Belgium, April 12, 1995

Race Distance - 205 kms


  1. Laurent Jalabert (France)       04:51:00
  2. Maurizio Fondriest (Italy)           + 2 secs.
  3. Evgeni Berzin (Russia)                26
  4. Francesco Casagrande (Italy)          50
  5. Mauro Gianetti (Switzerland)
  6. Davide Rebellin (Italy)               54
  7. Beat Zberg (Switzerland)
  8. Francesco Frattini (Italy)            57
  9. Heinz Imboden (Switzerland)
 10. Steven Rooks (Netherlands)          1:03
Race Report - The Steve Bak As I See It Series

Motorola's Lance Armstrong is raging up The Mur de Huy. Bruno Chenghialta of Gewiss and Rolf Sorenson (MG) are hanging onto his wheel. Bruno gets dropped just as ONCE's Alex Zulle comes storming up this very steep hill to join Lance. Sorenson is struggling starts to drop back a little as another ONCE man, Laurent Jalabert comes up to meet him. Zulle takes over from Armstrong and summits first.

We have just completed the first of three trips up the big climb of the 59th Fleche Wallone. It is Wednesday April the 12th, 1995. The course is a 'Class 2' classic and because of this, its length has been cut to 'under 210km.' The actual distance is 205km

65km to go

A large group seems to be forming just off the front of the bunch. I see Fondriest, Chenghialta, den Bakker, Jalabert and Zulle in there. The group isn't going anywhere, just riding on the front of the Peloton. They are, however, very strung out, just right for a split to happen and suddenly a break is born. Armstrong moves up to sit with Jalabert - about 4th or 5th from the front. Evgeni Berzin pops up to take a pull at the front.

Nine riders seem to be easing away. I've already clocked Fondriest, Jalabert, Armstrong, den Bakker and Chenghialta which leaves four more to identify. Zaini is one. Belli is one. We can stop counting because the Peloton have pulled them back.

Merckx tries an attack. A minute later young Axel has three companions; Sorenson, Piccoli and Casartelli. They are making a gap as the Peloton are looking around. An MG rider says "I'm not going" as a Chazal rider jumps out - Bruno Cornillet. He soon comes back, or rather Zaini and Frattini join him just a few seconds up the road. The 'break' are 15 seconds clear.

54km to go

The quartet are working well together to hold a gap of 22" The Peloton don't seem to be very interested, sitting up and looking at others to set the pace, among them Jalabert and Fondriest. The gap goes quickly up to 39"

51km to go

Rolf Sorensen (MG), Axel Merckx (Motorola), Mariano Piccoli (BresciaLat) and Marten Den Bakker (TVM) are about 45" ahead of the Peloton. Casartelli is _not_ with them. A little further up the road in the car is Daddy Merckx watching the break started by his yougster. On the front of a single line Peloton is Maurizio Fondriest, followed by two more Lampres (Belli and Gontchenkov), Angel Edo, Stephen Rooks, Armstrong, two Gewiss and a Gan. They don't seem all that interested, the gap must be growing at this pace.

46km to go

Gewiss are congregating near the front of the bunch. Five light blue jerseys are there. The gap to the breakaway quartet reaches one minute. Gontchenkov is doing all the work, gaining 15" on the leaders. Just spotted Chris Boardman riding along with Gianni Bugno in the middle of the pack. Three Gewiss; Volpi, Chenghialta and Santaromita take over from the Lampre to pull the leaders back a little more.

30km to go

Gewiss are still chasing a little but the main effort is being made by Alexandre Gontchenkov of the Lampre team. He has the leaders in sight and is still gaining on them. Another minute and the break is caught. The Peloton is comlete. Alex sits up!

Into a big climb and a Gan attacks, marked by a Gewiss. Next to go (on a steeper bit) is Laurent Jalabert with Berzin in his wheel. Fondriest is close behind. Well before the top, these three with Armand de las Cuevas hanging on (just!) have pulled out a good gap, probably 15 seconds. De Las Cuevas is dropped well before the top.

Over the top and a few minutes later, we have a leading group of Maurizio Fondriest, Laurent Jalabert and Evgeni Berzin. About 12" behind them a chasing group has formed of; Frattini, Bugno, Rebellin, Casagrande, Zaina, Zberg, Gianetti, Rooks, Den Bakker and Imboden. This lot should be able to pull any break back! However, it is rather a large group and the trio ahead are pretty special.

22km to go

The leading trio are all working and the gap is holding. My watch says 14" to a chasing group of 11 riders and 20" to another group of 10 riders. The official gap is 11" to the Bugno group and 21" to the Elli group. The two large groups join to form a single chasing bunch of - deep breath - Frattini, Bugno, Elli, Rebellin, Casagrande, Zaina, Zberg, Podenzana, Ozols, Gianetti, Outshakov, Rooks, Den Bakker, Diaz Justo, Heulot, Jimenez, Armstrong, Cornillet, Imboden and Konychev, at 16" The race is still wide open.

17km to go

The gap increases slightly to 19". The three leaders all look very relaxed, beautiful to watch. The gap rises to 30" In the chasing group, Gianni Bugno (MG) starts to organise. He puts Nicola Loda (he wasn't in the list above!) on the front, and backs him up with Davide Rebellin - Sorenson is just behind somewhere. Elli joins the chase.

The Cote de Ahin arrives. Bugno takes over the pace (the other MGs have dissappeared.) Frattini is in Bugno's wheel. Elli is dropped from the group. The neutral service car drops in behind the leaders.

9km to go

Over the summit and the gap is holding at 36". Bugno couldn't close it. Rebellin has been dropped. The three leaders are still looking good. Now here's an interesting situation. It looks like this break just might go to the finish.

4km to go

The gap rises to 41" Fondriest must be thinking about Milan SanRemo earlier this year. Jalabert is the sprinter but the finish today is at the top of a steep hill. Fondriest is capable of incredible bursts of speed up the shorter hills. But so is Jalabert! Berzin is a real joker in the pack. Whatever he does in the last couple of miles won't be any real surprise, he is capable of almost anything.

At the bottom of the Huy, the trio start looking around - the chasers are way back, it is between these three top class riders now. The finish line is at the top of this hill. For the record, the Mur de Huy is 1300m long. The average grade is 10 percent and the maximum is near the top, a huge 20 percent - no M-SR sprint for JaJa today!

The three are all together with 1km to go. Berzin leads, he looks at Fondriest on his left. Jalabert watches them both from behind. Berzin leads, he looks strong, punching away. Fondriest holds his wheel. Jalabert looks after third spot. Berzin looks so strong, Fondriest looks in control and Jalabert is Mr Cool simply following them up the hill.

Berzin pours it on, he is trying to power away. Fondriest hangs on, he won't let him. Jalabert holds Fondriest's pace. Russia leads. Italy is just behind, France in third. Berzin is burying himself. Fondriest, stuck to him like glue, keeps glancing around nervously at Jalabert. Fondriest makes his move. On a 20 percent grade this doesn't look all that dramatic but he steadily pulls alongside the Russian's left side, all the time glancing at JaJa behind him.

The grade eases a bit and Fondriest really takes off. Berzin is sucked up and blown out the back. But not the Frenchman. Jalabert hangs on for the moment. Maurizio is really pouring it on now. With about 500yds to go, he is demonstrating an amazing burst of power up this hill, getting faster and faster. But *still* the Frenchman hangs on.

300yds to go and Fondriest is gritting his teeth. The speed is amazing compared to the first twice up this part. He is giving his all but *still* hasn't dropped the ONCE man. Jalabert tries to come alongside the Italian's left side but has to ease up and drop back to avoid a collision. On the final bend, just 100yds from the line, JaJa pulls level and at 60yds, Fondriest knows he is beaten. He sits down and hangs his head as Laurent raises his arms. Jalabert has done him again! Who is going to stop this man?

Berzin rolls over many seconds later, he was simply outclassed in this company. The next 'sprint' comes between Francesco Casagrande and Mauro Gianetti and then Rebellin and Zberg. All the finishers look pretty shattered to me - this is a cruel finish 'straight.'