May 14, 2021

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Cycling: Julian Alaphilippe at the foot of his wall in Belgium

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For the 85e edition of the Flèche wallonne, which will be held on Wednesday April 21, the final of the Mur de Huy will be played without a spectator. But not without many suitors for the bouquet. The winners of the three grand rounds of 2020, Tadej Pogacar, Tao Geoghegan Hart and Primoz Roglic, will be there. Just like the winner of the 2020 edition, Marc Hirschi.

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History of blowing a few days after his title of world champion, Julian Alaphilippe, him, had withdrawn from his classic fetish, where he hung two victories (2018 and 2019) and two second places (2015 and 2016).

In four participations in the Flèche, the Berrichon has never been beaten by a rider other than Alejandro Valverde, and the Spaniard has passed his turn this year.

A score to settle with the oldest of the classics

A third success at Huy would add sparkle to the dull first part of the season for the French rider, despite a stage victory in the one-week Tirreno-Adriatico race and a 2e place on the Italian classic Strade Bianche. Landed on the Tour of Flanders (42e), “Alaf” was satisfied with a sixth place Sunday April 18 during the Amstel Gold Race, where he hoped for better.

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I felt my limits, it was a nervous race, with a fast tempo, it was played on the pedal, the strongest were in front, that’s all ”, declared Julian Alaphilippe at the finish, disappointed but not necessarily worried about the rest of his Ardennes week, composed of two races: the Walloon Flèche and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Sunday 25. “These are my favorite classics, I have already won the Flèche and Liège-Bastogne is my main objective for the spring”, he said.

He has a score to settle on the oldest of the classics, founded in 1892, which slipped by a hair’s breadth last year following two careless mistakes. Sure of his strength, he had raised his arms too early before being overwhelmed on the line by Primoz Roglic. Then he was legitimately stripped of his second place for a dangerous trajectory during the final sprint.

Benoît Cosnefroy and David Gaudu in ambush

These three days will therefore have an air of revenge for the world champion who had already experienced a comparable slump in early 2020. Before the interruption of the season by the Covid, Julian Alaphilippe had been disturbed by personal, related problems between others, to the poor health of his father, who died in June. “I don’t worry, I feel in good shape”, hammered this ultra-sensitive, Sunday, April 18, at the microphone of “Stage 2”, the evening of the Amstel.

With his unmatched record over a recent period in one-day races, the Deceuninck-Quick Step rider is the best French chance in the Mur de Huy. But two other tricolor contenders show the tip of their nose more and more often these days. Benoît Cosnefroy, second last year on the Flèche Wallonne, hopes “A great battle and that for once it will turn in my favor”. David Gaudu, crowned with two stage victories on the last Tour of Spain, is also shaping up to be a famous customer on these Ardennes classics with their rugged routes. Aged 25 and 24, they are, within a few months, the age of Julian Alaphilippe during his first exploits on the Flèche in 2015.

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