February 5 th 2021 - 11:30
Return to Charleroi! After eight years of starting from various irrefutably welcoming host towns, the Flèche Wallonne returns to its traditional start point in the province of Hainaut’s biggest city. Charleroi has already hosted the race twenty-eight times, including fifteen consecutive times between 1998 and 2012. This east-to-west course is a return to tradition with its characteristic profile, intensified from Thon and around Andenne by a series of incessant twists and turns after which riders need to pick up the pace, and short energy-sapping climbs that split the field before the final lap. To add to this, the riders will no doubt have already battled the winds in the Sambreville to Fosses-la-Ville sections before reaching the new Côte d’Yvoir and the climb to Gesves.
Despite an intentionally tougher course, it is the Mur de Huy finishing climb that will have the final say, as it has done for the last 36 years. It remains to be seen whether the prodigal and promising Marc Hirschi, winner last autumn, will rise to the rank of "serial winner" following the reign of Alejandro Valverde and Julian Alaphilippe. The Swiss is the youngest-ever victor of the race, which was first held in 1936. He is also only the second person, the first being Eddy Merckx in 1967, to win the race at his event début. Hirschi’s proven endurance and explosive power could see him take the title again and in future years. But the slopes of the Huy lures so many would-be champions built to conquer ...