2024 Flèche Wallonne – Race Report

How the race finished

Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon//Sram Racing) was finally triumphant at Flèche Wallonne, ahead of defending champion Demi Vollering (SD Worx Protime) and Elisa Longo Borghini (Lidl Trek). 

Full results are available below.

How it happened

Despite the mid-afternoon start, the riders set out in cool temperatures and patchy rain, which soon gave way to patchy snow. 143.5 kilometres of rolling terrain lay ahead of them, but this year, a route change saw the Côte de Cherave, and one of the ascent of the Mur de Huy removed from the course, leaving fewer options for the climbers to thin the bunch out before the final, leg burning test up the Mur de Huy. 

A few earlier crashes, including one in the neutralised zone before the race proper had ever started spelled an early finish for a few riders. Despite the cool temperatures, after more than 10 kilometres into the race no breakaway had formed. On the newest climb in the race, the 1.4km long, 7.1% average gradient Côte de Courrière climb, Justine Ghekiere (AG Insurance-Soudal) led the bunch over the summit, with the peloton splitting up, catching out Mavi Garcia (Liv ALula Jayco)

At 105km to go an attack finally came, with the trio of Sara Martín (Movistar), Julie Van de Velde (AG Insurance-Soudal) and Elena Hartmann (Roland) creating a small gap. The peloton seemed happy to give the trio some space, and some twelve kilometres later, once they had passed over the Côte d’Evrehailles, their lead had extended to 1 minute 40 seconds.

By the time the race entered the local laps, with 50km to go, the trio had been allowed to drive their lead out to almost five minutes. Sensing the risk and potential opportunity, Grace Brown (FDJ Suez) and Pauliena Rooijakkers (Fenix Deceuninck) set off in pursuit. At 32 kilometres to go, the leaders battled up the first ascent of the Mur de Huy, with it proving too much for Hartmann who dropped back. Brown and Rooijakkers continued in their chase, but were unable to find more than thirty seconds on the peloton, who were now more organised in their own chase. 

After the Mur de Huy, Fem van Empel (Visma Lease a Bike) and then Lotte Kopecky SD (Worx Protime) both launched attacks, but both were attentively marked out by Elisa Longo Borghini (Lidl Trek). Femke Gerritse (SD Worx Protime) and Soraya Paladin (Canyon//Sram Racing) took up the chase on the front of the peloton with the gap still sitting at two minutes with 21km to go.

UAE Team ADJ and Lidl Trek lined it out into the base of the Côte de l’Ereffe, and Grace Brown and Pauliena Rooijakkers were swept up. The increased pace meant that by the top of the climb, the leaders were in sight. On the briefly flat roads, Riejanne Markus (Visma Lease a Bike) attacked, but once again Longo Borghini marked the move. This time Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon//Sram Racing) bridged, forcing Demi Vollering (SD Worx Protime) to chase but it all came back together.

Pauliena Rooijakkers jumped clear again, going solo this time. FDJ Suez were keen to try again as well, but were closely tracked by Rooijakkers’ teammates at Fenix Deceuninck. On a short climb Rooijakkers caught the leading duo, going straight over the top.

As the peloton began the same climb, a touch of wheel brought down Niamh Fisher Black (SD Worx Protime), who had to wait for a bike change. At the head of the race, the breakaway were caught, and Elise Chabbey launched herself across to Rooijakkers. Elisa Longo Borghini chased, and behind her, a Movistar rider and the distinctive stripes of Kopecky were visible struggling to close the gaps. Kopecky got across to the trio on the descent, and the four riders eyes one another up. Behind, Vollering was having to do the work herself to close it down. Riejanne Markus showed her strength again to bridge across with Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio on her wheel, and then suddenly it was all back together again.

During a short lull in the waste zone, where everyone was discarding bottles before the steep final climb, Alena Amialusik attacked, but was closed down by Fenix Deceuninck and AG Insurance Soudal once more. At 5 kilometres to  the finish line Markus attacked again, leaving everyone looking at one another to chase. At 2.5km to the line she still held 15 seconds, but with FDJ-Suez on the front and the painful slopes still to come, the lead was too slender to defend.

Kopecky positioned Vollering into the base of the climb. As the gradients pitched up, Vollering set her own pace on the front, leading the group up past Markus. As always on the slopes of the Mur de Huy, patience was key, and all the riders seemed to know it. An elite group of five or six riders formed, all looking relatively comfortable with the pace. As they passed the steeped pitched, Longo Borghini revved up on the left, and Niewiadoma, spotting this, launched. Stomping the pedals and out of the saddle she pulled away, leaving Vollering struggling to follow. Longo Borghini initially looked to be on top of the move, before fading back. A fast finishing Vollering looked hopeful of pulling things back, but ran out of road – and Niewiadoma took an emphatic victory, raising an arm to the sky in recognition of the effort and belief that underlines her first solo road win in five years.

Full Results

Results powered by FirstCycling.com

 

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