73rd Fleche Wallone - Live Coverage Part 1
We join the Ardennes bike fight in progress with a Japanese (and a French) in
the lead ... will Fumiyuki Beppu eventually succeed?
Hello everyone, welcome to our live coverage of the 73rd edition of La
Flèche Wallonne, the 195.5-kilometer classic from Charleroi to the summit of
the Huy muur. This year's race profile is as follows:
click the image above for bigger profile.
We join the event in progress with slightly under 100 km. to go and two men
on the move: Christophe Moreau (Fra - AG2R-La Mondiale) and Fumiyuki
Beppu (Jap - Skil-Shimano). This unusual pairing formed seven kilometers
into the race, mainly due to the Frenchman's fighting attitude, after an earlier
attack by Preben Van Hecke (Bel - Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator) was rapidly
Fumiyuki Beppu and Christophe Moreau Photo © 2009 Fotoreporter Sirotti
The two front runners worked well with each other until Moreau dropped his
breakaway companion as they went on the Mur de Huy for the second time a few
minutes ago, and crested the climb 22 seconds ahead of Beppu, but the French
later "sat up" and waited for the Japanese. Such that the two guys were still
together, with the chasing (chasing? haha, this is a good one ...) peloton more
than eleven minutes down at their second passage of the line.
Blue-clad Moreau and his colleague from the Land of the Rising Sushi stepped
into the last 80 kilometers, and are still cooperating under Belgium's grey
skies. To speak of a "chasing" peloton is no longer a joke anyway: the pursuit
has begun for real, and the gap has been kicked down to under nine minutes in
the last dozen miles.
Moreau alone on the Mur du Huy. Photo © 2009 Fotoreporter Sirotti
Poor Beppu struggled again as the going got (slightly) vertical one more
time. The Japanese lost about 100 meters to his fellow escapee.
1435 CEST Needless to say, Damiano
Cunego's Lampre armada is playing a significant part in the chase, and in
cutting the gap down to seven minutes and 15 seconds with 70k remaining. The gap
... to Christophe Moreau only: Beppu lost all of his hopes as he got dropped in
that uphill section and was already two and half minutes adrift at the latest
check. The Skil-Shimano rider is going to be caught by the bunch (quite) fast,
1442 CEST Sixty-five to go. The sun made
its way back over the pack, and on solo escapee Moreau, whose advantage on the
Lampre-driven peloton is coming down rapidly though. The last time distance was
06'40". Beppu stays sandwiched in between, waiting for the group to swallow him.
The French veteran rode alongside the 60-to-go signal; his lead on the
Japanese is getting bigger, but his lead on the peloton is going the other way
around. Moreau is keeping a decent average speed of about 42 kph.
The peloton, led by Lampre by also Caisse d'Epargne, is taking on the longest
climb: Cote de Peu d'Eau.
1450 CEST Women's update: The
female Fleche Wallonne has finished a short time ago, with a prestigious winner:
Holland's Marianne Vos took the spoils ahead of Emma Johansson.
1455 CEST Bye Bye Beppu! The Japanese is
caught by the pack, whose speed cut the gap to Moreau down to five and half
minutes about 55 kilometers from the finish.
1502 CEST About 50k to go. About five
minutes to nullify. Nuff said? As Moreau ploughs his lonely furrow out in
front, an former team mate of the Ag2r la Mondiale team man chases on the front
of the pack. The team will be hoping to do considerably better than Sunday, when
their leader Nocentini only managed 23rd place.
1509 CEST -
Christophe won't stop. But with just four minutes over the field and the line a
cruel 45 thousand miles away, the French don't stand a chance. Moreau takes on
today's sixth (out off 11) uphill thingy, the 1000-meter Cote de Thon
Scarponi and Rebellin near the front of the chase. Photo © 2009 Fotoreporter Sirotti
Lampre and Caisse "surrendered" the peloton leadership to other teams, and
for the first time we can see Kim Kirchen's Team Columbia lieutenants on the
front. Is the Luxembourgian fit (and trained) enough to go for the gold today?
1515 CEST - Some skirmishes inside the
bunch. A Saxo attack. Chris Sorensen perhaps. Columbia have Lovkvist and Monfort
as other options if Kim Kirchen hasn't got the legs today. Columbia's Toni
Martin and a few more guys countered the move by Sorensen. Such move succeed in
giving Kirchen a hard time. The man is struggling off the back of the field now.
This is not going to be Kim's year at Huy, we tend to think. Now an Astana
man gives it some gas on the front. Riders getting a bit antsy.
Attacks and counter-attacks have split the field a little, with a dozen
riders taking a few seconds out of the rest. Now Monsiuer Bbox-Bouygues
Telecom comes through hard and gaps the dozen slightly. It could be European U23
champion Cyril Gautier.
1519 CEST -
The race entered the last 40 km, with Moreau still alone on the front, but also
with his gap coming down exponentially. It was 02'16" at the last check. Still
we have to praise the combative French, on the front over the last 140 km ...
and counting. Not just that Fabio, but Moreau isn't getting any younger. Having
turned 38 ten days ago, he must be one of the oldest riders racing today.
Assan Bazayev, one of the few true Kazakh riders in the Astana roster, gives
it a shot at breaking away. A Vacansoleil advert was just on my TV. Well,
they're getting more publicity that way than on the undulating roads of Wallonia
Apparently, it's 13 riders in this split. Nicolas "son of Stephen" Roche is
in there for AG2R. Maxime Monfort is also there for Team Columbia, and
drives the first group. The "dirty thirteen" already managed to put some 20
seconds into the rest of the bunch.
Heavy traffic warning - the peloton climbs the Huy lined by fans.
Photo © 2009 Fotoreporter Sirotti
1529 CEST - At the rear end of the
bunch, Tom Peterson is sliding backwards faster (and less stylishly) than a
Michael Jackson moonwalk. Looks like his head has gone down too.
The men in this fast-moving break are: Gavazzi, Valerio Agnoli, Oscar Pereiro
Sio, Nicolas Roche, Cyril Gautier, Pierre Rolland, Egoi Martinez, Gorka Verdugo,
Assan Bazayev, Dmitri Muravyev, Fabian Wegmann, Leonardo Duque, Sorensen and
Moreau is only 45 seconds ahead of the first chasers, but at their turn the
sweet seventeen are going to be caught by the bunch in the twinkling of an eye.
1536 CEST - And so they were. The peloton
regrouped again. With Moreau as only exception to the rule, but he's going to
fall soon too ...
1539 CEST - Moreau and his often out
tongue made it to the Cote de Bohisseau, today's seventh climb. His advantage
over Toni Martin and the rest of the peloton is slender than ever though.
Serguei Ivanov is third wheel! Quick Step's Dario Cataldo attacks. Five-six
athletes try and follow his move. Cataldo keeps driving the charge, the Amstel
winner moved into second wheel.
1542 CEST - MOREAU CAUGHT! The
game's up for hardy Christophe Moreau; this attack group sweeps past him without
so much as a "how do you do". Roman Kreuziger is in there too... and so is the
bunch. Hovering menacingly a few seconds back, about to catch this little group.
A little update from the Tour of Trentino,
whose ITT opener runs over 17 flat kilometers today: Branislau Samoilau (Amica
Chips-Knauf) has got the best time after the first 80 riders took to the start
line. The Belarusian currently leads two ISD athletes: Sicily's Giovanni
Visconti (by 15") and Poland's Bartosz Huzarski (ISD) by 22". More to follow.
1545 CEST - 22 kilometres to go, Kolobnev
and Iglinskiy have attacked and have made a gap. Things are quite fluid there.
Four riders are bridging the gap, but the bunch is hot on their heels again.
A newcomer to the race made its appearance: Cote de Busalle.
Valverde in the bunch Photo © 2009 Fotoreporter Sirotti
It's José Serpa's turn to try and break free. But the Colombian just
can't make it on his own The 30-year-old from Bucaramanga opened a small gap
indeed. Serpa showed some good climbing legs on the Cote and put about one
hundred metres on the pack, but with the next uphill thing coming not earlier
than 10 km from now, he just doesn't stand any chance. Still, the Diquigiovanni
attacker doesn't give up.
Initial reports suggest that Serpa, the Tour of Langkawi winner this
February, has pulled out a gap of 15 seconds. 17 kilometres to go, 17 seconds
for José Serpa. He is heading towards Ben Ahin and, more difficulty, the Cote
d'Ahin, which will be the final climb before the Mur de Huy.
"Venga, Venga, Venga. Vamos, Vamos, Vamos!" The Colombian keeps pulling
hard with 16k to go. But his lead (20 seconds) is too slim, and the distance to
the line too big for the brave man from the Andes to keep the stretched peloton
Attack in the bunch from Rein Taaramae (Cofidis), but he doesn't get
anywhere. Unsurprising, considering the pack is absolutely motoring at the
coverage continues in Part 2
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