La Flèche Wallonne: Marta Cavalli beats Annemiek van Vleuten on Mur de Huy

Amstel Gold winner takes second big win, bettering Van Vleuten and Vollering on final climb.

Photo: Benoit Doppagne/Belga Mag/AFP via Getty Images

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Marta Cavalli (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope) timed her move perfectly to outclimb Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) and win La Flèche Wallonne for her second major victory in two weeks.

After taking victory at the Amstel Gold Race just 10 days ago, the 24-year-old Italian was glued to Van Vleuten’s wheel up the final Mur de Huy climb as the two distanced Demi Vollering (SD Worx) behind. Coming round the Dutch rider in the final 50m, Cavalli timed her effort to perfection to take victory, beating Van Vleuten into second with Vollering in third.

Cavalli’s win comes after her FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope teammates Brodie Chapman and Evita Muzic executed an impressive chase to catch a strong breakaway in the closing 20km.

“It’s incredible after Amstel and Roubaix, I can’t believe that today I had good legs,” Cavalli said at the finish. “It’s not easy with Annemiek, because everybody knows how strong she is. So, to be able to attack her in the last 100m and win this race is for me the best emotion because we worked a lot and it’s deserved.

“It’s not easy on the Mur de Huy because it’s so steep. On the first part, you have to be quiet, because it’s just 900m but it’s more than four minutes of effort. Then I stayed in the wheel of Annemiek, and I waited until the last meters because I knew it was a little bit flatter and better than if you arrive with hard legs and after already a big effort.

“For me, it’s a big satisfaction, but also for my team because today we had a really good feeling in the race. We spoke a lot together, they protected me in the dangerous moments in the more open and windy areas before the Côte de Cherave, and they rode to catch the breakaway that we missed. It’s a big thanks to my team.”

How it happened

It was a slightly reduced peloton that took to the start in Huy early Wednesday morning, with the effects of illness, post-Roubaix injuries, and a busy spring meaning 11 of the 24 teams starting brought reduced rosters.

There was no shortage of attacking riders, though, and as soon as the official start was given, the breakaway attempts began. Though the categorized climbs wouldn’t come until the final 70km, the opening loop of hilly Ardennes terrain made for a tough start and despite an almost constant succession of attacks, no one was allowed more than a few seconds.

After almost an hour of racing, it was Liv Racing Xstra’s Katia Ragusa who finally managed to force and maintain a gap, quickly stretching out a lead of 17 seconds over the uncategorized hills of the opening loop. Ragusa was joined by Anastasia Carbonari (Valcar-Travel & Service) and Kylie Waterreus (Lotto Soudal Ladies), with the extra firepower helping to extend the leaders’ advantage to 30 seconds.

Finally happy to let a group go, the pace slowed slightly in the peloton and allowed another three chasers to attempt to bridge to the front of the race. Federica Piergiovanni (Valcar-Travel & Service), Pauline Allin (Arkéa Pro Cycling Team), and Silvia Zanardi (Bepink) bridged the gap to the initial leaders, in the process growing the break’s advantage to 52 seconds.

Heading into the base of the Côte de Cherave — the first of eight categorized climbs — the six leaders had an advantage of almost two minutes. Despite a crash in the peloton behind, the start of the climbs saw the break’s lead tumble as the pace in the bunch was upped significantly. As the first ascent of the Mur de Huy was over, the peloton trailed the breakaway by only 45 seconds, with Zanardi forging ahead solo whilst Waterreus was distanced.

The unrelenting climbs brought with them a succession of attacks and accelerations behind. Over the Côte d’Ereffe, a group of 10 chasers escaped the peloton and joined the original leaders.

Anna Shackley (SD Worx), Alena Amialusik, Elise Chabbey (Canyon-SRAM), Leah Thomas (Trek-Segafredo), Jelena Erić (Movistar), Esmée Peperkamp (Team DSM), Amanda Spratt (BikeExchange-Jayco), Anouska Koster (Jumbo-Visma), Krista Doebel-Hickock (EF Education-Tibco-SVB) and Yara Kastelijn (Plantur-Pura) joined the remaining leaders and the 15 riders led by a minute and 47 seconds with 40km remaining.

Entering the second ascent of the Mur de Huy, the front group had shrunk to 10 as all five from the initial break were dropped. Back in the peloton, it was FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine-Futuroscope — who missed out on the lead group — setting the pace, and the combination of its efforts and the effects of the climbs saw the leaders’ gap down to a minute going into the final 20km.

Canyon-SRAM battled hard to keep the lead group away, but the chasing peloton caught the leaders on the Côte de Cherave with 6km to go. The tough climb, and the efforts to make the catch, meant it was a very reduced group that crested the top of the Cherave with Vollering, Van Vleuten, Ashleigh Moolman Pasio and Elisa Longo Borghini among those making the right side of the split, whilst Kasia Niewiadoma made a big effort to chase back on.

Despite a late move from SD Worx, the favourites were all together heading into the bottom of the Mur de Huy finale as Arlenis Sierra and Paula Patiño set the pace for Van Vleuten.

Van Vleuten forced a high pace into the steepest part of the climb, leading with 400m to go, with only Cavalli and Vollering able to stick with the Dutch rider. Vollering was distanced Cavalli was firmly stuck to Van Vleuten’s wheel, where she remained until within the last 75m. Timing her effort to the very last moment, Cavalli dug deep to come around Van Vleuten in the final 50m, claiming her second major victory of the spring.

After winning Amstel Gold Race and finishing fifth at Paris-Roubaix on Saturday, the Italian is quickly becoming one of the best riders in the bunch as the WorldTour peloton heads into the next part of the season.

“After Liège I will take a break, and after that I will think about the Giro and the Tour,” she said at the finish. “It will be a long season.”

La Flèche Wallonne Féminine Results

1CAVALLI MartaFDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope3:38:37
2VAN VLEUTEN AnnemiekMovistar Team0:00
3VOLLERING DemiTeam SD Worx0:10
4MOOLMAN AshleighTeam SD Worx0:17
5GARCÍA MaviUAE Team ADQ0:21
6LONGO BORGHINI ElisaTrek - Segafredo0:30
7LIPPERT LianeTeam DSM0:33
9KASTELIJN YaraPlantur-Pura0:40
10SANTESTEBAN AneTeam BikeExchange - Jayco0:42
11ROOIJAKKERS PaulienaCanyon//SRAM Racing0:46
12NIEWIADOMA KatarzynaCanyon//SRAM Racing0:52
13VAN ANROOIJ ShirinTrek - Segafredo0:52
14KOSTER AnouskaTeam Jumbo-Visma1:01
15SIERRA ArlenisMovistar Team1:07
16BARIL OliviaValcar - Travel & Service1:07
17FISHER-BLACK NiamhTeam SD Worx1:07
18PATIÑO PaulaMovistar Team1:07
19MAGNALDI EricaUAE Team ADQ1:07
20LÉVÉNEZ SandraCofidis Women Team1:07
21VAN DE VELDE JuliePlantur-Pura1:16
22COSTON MorganeArkéa Pro Cycling Team1:19
23PEPERKAMP EsméeTeam DSM1:25
24CHABBEY EliseCanyon//SRAM Racing1:28
25SPRATT AmandaTeam BikeExchange - Jayco1:28
26SHACKLEY AnnaTeam SD Worx1:34
28GEURTS MijntjeLotto Soudal Ladies1:46
29KOPPENBURG ClaraCofidis Women Team1:50
30BIRIUKOVA YuliiaArkéa Pro Cycling Team1:50
31VAN DER HEIJDEN IngePlantur-Pura1:50
32DRONOVA-BALABOLINA TamaraRoland Cogeas Edelweiss Squad1:50
33THOMAS LeahTrek - Segafredo1:54
34PINTAR UrškaUAE Team ADQ1:56
35MORICHON AnaisArkéa Pro Cycling Team1:58
36KRAAK AmberTeam Jumbo-Visma1:58
37ONESTI OliviaCofidis Women Team1:58
38LOWDEN JoscelinUno-X Pro Cycling Team1:58
39GERRITSE FemkeParkhotel Valkenburg2:01
40VAS BlankaTeam SD Worx2:04
41STANNARD ElizabethValcar - Travel & Service2:04
42VALLIERES MagdeleineEF Education-TIBCO-SVB2:06
43NEYLAN RachelCofidis Women Team2:06
44KIRCHMANN LeahTeam DSM2:14
45BRAND LucindaTrek - Segafredo2:19
46LUDWIG HannahUno-X Pro Cycling Team2:21
47STEPHENS LaurenEF Education-TIBCO-SVB2:26
48AALERUD KatrineMovistar Team2:42
49PALADIN SorayaCanyon//SRAM Racing3:18
50CHAPMAN BrodieFDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope3:20
51VAN DIJK EllenTrek - Segafredo3:22
52WILLIAMS GeorgiaTeam BikeExchange - Jayco3:31
53STIASNY PetraRoland Cogeas Edelweiss Squad4:02
54AMIALIUSIK AlenaCanyon//SRAM Racing4:04
55ZANARDI SilviaBepink4:57
56GHEKIERE JustinePlantur-Pura4:57
57MUZIC ÉvitaFDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope4:57
58MANLY AlexandraTeam BikeExchange - Jayco4:57
59ŽIGART UrškaTeam BikeExchange - Jayco4:57
60HONSINGER ClaraEF Education-TIBCO-SVB4:57
62CLAES LotteBingoal Casino - Chevalmeire - Van Eyck Sport5:08
63HAMMES KathrinEF Education-TIBCO-SVB5:14
64ERIĆ JelenaMovistar Team6:08
65CRABBÉ KionaPlantur-Pura6:44
66TOWERS AliceLe Col - Wahoo6:44
67COUZENS MilliePlantur-Pura6:44
68UIJEN EliseTeam DSM6:44
69KERBAOL CédrineCofidis Women Team6:44
70OTTESTAD Mie BjørndalUno-X Pro Cycling Team6:51
71MALCOTTI BarbaraHuman Powered Health6:53
72MARTÍN SaraMovistar Team6:53
73SOET AafkeTeam Jumbo-Visma6:55
74DOCX MiekeLotto Soudal Ladies6:57
75GIELKENS EsméeLotto Soudal Ladies7:03
76WIEL JadeFDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope7:05
77YSLAND Anne DortheUno-X Pro Cycling Team7:07
79HOLDEN ElizabethLe Col - Wahoo7:10
80KOREVAAR JeanneLiv Racing Xstra7:10
81KULYNYCH OlhaBingoal Casino - Chevalmeire - Van Eyck Sport7:13
82BUIJSMAN NinaHuman Powered Health7:18
83GAFINOVITZ RotemRoland Cogeas Edelweiss Squad7:20
84JACKSON AlisonLiv Racing Xstra7:20
85PIERGIOVANNI Federica DamianaValcar - Travel & Service7:20
86CHRISTIAN AnnaLe Col - Wahoo7:20
87DUVAL EugénieFDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope7:24
88YONAMINE EriHuman Powered Health7:24
89CARBONARI AnastasiaValcar - Travel & Service7:38
90BARNES HannahUno-X Pro Cycling Team7:38
91CHRISTIE HenriettaHuman Powered Health7:38
92VAN DEN BROEK-BLAAK ChantalTeam SD Worx7:38
93DEMEY ValerieLiv Racing Xstra7:45
94JASKULSKA MartaLiv Racing Xstra7:45
95BERTON NinaAndy Schleck - CP NVST - Immo Losch7:53
96CLOUSE KatieHuman Powered Health7:57
97CURINIER LéaTeam DSM7:59
98ALLIN PaulineArkéa Pro Cycling Team7:59
99PERKINS FloraLe Col - Wahoo9:20
100VANDENBULCKE JesseLe Col - Wahoo10:34
101RAGUSA KatiaLiv Racing Xstra10:43
102SZABÓ ZsófiaAndy Schleck - CP NVST - Immo Losch10:47
103CIPRESSI CarlottaValcar - Travel & Service12:24
104HÁJKOVÁ MarketaBepink12:29
105VAN ROOIJEN AnneParkhotel Valkenburg13:43
106DANFORD GeorgiaAndy Schleck - CP NVST - Immo Losch13:43
107POPELIER LotteBingoal Casino - Chevalmeire - Van Eyck Sport13:43
108STERN FriederikeAndy Schleck - CP NVST - Immo Losch13:43
109BUCH HannahRoland Cogeas Edelweiss Squad13:49
110BURLOVÁ KristýnaLotto Soudal Ladies13:56
111WATERREUS KylieLotto Soudal Ladies14:06

Results provided by ProCyclingStats.

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