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71st Flèche Wallonne - Race Report & Photos
By Podofdonny
Date: 4/25/2007
71st Flèche Wallonne - Race Report & Photos

71st Flèche Wallone 2007 - 202.5 km Pro Tour

Photo c. Bart Hazen

The second of the Ardennes Classics was off to a sunny start this morning for its 71rst edition in Chaleroi. Before the start this morning random blood tests were ordered for six teams, all of the 47 riders involved (approximately 23% of the peloton tested) were approved for the race. 189 riders in took to the start for the 4.6 km lap through Chaleroi where the racing hits the road to Huy. There are eleven bergs on the menu today, including three trips up the leg breaking Mur de Huy at 65.5 km, 97.5 km, and 202.5 kms where the final selection up the climb to decide the winner.

The race favors the survivors of a fast and demanding 202 kilometers; riders like World Champ Paolo Bettini, 2006 defending champion Alejandro Valverde, and previous winners Danilo Diluca who won in 2005, and Davide Rebellin in 2004. Rebellin is fresh off his second place in Amstel Gold to Gerolsteiner mate Stefan Schumacher; the team looks to be the strongest squad for the race with Fabian Wegmann adding his talents.  Each of the favorites finished in the top six of Sunday's Amstel race.

The breaks first crossing of the Mur du Huy. Photo c. Bart Hazen

A bright sunny day saw early attacks right from the start, with Britain's Paul Manning amongst the riders trying their luck early on. However, the fast pace meant that no escapee really made any ground until the 40th kilometre when Freddy Bichot (France-AGR), Spain's Gorka Verdugo (Euskadi/Euskatel), David Loosli (Sui - Lampre/Fondital) and Christophe Le Mevel (Fra - C.A) made the break of the day. With 47 kilometres covered the race had been underway an hour and the four leaders had 5’50’’ advantage.

Christophe Le Mevel, leads Gorka Verdugo, David Loosli, and Freddy Bichot (obscured) up the Mur with 400 meters to go. By the first trip up the Mur du Hoy at 65.5 km the quartets gap was just under 7 minutes as Bichot led Le Mevel Verdugo and Loosli over the summit. The peloton reduced the lead by a minute as they rode past the summit in Huy. Photo c. Bart Hazen

Second Passage of the Mur de Huy - 97.5 kms, the peloton reduces the gap to 4’30 deficit to the escapees. Photo c. Bart Hazen

From that point on the lead started to fall as the succession of hills started to take their toll. After 127 kilometres the lead had dropped to 2’10’’

Freddy Bichot , David Loosli and Christophe Le Mevel found the pace too hot at the front and by the time Gorka Verdugo crossed the côte de Bonneville he was on his own with around 1’45’’ on the peloton.

With 39 kilometres to go, a group of 13 riders had managed to cross to Verdugo and had a few seconds advantage over the peloton. Lopez Garcia, Rogers, A. Schleck, Camano, Vasseur, Mertens, Lovqvist, Voeckler, Vila Errandonea, Fofonov, De Schrooder, Petrov and Verdugo never gained a big advantage and with 34 kilometres to go the peloton was back together. Phillipe Gilbert attacked but as he was pulled back three riders attacked the peloton , Rodriguez , Kessler and Alexander Efimkin. However Liquigas put the pressure on and the race was back together with 30 kilometres to go.

Second Passage of the Mur du Huy, Schumacher leads Rebellin
Photo c. Bart Hazen

Ivanov (Astana) broke clear and with 18 kilometres to go Ivanov had 30 seconds on the chasing peloton which was being lead by the Caisse d'Epargne team.

Cote d’Ahin and Liquigas started to work for Di Luca , but as they dropped the gas it was Juan-José Cobo who attacked and bridged the gap to Ivanov. Di Luca attacked and he was joined by Rodriguez and Kirchen and these three men crossed to Ivanov and Cobo.

with 13 kilometres to go these 5 men had just 9 seconds, behind the quintet Popovych, Valverde , Thomas Dekker and Cristian Moreni were trying to bridge. With 10 kilometres to go Rodriguez attacked , and only Di Luca Valverde and Kirchen had the legs to chase. Advantage Caisse d'Epargne with Rodriguez on the attack and Valverde getting a nice tow from Di Luca and Kirchen.

8 kilometres to go, and the Joaquin Rodriguez had 30 seconds on the peloton and was looking very strong with Kirchen and Di Luca still chasing while Valverde kept in their slipstream.

540 metres from the finish Matthias Kessler leads, Davide Rebellin, Riccardo Ricco, Rinaldo Nocentini and Danilo Di Luca. Photo c. Bart Hazen

With 3 kilometres to go the Ag2R team were putting the pressure on the front of the peloton and at the bottom of the Huy the race was all back together. Kessler lead the peloton on the final climb with Rebellin stuck to his wheel. With 500 metres to go Rebellin, the master of the Huy, stepped up a gear and took an “easy” victory.

Valverde and di Luca both came back to take second and third spot from the tiring Kessler while Italian sensation Riccardo Ricco had to settle for 5th spot. Rinaldo Nocentini gave some reward for Ag2r Prévoyance’s hard work finishing 6th

Rebellin spoke to the TV after the race “I took it easy and saved my legs throughout the race , I was worried when Valverde was away and I was also worried about Di Luca- still the team was excellent and I am pleased with the win” he said.

71st Flèche Wallone 2007 Top 10
202.5 kms - 4h 48:06 - 42.173 km/h

2 001 VALVERDE Alejandro GCE ESP 00:06
3 041 DI LUCA Danilo LIQ ITA 00:06

4 056 KESSLER Matthias AST GER 00:08
5 061 RICCO Riccardo SDV ITA 00:08
6 167 NOCENTINI Rinaldo A2R ITA 00:13
============== :16 ==============
7 021 SCHLECK Frank CSC LUX 00:16
8 165 GADRET John A2R FRA 00:19
9 175 GESINK Robert RAB NED 00:19
10 188 VALJAVEC Tadej LAM SLO 00:19

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