Fleche Wallone - Belgium

Armstrong takes Fleche Wallonne in style

Lance Armstrong took a prestigious win in when he left Frenchman Didier Rous behind on the steepest part of the final climb, Mur de Huy. The real action started on the second and penultimate climb of the Mur, 75 km from the finish.

A strong breakaway group formed; Alexander Gontchenkov and Maurizio Fondriest from Roslotto, Gabriele Colombo, Gewiss, Mauro Gianetti, Polti, Enrico Zaina, Carrera and Lance Armstrong, Motorola. Their maximum lead was 1 minute 12 seconds at 50 km to go, mostly hovering between 40 and 50 seconds.

On the climb of Cote de Ben-Ahin, km 195, Gontchenkov attacked, Armstrong countered and Rous was the only rider able to go with Armstrong. The final decision came about 300 metres from the finish, on a 20 per cent incline, when Armstrong attacked and Rous had no answer.

HUY, Belgium - Fleche Wallonne (Cat 1.1) 205 km:

 1. Lance Armstrong (USA) Motorola             4.40.00  (42,960 km/h)
 2. Didier Rous (Fra) Gan                       + 0.08
 3. Maurizio Fondriest (Ita) Roslotto           + 0.54
 4. Mauro Gianetti (Sch) Team Polti             + 1.00
 5. Gabriele Colombo (Ita) Gewiss               + 1.08
 6. Enrico Zaina (Ita) Carrera                  + 1.13
 7. Alexander Gontchenkov (Ukr) Roslotto        + 1.21
 8. Laurent Brochard (Fra) Festina              + 1.42
 9. Stephane Heulot (Fra) Gan                   + 1.50
10. Davide Rebellin (Ita) Team Polti              s.t.
11. Stefano Della Santa (Ita) Mapei             + 1.51
12. Richard Virenque (Fra) Festina              + 1.52
13. Francesco Frattini (Ita) Gewiss
14. Pascal Richard (Sch) MG-Technogym
15. Pascal Herve (Fra) Festina
16. Laurent Madouas (Fra) Motorola
17. Maarten den Bakker (Ned) TVM
18. Luc Leblanc (Fra) Team Polti
19. Giorgio Furlan (Ita) Saeco                 all s.t.
20. Francesco Casagrande (Ita) Saeco            + 2:00
21. Piotr Ugrumov (Rus) Roslotto
22. Daniele Sgnaolin (Ita) Roslotto             + 2.05
23. Francisco Cabello (Spa) Kelme-Artiach       + 2.08
24. Zenon Jaskula (Pol) Brescialat
25. Marco Zen (Ita) Roslotto
26. Felice Puttini (Sch) Refin-Mobilvetta
27. Eugeni Berzin (Rus) Gewiss
28. Michael Boogerd (Ned) Rabobank
29. Bo Hamburger (Den) TVM
30. Claudio Chiappucci (Ita) Carrera            + 2.13
31. Missaglia   				  s.t.
32. Merckx  					+ 2.14
33. Cuesta   					  s.t.
34. Noe  					+ 2.17
35. Vasseur  					+ 2.20
36. Rue
37. Poulnikov
38. Bugno
39. Peron
40. Joncker
41. Riis
42. Cattai  
43. Pellicioli 					all s.t.
44. Zulle  					+ 2.38
45. Fincato  					+ 2.49
46. Cenghialta     				  s.t.
47. Massi   					+ 2.53
48. Sorensen  					+ 3.08
49. Roux  					+ 3.55
50. Verbeken  					  s.t.
51. Bontempi  					+ 4.01
52. Bettin  					  s.t.
53. Podenzana  					+ 4.02
54. Frigo  					+ 4.52
55. Calzavara 					+ 4.57
56. Donati  					+ 5.06
57. Dufaux  					+ 7.50
58. Felix Garcia  
59. Robin    				      both s.t.
60. R. Petito  					+ 9.35
61. Coppolillo  				+10.00
62. Dotti   					+11.08
63. Piccoli
64. Sierra
65. Borgheresi
66. Garcia Alonso   				all s.t.
67. Saligari  					+10.53
68. Verdonck  					+19.14
69. Artunghi
70. Hennebert
72. Laukka
73. Goubert
74. Julich
75. Totschnig
76. Bolts
77. Siboni
78. Heppner
79. Salmon
80. Bouwmans
81. R. Diaz 
82. Chiurato
83. Breukink
84. Q. Rodrigues
85. Montoya
86. Vidal
87. Barbero
88. Simeoni
89. Meinert
90. Velo
91. Baguet
92. Streel
93. Voskamp
94. Uslamine
95. Simon   					all s.t.
96. Guerini     				+19.43
97. Santaromita   				  s.t.
98. Canzonieri  				+19.45

(182 starters, 98 classified)

Main climbs:

Cote de Filot (km33.5), cote de Bomal (km44), cote de Durbuy (km52), mur de Huy (km93.5), cote d'Amay (km110), mur de Huy (km130), cote de Pailhe (km147.5), cote de Bohissau (km174.5), cote d'Ahin(km190), mur de Huy, finish at summit km200.5. The finish and earlier ascents of mur de Huy is 1.4km long, with an average 9%, and average 13.5% in the last 900m and a maximum gradient of 19%.


The weather conditions were sunny and mild

The first serious attack after a rapid start came after the cote de Filot (km33.5) when Richard Virenque (Fr, Festina) went full pelt down the hill taking with him neo-pro Marco Della Vedova (It, Brescialat). The gap on the peloton built up quickly, reaching a maximum 5.45 at km60. The peloton eventually began to chase on the initiative of Mapei.

On the first ascent of the mur de Huy (km93.5)Virenque dropped Della Vedova. At the summit, when the peloton was at 2.15, six riders began a counter-attack -- Evgeni Berzin (Rus, Gewiss), Simone Borgheresi (It, Mapei), Andrea Peron (It, Motorola), Davide Rebellin (It, Polti), Michele Coppolillo (It, MG) and Marco Zen (It, Roslotto).

Only Borgheresi pressed home the counter-attack, joining up with Virenque before they were swept up at 125km by a peloton that came together before the second ascent of the mur de Huy. On the climb, Milan-San Remo Gabriele Colombo (It, Gewiss) attacked. By the summit (km130) four others had joined him -- Maurizio Fondriest (It) and Alexandre Gontchenkov (Ukr) of Roslotto, Enrico Zaina (It, Carrera), and Mauro Gianetti (Team Polti). On the descent they were almost immediately joined by Lance Armstron (USA, Motorola) and Didier Rous (Fr, GAN).

This seven-man lead group built a lead that oscillated for a long time between 15 and 30 seconds. Behind, three of the teams not in the break, MG, Festina and ONCE combined efforts nthe chase. But the break began to pull out a more serious lead: 48 secs at the Cote de Pailhe (km147.5) and 1.15 at km160. But on the climb of the cote de Bohissau (km174.5) the gap was brought back to 28 secs, largely because of the efforts of the Festinas Pascal Herve, Jean-Cyrille Robin and Laurent Dufaux.

Onthe cote d'Ahin, 12km from the finish, Gontchenkov attacked and Armstrong reacted bringing the seven together again... at which point Armstrong counter-attacked with only Rous able to follow him. On the steepest part of the last climb of the Huy, 400m from the finish, Armstrong launched a devastating attack that Rous couldn't respond to.

"I certainly didn't regard today's race as a training race [for Liege- Bastogne-Liege]; I know it's an important race," said Armstrong. But I wasn't looking to win today, I didn't join the break for that, simply to test myself for Sunday. The circumstances decided otherwise and I'm very happy. But it doesn't change anything, Liege-Bastogne-Liege remains a major objective and I certainly didn't use up my strength today. My legs responded very well, and I still think they'll be in good shape on Sunday."