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Photo ©: Schaaf

7th Flèche Wallonne - CDM/68th Flèche Wallonne - 1.HC - CDM

Belgium, April 21, 2004

2003 results     Preview    Start List     Past winners

The Ardennes in the Flèche

By Jeff Jones

Astarloa won in 2003
Photo © Jeff Tse
Click for larger image

The mid-week Ardennes classic, La Flèche Wallonne, will once again be held between the Amstel Gold Race and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, giving the riders with the best climbing legs three opportunities to perform. Once again, La Flèche Wallonne will serve as an hors categorie men's race (199.5 km) and the fifth round of the World Cup for women (97.5 km).

The men's race starts in the southern Belgian city of Charleroi outside the Stade du Pays, and heads through the provinces of Hainut, Namur and Liège to the small town of Huy, remarkable in cycling for its famous "wall". The Mur de Huy rises 130 m in 1.3 km, and contains some extremely steep (greater than 15%) sections. The men climb the Mur three times; the women just once. In both races, the finish is at the top of the Mur.

There are other climbs in La Flèche too, including the Côtes d' Amay, France, Pailhe, Coutisse, Bellaire, Bohissau and Ahin. In the men's race, these are encountered on the two (different) finishing loops once the race passes through Huy for the first time. The women, who start in Huy, also do most of these climbs, following the same finishing circuit as the men do.

With such a selective parcours, it's rare that there is a "lucky" winner of this race. Last year, the men's race saw Saeco's Igor Astarloa win the sprint to the top of the Mur. Astarloa went on to become World Champion in Hamilton six months later. Unfortunately he won't be able to defend his title, as his new Cofidis team has currently suspended itself from competition while it examines an internal doping affair.

In Astarloa's absence, riders to watch include Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step-Davitamon), Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner), Danilo Di Luca (Saeco), Alexandre Vinokourov (T-Mobile), Axel Merckx (Lotto-Domo), Stefano Garzelli (Vini Caldirola), Oscar Camenzind and Tyler Hamilton (Phonak), Unai Etxebarria (Euskaltel), Denis Menchov (Illes Balears) and Franck Vandenbroucke (Fassa Bortolo).

No Nicole Cooke
Photo © Jeff Tse
Click for larger image

Similarly in the women's race, there will be no Nicole Cooke to defend her title. The Welsh talent is getting over a knee problem that has required a lot of work, and although she hopes to be back racing by the end of April, La Flèche Wallonne will come too early for her.

With 28 teams entered, the women's race will again be a fight for position, with riders like Oenone Wood (AIS), Mirjam Melchers (Farm Frites-Hartol), Zoulfia Zabirova (Let's Go Finland) and Susanne Ljungskog (SATS) expected to be among the front runners.

Live coverage

Cyclingnews will be providing live coverage of the 68th Flèche Wallonne, starting from approximately 14:30 CEST/08:30 EDT/05:30 PDT/22:30 AEST.

Past winners

2003 Igor Astarloa (Spa) Team Saeco               198 kms in 4.39.17 (42.86 km/h)
2002 Mario Aerts (Bel) Lotto-Adecco               198 kms in 4.42.04 (42.117 km/h)
2001 Rik Verbrugghe (Bel) Lotto Adecco            198 kms in 4.50.03 (40.958 km/h)
2000 Francesco Casagrande (Ita) Vini Caldirola    198 kms in 4.53.08 (40.53 km/h)
1999 Michele Bartoli (Ita) Mapei                  210 kms in 4.52.46 (41.19 km/h)
1998 Bo Hamburger (Den) Casino                    201 kms in 5.06.54 (39.30 km/h)
1997 Laurent Jalabert (Fra)
1996 Lance Armstrong (USA)
1995 Laurent Jalabert (Fra)
1994 Moreno Argentin (Ita)
1993 Maurizio Fondriest (Ita)
1992 Giorgio Furlan (Ita)
1991 Moreno Argentin (Ita)
1990 Moreno Argentin (Ita)
1989 Claude Criquielion (Bel)
1988 Rolf Gölz (Ger)
1987 Jean-Claude Leclercq (Fra)
1986 Laurent Fignon (Fra)
1985 Claude Criquielion (Bel)
1984 Kim Andersen (Den)
1983 Bernard Hinault (Fra)
1982 Mario Beccia (Ita)
1981 Daniel Willems (Bel)
1980 Guiseppe Saronni (Ita)
1979 Bernard Hinault (Fra)
1978 Michel Laurent (Fra)
1977 Francesco Moser (Ita)
1976 Joop Zoetemelk (Ned)
1975 André Dierickx (Bel)
1974 Frans Verbeeck (Bel)
1973 André Dierickx (Bel)
1972 Eddy Merckx (Bel)
1971 Roger De Vlaeminck (Bel)
1970 Eddy Merckx (Bel)
1969 Jos Huysmans (Bel)
1968 Rik Van Looy (Bel)
1967 Eddy Merckx (Bel)
1966 Michele Dancelli (Ita)
1965 Roberto Poggiali (Ita)
1964 Gilbert Desmet (Bel)
1963 Raymond Poulidor (Fra)
1962 Henri De Wolf (Bel)
1961 Willy Vannitsen (Bel)
1960 Pino Cerami (Bel)
1959 Joseph Hoevenaars (Bel)
1958 Rik Van Steenbergen (Bel)
1957 Raymond Impanis (Bel)
1956 Richard Van Genechten (Bel)
1955 Stan Ockers (Bel)
1954 Germain Derijcke (Bel)
1953 Stan Ockers (Bel)
1952 Ferdi Kübler (Swi)
1951 Ferdi Kübler (Swi)
1950 Fausto Coppi (Ita)
1949 Rik Van Steenbergen (Bel)
1948 Fermo Camellini (Ita)
1947 Ernest Sterckx (Bel)
1946 Desire Keteleer (Bel)
1945 Marcel Kint (Bel)
1944 Marcel Kint (Bel)
1943 Marcel Kint (Bel)
1942 Karel Thijs (Bel)
1941 Sylvain Grysolle (Bel)
1939 Edmund Delathouwer (Bel)
1938 Emile Masson (Bel)
1937 Adolph Braeckeveldt (Bel)
1936 Philippe Demeersman (Bel)

2003 Nicole Cooke (GBr) Ausra Gruodis-Safi           97.5 km in 2.40.52 (36.36 km/h)
2002 Fabiana Luperini (Ita)                          93.0 km in 2.33.15
2001 Fabiana Luperini (Ita) Edilsavino               93.0 km in 2.41.32 
2000 Genevieve Jeanson (Can) Canada
1999 Hanka Kupfernagel (Ger) Greenery Hawk Team
1998 Fabiana Luperini (Ita)