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65th Fleche Wallonne/Waalse Pijl - 1.HC

Belgium, April 18, 2001


Verbrugghe solos away to win

By Jeff Jones
Click for larger image
Rik Verbrugghe
Photo: © AFP

Belgian Rik Verbrugghe (Lotto) virtually ensured his team's place in the Tour de France with an impressive performance on the Mur de Huy to win La Fleche Wallonne. Verbrugghe caught the remnants of an eight man breakaway with just over 15 kilometres to go in the 198 kilometre race, and rode them off his wheel one by one until he reached Huy alone. In second place was Italian Ivan Basso (Fassa Bortolo), with Jorg Jackshe (ONCE) following in third.

There were 12 men escaped in the early part of the race (km 15) including Constantino Zaballa (Kelme), Chris Wherry (Mercury), Alberto Benito (iBanesto), Christophe Detilloux and Karl Pauwels (Collstrop), Luca Paolini (Mapei), Ivan Basso (Fassa Bortolo), Jorg Jackshe (ONCE), Marcelino Alonso (CSC-World Online), Koos Moerenhout (Domo), Unai Etxebarria (Euskaltel), and Grischa Niermann (Rabobank). By the top of the second ascent of the 20 percent Mur de Huy (104 km), seven riders (Paolini, Basso, Jackshe, Alonso, Moerenhout, Etxebarria and Niermann) had established themselves at 2'46 in advance of the peloton.

This was not without incident however, as they had been impeded on the first ascent of the Mur (71 km) by a group of protesters. Despite the stoppage, race director Jean-Marie Leblance allowed the leaders to continue after giving them a 3 minute headstart, which he estimated to be their lead at the time of the disruption.

Their lead fell gradually until it was hovering around 1 minute with 70 kilometres and five climbs to go. The time was ripe for a counter-attack from the peloton, and it was iBanesto's Cesar Solaun who made the move with 52 kilometres to go. In front, Marcelino Alonso (CSC) had attacked, but was told by his director sportif Bjarne Riis to go back to the break.

Solaun bridged at 40 kilometres to go, and the break still enjoyed a 1'50 advantage. Next to try and bridge was Rabobank's Erik Dekker, who attacked on the C˘te de Coutisse with 38 km to go. He too succeeded in crossing the gap, which was coming down again to 1 minute.

Click for larger image
Verbrugghe leads Basso
Photo: © AFP

On the third last climb, the race winning move (as it turned out) came from Rik Verbrugghe (Lotto), who jumped after Igor Astarloa (Mercatone) from the peloton, before dropping the Spaniard and catching the break on his own.

By this stage there were two groups in front: Extebarria, Moerenhout, Alonso, and Niermann in one, and Dekker, Basso, Paolini, Solaun, and Jacksche in the lead. Verbrugghe caught Etxebarria and co., and went straight past to the front half of the break, latching on with 16 kilometres left before the C˘te de Ahin.

The big lanky Belgian nearly dropped everyone on this penultimate climb, as only Basso, Jackshe, and Solaun could hold his wheel. The quartet still enjoyed a 50 second advantage, and the Rabobank-led peloton were not doing enough to close it until too late.
Click for larger image
Verbrugghe clinches it
Photo: © AFP

Verbrugghe, second in this race last year to Casagrande, drove the break along towards Huy, never even looking behind for the others to do some work. On the final 2 kilometre climb, he continued to set a fierce tempo and first Jaksche, then Solaun, and finally Basso were forced to let go. Verbrugghe kept his lead until the top, crossing a few seconds in front of Basso and Jackshe, with Solaun just holding of Euskaltel's David Etxebarria for fourth.

The 26 year old gave Lotto its 12th season victory, and one that should surely put them in the Tour de France, if results alone are anything to go by. "This is the most beautiful win of my career," he said. "After my second place last year, I knew I could win. I was riding for my teammates, but then I attacked. I had no choice then. I had to keep riding in the top group because the others wouldn't work."

"I was still fresh on the Mur, and I was the strongest," he added. "This is a new start in my career."

Results - 198 km

1 Rik Verbrugghe (Bel) Lotto Adecco                  4.50.03 (40.958 km/h)
2 Ivan Basso (Ita) Fassa Bortolo                        0.05
3 J÷rg Jaksche (Ger) ONCE                               0.12
4 Cesar Solaun Solana (Spa) iBanesto.com                0.21
5 David Etxebarria Alkorta (Spa) Euskatel-Euskadi
6 Francesco Casagrande (Ita) Fassa Bortolo
7 Dario Frigo (Ita) Fassa Bortolo
8 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Liquigas Pata
9 Michael Boogerd (Ned) Rabobank
10 Peter Luttenberger (Aut) Tacconi Sport-Vini Caldirola
11 Michele Bartoli (Ita) Mapei-Quick Step               0.27
12 Raimondas Rumsas (Ltu) Fassa Bortolo
13 Francisco Mancebo Perez (Spa) iBanesto.com
14 Marcos A. Serrano Rodriguez (Spa) ONCE
15 Oscar Camenzind (Swi) Lampre Daikin
16 Mario Aerts (Bel) Lotto Adecco
17 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Saeco Macchine Da Caffe
18 Angel Castresana Del Val (Spa) Euskatel-Euskadi      0.37
19 Axel Merckx (Bel) Domo-Farm Frites
20 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Mapei-Quick Step
21 Pavel Tonkov (Rus) Mercury-Viatel
22 Andrea Noe (Ita) Mapei-Quick Step
23 Txema Del Olmo Zendegi (Spa) Euskatel-Euskadi
24 Dave Bruylandts (Bel) Domo-Farm Frites
25 Kurt Van De Wouwer (Bel) Lotto Adecco                0.46
26 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Team Deutsche Telekom
27 Oscar Mason (Ita) Mercatone Uno-Albacom
28 Bo Hamburger (Den) CSC-World Online
29 Mikel Pradera Rodriguez (Spa) ONCE
30 Mikel Zarrabeitia Uranga (Spa) ONCE
31 Sergio Barbero (Ita) Lampre Daikin
32 Igor Astarloa (Spa) Mercatone Uno-Albacom
33 Jose Azevedo (Por) ONCE
34 Eddy Mazzoleni (Ita) Tacconi Sport-Vini Caldirola
35 Udo B÷lts (Ger) Team Deutsche Telekom
36 Wladimir Belli (Ita) Fassa Bortolo
37 Serge Baguet (Bel) Lotto Adecco                      0.56
38 Marco Velo (Ita) Mercatone Uno-Albacom               0.59
39 Michel Van Haecke (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago      1.03
40 Matthias Kessler (Ger) Team Deutsche Telekom
41 Massimo Donati (Ita) Tacconi Sport-Vini Caldirola    1.07
42 Marc Lotz (Ned) Rabobank                             1.33
43 Beat Zberg (Swi) Rabobank                            1.48
44 Markus Zberg (Swi) Rabobank                          1.53
45 Paolo Lanfranchi (Ita) Mapei-Quick Step              2.02
46 Chris Horner (Usa) Mercury-Viatel                    2.08
47 Massimo Codol (Ita) Lampre Daikin                    2.18
48 Massimiliano Lelli (Ita) Cofidis
49 Luca Paolini (Ita) Mapei-Quick Step                  2.22
50 Geert Verheyen (Bel) Rabobank
51 Steve Vermaut (Bel) Lotto Adecco                     2.31
52 Michael Blaudzun (Den) CSC-World Online
53 Thomas Brozyna (Pol) iBanesto.com                    2.36
54 Guido Trentin (Ita) Cofidis
55 Dmitri Fofonov (Kaz) Cofidis
56 Martin Rittsel (Swe) CSC-World Online                2.41
57 Roland Meier (Swi) Team Coast
58 Laurent Dufaux (Swi) Saeco Macchine Da Caffe
59 Luca Mazzanti (Ita) Fassa Bortolo
60 Christophe Brandt (Bel) Lotto Adecco
61 David Clinger (Usa) Festina
62 Andrei Kivilev (Kaz) Cofidis
63 Luca Scinto (Ita) Mapei-Quick Step                   2.48
64 Mikel Artetxe Gezuraga (Spa) Euskatel-Euskadi
65 Erik Dekker (Ned) Rabobank
66 Manuel Beltran Martinez (Spa) Mapei-Quick Step
67 Andrea Peron (Ita) Fassa Bortolo
68 Denis Menchov (Rus) iBanesto.com
69 Igor Gonzalez Galdeano (Spa) ONCE
70 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Festina                      2.58
71 Steven Kleynen (Bel) Domo-Farm Frites                3.35
72 Grischa Niermann (Ger) Rabobank                      3.58
73 Rolf Huser (Swi) Team Coast
74 Alberto Elli (Ita) Team Deutsche Telekom
75 Andrei Tcherviakov (Rus) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago     4.56
76 Marcelino Garcia Alonso (Spa) CSC-World Online       5.12
77 JosÚ Luis Arrieta Lujambio (Spa) iBanesto.com
78 Igor Pugaci (Mda) Saeco Macchine Da Caffe            5.45
79 Vincent Cali (Fra) Collstrop-Palmans                 6.39
80 Juan JosÚ De Los Angeles Segui (Spa) Kelme-Costa     7.16
81 Koos Moerenhout (Ned) Domo-Farm Frites               7.36
82 Unai Etxebarria Arana (Ven) Euskatel-Euskadi         7.42
83 Steve De Wolf (Bel) Domo-Farm Frites                 7.52
84 Tom Stremersch (Bel) Vlaanderen-T Interim            8.20
85 Renaud Boxus (Bel) Ville De Charleroi - New Systems
86 Ief Verbrugghe (Bel) Lotto Adecco
87 Bj÷rn Leukemans (Bel) Vlaanderen-T Interim
88 Joaquim Lopez Torrella (Spa) Kelme-Costa Blanca
89 Jens Heppner (Ger) Team Deutsche Telekom             8.25
90 Sandro Giacomelli (Ita) Tacconi Sport-Vini Caldirola 8.30
91 Glenn D'hollander (Bel) Lotto Adecco
92 Pietro Zucconi (Swi) Tacconi Sport-Vini Caldirola
93 Nico Sijmens (Bel) Vlaanderen-T Interim              8.38
94 Jan Hruska (Cze) ONCE
95 Laurent Madouas (Fra) Festina
96 Alberto Benito Guerrero (Spa) iBanesto.com
97 Peter Farazijn (Bel) Cofidis
98 David Tani (Ita) Mapei-Quick Step                    8.43
99 Oscar Pozzi (Ita) Fassa Bortolo
100 Claude Lamour (Fra) Cofidis                         8.48
101 Niklas Axelsson (Swe) Mercury-Viatel                8.58
102 Constantino Zaballa Gutierrez (Spa) Kelme-Costa     9.08
103 Leif Hoste (Bel) Domo-Farm Frites
104 Laurent Lefevre (Fra) Cofidis                      10.40
105 Pascal Lino (Fra) Festina
106 Patrick Calcagni (Swi) Tacconi Sport-Vini Caldirola10.50

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