Cavalli and the Mur are unique
April 20 th 2022 - 12:38
Marta Cavalli’s beautiful spring became even more impressive on Wednesday, as the Italian leader from FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope powered to victory on the mighty slopes of the Mur de Huy.
Only four days after she came 5th of Paris-Roubaix, the winner of Amstel Gold Race got the best of Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar Team) to become the second Italian winner of La Flèche Wallonne Femmes, whose first conqueror, Cavalli’s compatriot Fabiana Luperini, returned to the event and followed the race from the car of the event director François Lemarchand before joining Cavalli on the podium. At 24 years old, she succeeds Anna van der Breggen, winner of the past 7 editions, now a sports director for Team SD Worx and Demi Vollering (3rd).
It’s an early start for the 128 women lining up in Huy to take on 133.4km, including three ascents of the Mur de Huy, a first on the occasion of the 25th edition of La Flèche Wallonne Femmes. After a handful of attempts in the first part of the race, Katia Ragusa (Liv Racing Xstra) is the first attacker to get away from the bunch. Anastasia Carbonari (Valcar-Travel & Service) and Kylie Waterreus (Lotto Soudal Ladies) join her at the front 10km later, while the peloton trail by 30''.
Not much of a gap for the first attackers
More riders try to make the break, and three attackers successfully do so: Federica Piergiovanni (Valcar-Travel & Service), Pauline Allin (Arké Pro Cycling Team) and Silvia Zanardi (Bepink). The gap to the peloton is up to 52’’ at km 50, as they get closer to the first ascent of the Côte de Cherave (summit at km 65.4).
The attackers reach the bottom of the climb with a lead of 1’50’’. Zanardi leads the way to the summit, and the gap to the bunch is down to 1’10’’. The Italian rider also sets the pace on the first ascent up Mur de Huy (km 71.1). Waterreus can’t keep up with her pace, while the intensity picks up in the peloton, bringing the gap down to 45’’ at the summit.
An impressive counter-attack
The five leaders manage to build a bigger advantage after the summit (1’30’’), but more attackers try to get away from the bunch on the way to Côte d’Ereffe. A group of 10 are eventually able to go free and bridge the gap to Ragusa, Carbonari, Piergiovanni, Allin and Zanardi at km 95: Anna Shackley (SD Worx), Alena Amialiusik, Elise Chabbey (Canyon//Sram), Leah Thomas (Trek-Segafredo), Jelena Eric (Movistar), Esmée Peperkamp (Team DSM), Amanda Spratt (BikeExchange-Jayco), Anouska Koster (Jumbo-Visma), Krista Doebel-Hickock (EF Education-Tibco-SVB), and Yara Kastelijn (Plantur-Pura).
They open a gap of 2 minutes on the next ascent of Côte de Cherave (km 96.5). Marta Cavalli’s FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope react to bring the gap down to 1’45’’ atop the penultimate ascent of the Mur de Huy (31.2km to go), and 1’25’’ as the race enters the last 25km.
Van Vleuten tries to break Cavalli
Eric drops down from the breakaway to the bunch to participate in the chase behind her nine former companions. The attackers are only 20’’ away with 10km to go. They’re eventually caught as SD Worx put the hammer down on the final ascent up Côte de Cherave, just before the final 5km.
Some 15 riders get back together on the way to Huy. Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) has two teammates to set her up, and the Dutch star sets a strong pace on the steepest slopes, as she tries to drop all her rivals with 400m to go. Cavalli is the only one who can follow Van Vleuten… And she even has enough strength to move past her just at the summit.