Van der Breggen bids farewell with a seventh triumph
April 21 st 2021 - 14:10
For her last appearance on La Flèche Wallonne, Anna van der Breggen remained untouchable at the top of the famous Mur de Huy. The Dutch rider who has decided to retire at the end of the season, triumphed for a seventh consecutive time after an extremely eventful edition that included an impressive solo effort from US champion Ruth Winder eventually caught on the final climb. Van der Breggen made the best of her power and experience to beat Katarzyna Niewiadoma and Elisa Longo Borghini to the line. Eleventh on the day, Marianne Vos remains the leader of the UCI Women’s World Tour.
For the 3rd consecutive year, the riders of La Flèche Wallonne all gathered together on the splendid Grand Place of Huy for the start of this 24th edition. Among them 2 former champions having triumphed on 11 occasions: Marianne Vos, five times (2007, 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2013) and of course the “Queen of the Ardennes”, Anna Van Der Breggen winner of the last 6 editions.
After taking off under a bright sunshine at 8:46 on the 130.2-km course, the pack remained bunched until kilometre 4 when Heidi Franz (RLW) gave it a go. After having a 10-second lead, she was caught back at km 9. Ten kilometres later, Gerritse (PHV) was the next to pull away, rapidly joined by Lach (WNT). At km 43, the front two could enjoy a 40’’ advantage over two other riders, Alessio (BPK) and Schiff (ASC) and 1’35’’ over the pack. At the top of the Côte de Thon (km 54), while Lach led the way, the pack moved dangerously closer: 55’’.
THREE IN LEAD
The tough succession of opening climbs were just a bit too much for the leaders to remain clear and on the climb up the Côte de Groynne, they were eventually caught at km 61. On the following difficulty, three ladies powered away: Brand (TFS), Chabbey (CSR) and Henderson (JVW). At kilometre 76, the front trio could enjoy a 1’05’’ lead but that gap dropped down to 35’’ as the pack entered the final circuit (km 90) where team SD Worx started chasing hard.
WINDER ON THE ATTACK
As Swiss Champion Elise Chabbey led the way to the first passage on the line at the top of the Mur de Huy, the chasers were only 35” adrift. The front girls could still count on a 25” advantage with 25 kms to go but they were finally caught on the climb up the Côte d’Ereffe where US Champion, Ruth Winder (TFS) pulled away. The recent winner of the Brabantse Pijl just a week ago, saw her lead grow to 30”, 15 kms from the finish. She remained clear at the top of the Côte du chemin des Gueuses while the pack exploded with only the best 10 remaining bunched, but no Marianne Vos (JVW), dropped.
VAN DER BREGGEN… FOR NUMBER SEVEN
Winder kept what looked to be an interesting 25” lead with only 5 kms to go but was finally caught on the first portion of the climb up the Mur de Huy. It was then, World Champion Anna Van der Breggen’s turn to take control of things. Despite a fierce battle with Newiadoma, the SD Worx leader made her effort in the final 150m and narrowly beat her Polish rival. Elisa Longo Borghini (TFS) finishes third. At 31 years of age, Van der Breggen captures a seventh Fleche Wallonne that goes along her two UCI road World titles, her Olympic gold in Rio and two wins at Liège-Bastogne-Liège among many others.
In the new UCI Women’s World Tour standings, Marianne Vos, eleventh today keeps a slim lead over Longo Borghini, while Mariia Novolodskaiia (MNX) captures the blue jersey for the best young rider.