Cherave, 6.8 kilometers from the finish, UAE Team Emirates set a fast pace in the main peloton, while Vervaeke and Kragh Andersen were sitting ducks a few meters further forward, waiting to be caught.
The race looked set to be decided on the legendary Mur de Huy climb to the finish with the hill featuring sections of up to 19 percent.
Michael Woods (Israel-PremierTech) led the peloton, while Romain Bardet (Team DSM) attempted to launch an attack, but couldn’t pass the rider in front of him. Pogacar then attacked and formed a gap that also secured him the victory in the race. Matthias Skjelmose finished second for his Trek-Segafredo team and Bahrain-Victorious’ Mikel Landa took the final spot on the Fleche Wallonne podium.
“It was super hard today. I think the team did such an amazing job and what wonderful guys I have working in front of me, so I needed to pull it off for them,” race winner Pogacar told Roadcycling.com after the finish. “With twenty kilometers to go I was really nervous, but the team did a good job keeping me at the front. At one moment I almost crashed. We wanted to make an even harder race in the end, but the guys were tired after pulling for so long.
“I keep celebrating every victory as if it was my first. You never get bored of crossing the finish line first and I’ll enjoy this moment while I can.”
“Sunday’s Liege-Bastogne-Liege race is a different race, but I am in great shape. Remco Evenepoel is in great form too and it will be one of the most exciting races of the season,” Pogacar concluded.
Stay tuned to Roadcycling.com for additional coverage from the 2023 spring classics including Liege-Bastogne-Liege 2023.