Williams Victorious in Fleche Wallonne 2024

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04/17/2024| 0 comments
by Roadcycling.com

Williams Victorious in Fleche Wallonne 2024

Stephen Williams is the winner of La Fleche Wallonne 2024. Kevin Vauquelin finished second, while Maxim Van Gils completed the race podium

Expectations were high for the 2024 edition of the Fleche Wallonne Classic to deliver interesting racing. A strong peloton set out on the 198.6-kilometer ride from Charleroi to Huy. As usual, the route featured the famous Mur de Huy, which would have to be climbed no less than four times – this was also where the race finish would take place. The Mur de Huy is 1.3 kilometers long and features an average incline percentage of 9.4.

Top challengers for the race victory in this year’s race included Marc Hirschi (UAE Team Emirates) – who finished second in Sunday’s Amstel Gold Race, Ben Healy (EF Education-EasyPost), Mattias Skjelmose (Lidl-Trek), Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates), Sunday’s race winner Thomas Pidcock (Ineos-Grenadiers), Tiesj Benoot (Team Visma-Lease a Bike), Benoit Cosnefroy (Decathlon AG2R), and Michael Matthews (Team Jayco-Alula).

Six riders established the early breakaway of the day. The group featured Lilian Calmejane (Intermarche-Wanty), Alan Jousseaume (TotalEnergies), James Whelan (Q36.5 Pro Cycling Team), Txomin Juaristi (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Igor Chzhan (Astana Team), and Bingoal-WB’s Johan Meens.

UAE Team Emirates and EF Education-EasyPost were active at the front of the chasing peloton to keep the breakaway riders under control.

When the riders were approximately 110 kilometers from the finish, the weather conditions changed significantly. Not only did it start raining, but the riders were forced to counter hailstorms and thunderstorms as well. A nasty challenge for the rider types who prefer the Ardennes Classics including Fleche Wallonne and Sunday’s Liege-Bastogne-Liege. The roads were slippery, and the fingers were cold – not the best cocktail for fast road cycling.

With ninety kilometers remaining, the advantage of the breakaway hopefuls had been reduced to two minutes and the Mur de Huy had split the front group into two after they climbed the Mur de Huy and contested its incline percentages of more than 17 percent.

When 75 kilometers remained, the riders in the peloton had regrouped and done their best to try to accommodate themselves to the changed weather conditions. Some riders were still suffering in the rainy, snowy, windy and cold conditions. EF Education EasyPost had sent five riders to the front of the chasing peloton. Three riders from the early break remained further up the road. The trio included Calmejane, Meens, and Juaristi and they now had just a twenty second advantage.

Groupama-FDJ sent riders to the front to increase the pace and eliminate even more contestants in the poor weather conditions.

The riders had climbed the Mur de Huy for the second time and the front trio had been caught. 

Inspired by teammate World Champion Mathieu van der Poel, Søren Kragh Andersen attacked solo for his Alpecin-Deceuninck team. He quickly built a lead of fifteen seconds. Then thirty seconds. Then fifty.

Markus Hoelgaard (Uno-X Mobility) initiated a chase for his Norwegian outfit. He was also solo. Chapeau for his courage. Such courage was badly needed in other parts of the professional cycling peloton.

Eventually, Hoelgaard was reeled in by the chasing peloton, but what a nice initiative.

EF Education-EasyPost’s Ben Healy launched multiple attacks with approximately 35 kilometers to go. It indicated he was riding in support of teammate Richard Carapaz. Or was he just going all out as he did in last year’s spring classics? 

Kragh Andersen was still in the lead with a 01:30 minute advantage. The weather conditions were improving, and the roads were drying up.

Bahrain-Victorious and Groupama-FDJ moved to the front of the main peloton on the third and penultimate passage of the Mur de Huy. EF Education-EasyPost were also close to the front. 

Kragh Andersen had a 01:05 minute advantage over the main peloton after the Mur de Huy.

Stephen Williams (Team PremierTech) was second across the top. Santiago Buitrago (Bahrain Victorious) and Richard Carapaz (EF Education-EasyPost) had also launched an attack.

Shortly thereafter, Williams, Carapaz and Buitrago were joined by Maxim Van Gils (Lotto Dstny) and Kevin Vauquelin (Arkea B&B Hotels).

In the peloton Team Visma-Lease a Bike and Uno-X Pro Cycling Team were leading the chase.

Twenty kilometers from the finish line in Huy, front man Kragh Andersen had a twenty second lead over a chasing trio featuring Van Gils, Carapaz and Vauquelin.

While it had rained again, the riders were approaching the Cote d’Ereffe – featuring incline percentages of up to eleven percent.

The chase trio was caught by the remains of the main peloton. The group now featured approximately thirty-five riders. 

Kragh Andersen was eventually reeled in 14.5 kilometers from the finish line. What a proud and courageous effort from the Dane.

10 kilometers remained and several teams had sent riders to the front of the peloton to set a fast pace as the riders approached the finish on the Mur de Huy. 36 riders were still chasing the race victory.

Two kilometers remained, then it was one.

The riders entered the Mur de Huy and riders immediately started dropping off the back.

Stephen Williams (Team PremierTech) attacked and immediately created a gap. Cosnefroy tried to attack. Vauquelin counterattacked. 

Stephen Williams was first across the finish line and is the winner of La Fleche Wallonne 2024. Kevin Vauquelin was second across the line for Arkea B&B Hotels. Maxim Van Gils (Lotto Dstny) completed the podium.

“What a day. I’m so happy right now. I’ve been wanting this race for years,” Williams told Roadcycling.com shortly after the finish.

“To come away with the victory in this kind of weather is just amazing. Taking the win here is really special. There was a kind of block in the peloton with 300 meters to go and I thought if I can get a gap here then anything is possible. To win bike races is hard and especially here, so I am very happy,” Williams added.

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