Races to Watch: Flèche Wallone

The  Flèche Wallone is tomorrow, which means you have an excuse to find a stream in the morning and pretend to work while you watch some fantastic bike racing. Or, if like me your day is filled with meetings, you can record it and watch it while you train tomorrow night. If you’re a Belgian, however, you already know you’ll be leaving work early tomorrow to grab a pint and then stand alongside a steep climb to watch all hell break out on the pavement.

While Sunday’s Amstel Gold Race showed a more tactical finish, and  Liège-Bastogne-Liège, coming up April 23, is a pure endurance test, Flèche Wallone is all about the frenzied finish.

The Flèche Wallone has finished atop the brutal Mur de Huy since 1984 and serves as a benchmark climb for the peloton’s best climbers. The climb is only 1.3km and averages 9.6 percent incline which leads to a very explosive and exciting finish.

Alejandro Valverde has won the last three races, his 2014 win can be watched above. Other notable winners over the years include Eddy Merckx in the ’70s and Lance Armstrong with Motorola in 1996 – we all know what happened after that. It’s perhaps the first time we as spectators got a look at his signature look over the shoulder and destroy opponent on climb move.

If I were to put money on this year’s race I would have put it on  2011 winner Philippe Gilbert, that is until Sunday night when it was revealed that he tore his kidney in a crash during the Amstel Gold race, a race he went on to win. With Gilbert out Valverde looks like the obvious front-runner.

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