Alaphilippe, the absolute King in Huy
April 24 th 2019 - 16:43
A year after overthrowing Alejandro Valverde from his throne, Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick Step) conquered the Mur de Huy again to take his second victory on La Flèche Wallonne. The race opened up much earlier than usual but the Frenchman was once again the strongest in the final climb to edge Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), one of his most intimate enemies. Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates) ahead of the youngsters Bjorg Lambrecht (Lotto Soudal) and Maximilian Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe). Julian Alaphilippe is only the fourth rider to win Milan-Sanremo and La Flèche Wallonne the same year after Eddy Merckx, Maurizio Fondriest and Laurent Jalabert.
Oscar Rodriguez (Euskadi-Murias) quickly abandons due to illness and lets a nervous pack of 174 riders fight for the breakaway. Attacks fly and it takes 9 km for Joseph Rosskopf (CCC Team), Robin Carpenter (Rally UHC Cycling) and Kenneth Van Rooy (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise) to get away from the pack. Tom Wirgten (Wallonie Bruxelles) and then Koen Bouwman (Jumbo-Visma) successively join them at the front.
The gap goes up to 5’45” before Julian Alahilippe’s Deceuninck-Quick Step start pulling the peloton 25 km into the race. Their acceleration on wind-exposed roads briefly splits the bunch until things get back to normal after 35 km. The attackers’ margin then stabilises between 4 and 5 minutes on the way to the first ascents of the day, the côte de Tancrémont (km 46) and the côte des Forges (km 57). Kenneth Van Rooy summits them first.
Lots of action far from the Mur
The situation heats up again with 95 km to go. Two successive crashes split the peloton and riders such as Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), Alexey Lutsenko (Astana), Enric Mas (Deceunicnk-Quick Step) participate setting a hard pace at the front. Things were back to normal when the race entered the final circuit, 118km away from the finish. The gap between the attackers and the peloton is down to 3’30”.
Van Rooy is dropped in the côte d’Ereffe. Cesare Benedetti (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Pierre-Luc Périchon (Cofidis) accelerate from the bunch and are joined by Damiano Caruso (Bahrain-Merida) in the côte de Cherave while Van Rooy is dropped from the leading group. Things also get too hard for Tom Wirtgen in the first ascent of the Mur de Huy and three riders remain at the front with 58 km to go.
Tom Jelte Slagter (Dimension Data) and Nathan Haas (Katusha Alpecin) join the chasing group in the valley, quickly followed by Tomasz Marczynski (Lotto Soudal) and Michael Gogl (Trek-Segafredo) while Julian Alaphilippe sustains a bike change. The second ascent of the côte de Cherave is too much for Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates) and Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe). In the following downhill, Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), Roman Kreuziger (Dimension Data) and Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida) suffer a hard crash.
Mas delivers for Alaphilippe
Joseph Rosskopf goes solo in the second ascent of the Mur de Huy, while all the chasers are caught by a peloton. Bjorg Lambrecht (Lotto Soudal) sets the pace in the climb and a split happens after the summit, with 20 riders joining Rosskopf. Julian Alaphilippe and Alejandro Valverde are absent from this move and their teammates bring them back to the leaders 23 km away from the finish.
Tomasz Marczynski (Lotto Soudal) attacks two kilometres later. He is joined by Matej Mohoric (Bahrain-Merida) with 9km to go. Deceuninck-Quick Step and Bora-Hansgrohe set the pace in the bunch, 15” behind them, and Enric Mas (Deceuninck-Quick Step) closes the gap in the final ascent of the côte de Cherave, with 6.5km to go.
Things finally come down to the final ascent of the Mur de Huy: 1.3km at 9.6%. Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) takes the front position with 600 metres to go. Then Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) attacks, only to see Julian Alaphilippe follow his move and edge him in the final 100 metres.