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73rd Flèche Wallonne Live Coverage Part 1 & Photos
 
By Staff
Date: 4/22/2009
73rd Flèche Wallonne Live Coverage Part 1 & Photos
 

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 chased down.


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.

1420 CEST 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, sorry.

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 today...

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 Jakob Fuglsang.

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 at bay.

Attack in the bunch from Rein Taaramae (Cofidis), but he doesn't get anywhere. Unsurprising, considering the pack is absolutely motoring at the moment

Our live coverage continues in Part 2

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