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68th Flèche Wallonne - 1.HC
Belgium, April 21, 2004
Huy high for Rebellin
By Jeff Jones in Huy
Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) has added a second big win to his palmarès in four days, taking the 68th edition of La Flèche Wallonne with a masterful sprint to the top of the Mur de Huy. Rebellin, who did something similar to Michael Boogerd in last Sunday's Amstel Gold Race, stuck to Danilo Di Luca's wheel until 100m to go, making it look easy as he passed the Saeco rider to claim the victory. In third place was T-Mobile's Matthias Kessler, who couldn't match Di Luca's acceleration on the steepest part of the Mur with 350m to go. Unsurprisingly, the top three today were all in the decisive six man break in the Amstel last Sunday.
"On the Mur, I was most afraid of Danilo Di Luca, as I saw how easily he was pedaling," Rebellin said post-race. He went very quickly [on the Mur]. I knew he was really strong so I got his wheel, and in the last 400 metres I still had the legs.
"My condition is really good and my morale is quite high. I wanted to have a calm race, and in the finale I was once more with the leaders so I went all out to win the race. I won and I'm very happy."
Rebellin is now the favourite for Sunday's Liège-Bastogne-Liège, although to win that along with the Amstel Gold Race and Flèche Wallonne would be an unprecedented performance. "For sure everyone will be looking at me in Liege because I won the Amstel Gold Race and today's race. But I am very relaxed because I've won twice in two races. I have great condition. I think Liege is a very hard and selective race, but with good legs it's a little easier to win than Amstel."
Rebellin said that his next ambitions are focuses on the Giro d'Italia, where he hopes to ride strongly in the first week and "try and win a stage or take the maglia rosa."
How it unfolded
Under grey (but dry) skies and cool conditions, the 193 riders in the 68th edition of La Flèche Wallonne rolled out in front of Charleroi's Stade du Pays. With a moderate wind blowing from the south west, the wind was behind and across the riders for the first 66 km to Huy, resulting in a high average speed (48.7 km in the first hour) and numerous splits in the peloton.
The big bunch was more or less together as it hit the first savage ascent of the Mur de Huy, with former Flèche winner Michele Bartoli (CSC), Danilo Di Luca (Saeco) and Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner) driving the pace at the head of the peloton. The pre-race hype surrounding Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) was dispelled on the first lap, as last year's Tour de France runner-up struggled to the top of the Mur in 5th last position. While Ullrich certainly didn't look fat, he doesn't have the body of a potential Tour de France winner yet. He did not make it up the climb with the bunch on lap 2 (97 km), and subsequently abandoned.
High speed and constant attacks were a feature of today's race, and on the 32 km lap after the first passage of the Mur, many groups tried to get clear. But no-one was willing to let a break get more than 30 seconds. It was more a case of the peloton splitting into smaller groups as the wind and climbs took their toll.
A large group containing Oscar Pereiro (Phonak), Unai Etxebarria (Euskaltel), Mauricio Ardila (Jacques), Sandy Casar (FDJeux.com), Dariusz Baranowski (Liberty), Nick Nuyens (Quick.Step), Juan Antonio Flecha (Fassa Bortolo), Ellis Rastelli (Alessio) and Volodomir Duma (Landbouwkrediet) extracted itself from the peloton on the second lap, and held a small gap over the now split peloton on the second ascension of Huy. But over the top, it all came back together and the peloton spent the next 100 km strung out as more riders tried to break clear.
With approximately 70 km to go, Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Team CSC), Benoît Poilvet (Crédit Agricole), Nick Nuyens (Quick.Step) and Erwin Thijs (Mr. Bookmaker) formed a group in front, joined by Brad McGee (FDJeux.com), Massimo Gentili (Domina Vacanze) and Bjorn Leukemans (Mr. Bookmaker), but this attempt, like many others, was short lived. But once they were caught, a counter attack by Jérôme Pineau (La Boulangère) with 63 km to go saw him joined by Jurgen Van Den Broeck (USPS-Berry Floor) and Alessandro Bertolini (Alessio-Bianchi).
These three leaders were eventually joined by Alexandre Kolobnev (Domina), Angel Vicioso (Liberty), Kevin de Weert (Rabobank) and Martin Elmiger (Phonak) with 35 km to go, with Constantino Zaballa (Saunier Duval) and Belgian favourite Philippe Gilbert (FDJeux.com) in pursuit. The leading six had 40 seconds and were managing to keep the peloton at bay. On the difficult Côte de Bohissau with 30 km to travel, the two chasers were swallowed by the high speed peloton. In front, Bertolini was being particularly aggressive, sprinting for the points at the top of the Bohissau and securing the climber's jersey in the process. But he and his breakaway companions were also caught shortly after the summit of the climb.
The next rider to have a go was Rabobank's Erik Dekker, who tried a solo move with 26 km left. But Dekker was not allowed more than 20 seconds grace, with Amstel Gold Race winner Davide Rebellin's Gerolsteiner team leading the chase. On the Côte de Ahin with 13 km to go, Dekker was caught by US Postal's Chechu Rubiera and Quick.Step's Jurgen Van Goolen, but more interesting was a counter-attack with Alexandre Vinokourov (T-Mobile), Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel) and Kim Kirchen (Fassa Bortolo). These three were joined by Mirko Celestino (Saeco) as they sped into Huy for the last time, with a greatly reduced peloton of approximately 30 riders in full pursuit.
The front group came together just before the Mur de Huy, and it was then a lung-busting drag race to the top of the climb to determine the winner. T-Mobile's Andreas Klöden set a strong tempo at the bottom of the climb, leading Oscar Freire (Rabobank) and Matthias Kessler (T-Mobile) until 500m to go. Then Kessler and Di Luca (Saeco) took over, with the dangerous Davide Rebellin glued to Di Luca's wheel. Di Luca put in a powerful acceleration on the steepest part of the climb with 350m to go, but was unable to shake Rebellin, who waited until 100m left before coming round the exhausted Di Luca to take another impressive victory in a major race.
For Rebellin to win the Amstel/Fleche/Liege triple would be incredible, but the Italian clearly has his good climbing legs on, and his fearsome finishing speed will make him a tough nut to crack in Sunday's Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
Images by Mitchell Clinton/Cyclingnews/www.clintonphoto.com
Images by Fotoreporter Sirotti
Images by AFP Photo
Images by Elmar Krings
1 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner 4.31.33 (44.08 km/h) 2 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Saeco 0.03 3 Matthias Kessler (Ger) T-Mobile Team 0.09 4 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Domina Vacanze 0.12 5 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile Team 0.16 6 Andreas Kloden (Ger) T-Mobile Team 0.18 7 Frank Vandenbroucke (Bel) Fassa Bortolo 8 Marcos Serrano (Spa) Liberty Seguros 9 Marcus Zberg (Swi) Gerolsteiner 0.20 10 Manuel Beltran (Spa) US Postal Service presented by Berry Floor 11 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Alessio-Bianchi 0.22 12 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 13 Fabian Wegmann (Ger) Gerolsteiner 14 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago 15 Nicki Sorensen (Den) Team CSC 16 Björn Leukemans (Bel) MrBookmaker-Palmans 0.27 17 Constantino Zaballa (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir 18 Rik Verbrugghe (Bel) Lotto-Domo 0.29 19 Andrea Noe' (Ita) Alessio-Bianchi 0.33 20 José Ivan Gutierrez (Spa) Illes Balears-Banesto 21 Patrik Sinkewitz (Ger) Quick.Step-Davitamon 22 Daniele Righi (Ita) Lampre 0.35 23 Serge Baguet (Bel) Lotto-Domo 0.40 24 Inigo Landaluze (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0.43 25 Floyd Landis (USA) US Postal Service presented by Berry Floor 26 Erik Dekker (Ned) Rabobank 0.47 27 Giampaolo Caruso (Ita) Liberty Seguros 0.49 28 José Azevedo (Por) US Postal Service presented by Berry Floor 29 Axel Merckx (Bel) Lotto-Domo 0.53 30 Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC 0.54 31 Tyler Hamilton (USA) Phonak Hearing Systems 0.56 32 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank 1.00 33 David Etxebarria (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 1.05 34 Kim Kirchen (Lux) Fassa Bortolo 1.20 35 Mirko Celestino (Ita) Saeco 36 Cristian Moreni (Ita) Alessio-Bianchi 37 Angel Vicioso (Spa) Liberty Seguros 1.40 38 Eddy Mazzoleni (Ita) Saeco 39 Unai Etxebarria (Ven) Euskaltel-Euskadi 1.42 40 Sandy Casar (Fra) FDJeux.com 1.43 41 Michael Barry (Can) US Postal Service presented by Berry Floor 42 Manuele Mori (Ita) Saunier Duval-Prodir 43 Bert De Waele (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago 44 Christophe Brandt (Bel) Lotto-Domo 45 Laurent Brochard (Fra) Ag2R Prevoyance 46 Georg Totschnig (Aut) Gerolsteiner 47 Oscar Pereiro Sio (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems 1.50 48 Alexandre Botcharov (Rus) Credit Agricole 1.51 49 Geert Verheyen (Bel) Chocolade Jacques Wincor-Nixdorf 50 Jurgen Van Goolen (Bel) Quick.Step-Davitamon 1.53 51 Massimo Codol (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 52 Jan Hruska (Cze) Liberty Seguros 53 Bram Tankink (Ned) Quick.Step-Davitamon 54 Nick Nuyens (Bel) Quick.Step-Davitamon 55 Johan Coenen (Bel) MrBookmaker-Palmans 56 José Luis Rubiera (Spa) US Postal Service presented by Berry 1.58 57 Benjamin Noval Gonzalez (Spa) US Postal Service presented by 1.59 58 Pablo Lastras (Spa) Illes Balears-Banesto 59 Alexandr Kolobnev (Rus) Domina Vacanze 60 Didier Rous (Fra) Brioches La Boulangere 61 Alessandro Bertolini (Ita) Alessio-Bianchi 2.04 62 Kurt Van De Wouwer (Bel) MrBookmaker-Palmans 63 D'abusco Michele Scotto (Ita) Lampre 64 Piotr Wadecki (Pol) Lotto-Domo 2.08 65 Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz) Credit Agricole 66 Rubens Bertogliati (Swi) Saunier Duval-Prodir 2.10 67 Massimiliano Gentili (Ita) Domina Vacanze 2.13 68 Oscar Mason (Ita) Vini Caldirola-Nobili Rubinetterie 2.21 69 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) FDJeux.com 2.23 70 Nicolas Fritsch (Fra) FDJeux.com 71 Ellis Rastelli (Ita) Alessio-Bianchi 2.28 72 Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir 2.36 73 Michele Bartoli (Ita) Team CSC 2.42 74 Peter Luttenberger (Aut) Team CSC 75 Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Nor) Team CSC 2.48 76 Massimo Giunti (Ita) Domina Vacanze 3.11 77 Roger Beuchat (Swi) Vini Caldirola-Nobili Rubinetterie 3.24 78 Yuriy Krivtsov (Ukr) Ag2R Prevoyance 4.35 79 Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Brioches La Boulangere 4.40 80 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Rabobank 5.15 81 Gianni Faresin (Ita) Gerolsteiner 6.03 82 Fabian Jeker (Swi) Saunier Duval-Prodir 83 Christian Werner (Ger) T-Mobile Team 84 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) US Postal Service presented by 6.04 85 Jurgen Van De Walle (Bel) Chocolade Jacques Wincor-Nixdorf 86 Inaki Isasi (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 6.06 87 Giuseppe Guerini (Ita) T-Mobile Team 6.14 88 Luis Sanchez (Spa) Liberty Seguros 89 Thierry Marichal (Bel) Lotto-Domo 90 Javier Ramirez Abeja (Spa) Liberty Seguros 91 Benoît Salmon (Fra) Credit Agricole 92 Oscar Camenzind (Swi) Phonak Hearing Systems 7.46 93 Martin Elmiger (Swi) Phonak Hearing Systems 94 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC 9.26 95 Bradley Mcgee (Aus) FDJeux.com 9.28 96 Joseba Albizu (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 9.43 97 Vladimir Miholjevic (Cro) Alessio-Bianchi 10.18 98 Serguei Ivanov (Rus) T-Mobile Team 99 Erwin Thijs (Bel) MrBookmaker-Palmans 10.19 100 Dario David Cioni (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 10.22 101 Bert Grabsch (Ger) Phonak Hearing Systems 102 Mauricio Ardila (Col) Chocolade Jacques Wincor-Nixdorf 10.24 103 Joan Horrach (Spa) Illes Balears-Banesto 10.27 104 Benoît Poilvet (Fra) Credit Agricole 10.30 105 Iker Camano (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 10.32 106 Dariusz Baranowski (Pol) Liberty Seguros 107 Franck Bouyer (Fra) Brioches La Boulangere 108 Laurent Lefevre (Fra) Brioches La Boulangere 10.34 109 Frédéric Gabriel (Fra) MrBookmaker-Palmans 110 Nicolas Vogondy (Fra) FDJeux.com 10.39 111 Gerrit Glomser (Aut) Saeco 10.46 112 Roberto Petito (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 10.48 113 Ludovic Turpin (Fra) Ag2R Prevoyance 114 Simone Masciarelli (Ita) Vini Caldirola-Nobili Rubinetterie 10.55 115 Mikel Artetxe (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 11.09 116 Maxime Monfort (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago 11.19 117 Marius Sabaliauskas (Ltu) Saeco 11.21 118 Marcel Strauss (Swi) Gerolsteiner 11.22 119 Steve Zampieri (Swi) Vini Caldirola-Nobili Rubinetterie 11.29