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67th Flèche Wallonne - 1.HC

Belgium, April 23, 2003

Main Page     Results    Live report    World Cup Standings

Basquing in the sun: Astarloa and Osa take honours in Huy

By Jeff Jones in Huy

Spanish first: Astarloa
Photo © Jeff Tse
Click for larger image

Basque riders Igor Astarloa (Saeco) and Aitor Osa (iBanesto.com) have claimed the top two placings in the 67th edition of La Flèche Wallonne, marking the first time that a rider from Spain has won this Belgian classic. After climbing the Mur de Huy side by side, Igor Astarloa was a level above Osa over the final 200 metres, producing an acceleration that his breakaway companion couldn't match to cross the line in triumph.

"I always knew I was a rider for the big classics: now, finally, I've showed it," said Astarloa post-race. "I'd already shown some of what I could do last year, second in San Sebastian and in Hamburg, and then fourth place in the overall World Cup. This year it's continued to go well, in Sunday in Amstel I could have obtained more than 10th place, but was betrayed by cramps."

Astarloa credited his team, especially Alexandre Shefer, who led the next group home in third place. "We are really a fine group, and we feel united and extraordinarily motivated. Also this time we made the race, Shefer was splendid."

He also wasn't too afraid of Aitor Osa, despite the fact that the climbed the most part of the Mur de Huy side by side. When Astarloa went, Osa could do nothing but watch. "I know Osa well, in Spain we live 20 kilometres from each other. I knew he was a capable climber, but I felt so good."

As can often happen in this race, the victory was fought out by a different crew to the riders who were prominent in the Amstel Gold Race and the other World Cups. A breakaway of 15 riders escaped after the first ascent of the Mur de Huy (km 65) and was never caught, despite the peloton keeping the gap to what seemed like a manageable level.

How it unfolded

The riders in the 67th Flèche Wallonne left Charleroi's football stadium at 11:00am in bright sunshine and windless conditions. Their first destination was Huy, where they would tackle the infamous Mur de Huy after 65 kilometres, meeting it again at 102 km and again at the finish. A number of other climbs featured in the parcours, although none as steep as the Mur, which averages 15% in its final 900 metres.

The peloton remained bunched together in the early part of the race, reaching the first ascent of Mur complete. First over the top was Landbouwkrediet's Marc Streel, followed by Sebastian Mattozza, and there were no serious breaks in the bunch at the top. However on the descent, a group of 15 riders escaped, and this eventually proved to be the winning break.

Saeco was represented by Astarloa and Shefer, Telekom by Julich and Hiekmann, and there were also Oscar Mason and Eddy Mazzoleni (Caldirola-Sidermec), Udo Bölts (Gerolsteiner), Unai Etxebarria (Euskaltel), Marc Lotz (Rabobank), Cristian Moreno (Alessio), Angel Castresana (ONCE), Dmitri Fofonov (Cofidis), Christophe Moreau (Credit Agricole), Aitor Osa (iBanesto), Alexandre Kolobnev (Domina Vacanze). The group gained a maximum lead of 3 minutes by the côte de France (km 115), and with 85 kilometres still to race, it was thought that the peloton would eventually reel them in.

It was not the case, despite work being done by Fassa Bortolo and CSC in particular, with Telekom also lending a hand, perhaps not being confident in its two riders in the break. The peloton closed to within 1'12 at the top of the côte de Bohissau with 30 km to go, but the final killer blow did not come. Instead, it was up to the strong riders who were left in the break to make the race, and they did so.

On the penultimate climb of the côte de Ahin with 11 km to go, Astarloa accelerated away from his companions, splitting the break to pieces. Only Aitor Osa could close the gap, and the pair crossed the summit with a good lead over Shefer, Mason and Mazzoleni. They cooperated well and increased their advantage to 35 seconds with 5 km to go, ready for the final ascent of the Mur de Huy.

Whether it was by agreement or otherwise, the pair of Basque riders climbed the Mur side by side, with Osa giving it everything to stay with Astarloa, who looked the more comfortable. Osa managed to stay with Astarloa on the steepest part with 400m to go, but when Astarloa sprinted at 200m out, Osa could not go any faster. Astarloa crossed the line, taking his biggest career win, and will now look to Liège-Bastogne-Liège where Saeco also has Di Luca and Celestino as its big guns for La Doyenne.


Images by Franck Fife/AFP

Images by Jeff Jones/Cyclingnews.com

Images by Fotoreporter Sirotti

Images by Jeff Tse/www.jefftse.com/cycling

Images by Elmar Krings


1 Igor Astarloa (Spa) Team Saeco                             4.39.17 (42.86 km/h)
2 Aitor Osa Eizaguirre (Spa) iBanesto.com                       0.16
3 Aleksandr Shefer (Kaz) Team Saeco                             0.56
4 Unai Etxebarria Arana (Ven) Euskaltel-Euskadi                 1.00
5 Alexandr Kolobnev (Rus) Domina Vacanze-Elitron                1.06
6 Oscar Mason (Ita) Caldirola-Sidermec-Saunier Duval            1.08
7 Cristian Moreni (Ita) Alessio                                 1.13
8 Angel Castresana Del Val (Spa) O.N.C.E.-Eroski                1.15
9 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Crédit Agricole                       1.19
10 Eddy Mazzoleni (Ita) Caldirola-Sidermec-Saunier Duval
11 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Team Saeco                              1.34
12 Michael Boogerd (Ned) Rabobank                               1.36
13 Oscar Pereiro Sio (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems               1.42
14 Tyler Hamilton (USA) Team CSC                                1.44
15 Javier Pascual Rodriguez (Spa) iBanesto.com
16 Iban Mayo Diez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi                       1.45
17 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
18 Patrik Sinkewitz (Ger) Quick.Step-Davitamon
19 Dave Bruylandts (Bel) Marlux-Wincor Nixdorf
20 Andrea Noe (Ita) Alessio                                     1.47
21 Gianni Faresin (Ita) Gerolsteiner                            1.49
22 Massimo Giunti (Ita) Domina Vacanze-Elitron
23 Nicki Sorensen (Den) Team CSC                                1.51
24 Frank Vandenbroucke (Bel) Quick.Step-Davitamon
25 Didier Rous (Fra) Brioches La Boulangère                     1.56
26 Beat Zberg (Swi) Rabobank
27 Angel Vicioso Arcos (Spa) O.N.C.E.-Eroski
28 Walter Beneteau (Fra) Brioches La Boulangère                 1.59
29 Mirko Celestino (Ita) Team Saeco
30 David Moncoutie (Fra) Cofidis, Le Crédit par Téléphone       2.01
31 Jan Ullrich (Ger) Team Coast
32 David Canada Garcia (Spa) Quick.Step-Davitamon
33 Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Brioches La Boulangère
34 Kurt Van De Wouwer (Bel) Quick.Step-Davitamon
35 Francisco José Lara Ruiz (Spa) Team Coast                    2.04
36 Dmitri Fofonov (Kaz) Cofidis, Le Crédit par Téléphone        2.07
37 Steve Zampieri (Swi) Caldirola-Sidermec-Saunier Duval        2.08
38 Fabian Wegmann (Ger) Gerolsteiner                            2.10
39 Axel Merckx (Bel) Lotto-Domo                                 2.12
40 Michele Bartoli (Ita) Fassa Bortolo
41 Peter Farazijn (Bel) Cofidis, Le Crédit par Téléphone
42 Laurent Dufaux (Swi) Alessio
43 Marc Lotz (Ned) Rabobank                                     2.16
44 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Brioches La Boulangère
45 Raimondas Rumsas (Ltu) Lampre
46 Marcos A. Serrano Rodriguez (Spa) O.N.C.E.-Eroski            2.18
47 Christian Vandevelde (USA) US Postal presented by Berry F
48 Ivan Basso (Ita) Fassa Bortolo
49 Evgeni Petrov (Rus) iBanesto.com                             2.24
50 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Alessio                              2.25
51 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank                            2.29
52 Udo Bölts (Ger) Gerolsteiner                                 2.33
53 Geert Verheyen (Bel) Marlux-Wincor Nixdorf                   2.38
54 Gian Paolo Cheula (Ita) Caldirola-Sidermec-Saunier Duval     2.41
55 Romans Vainsteins (Lat) Caldirola-Sidermec-Saunier Duval
56 Fabio Sacchi (Ita) Team Saeco                                2.50
57 Jose Azevedo (Por) O.N.C.E.-Eroski
58 Inigo Landaluze (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
59 Isidro Nozal Vega (Spa) O.N.C.E.-Eroski                      2.54
60 Volodymir Gustov (Ukr) Fassa Bortolo                         3.01
61 Andrea Tonti (Ita) Team Saeco                                3.02
62 Bobby Julich (USA) Team Telekom
63 David Etxebarria Alkorta (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi             3.05
64 Torsten Hiekmann (Ger) Team Telekom                          3.15
65 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Domina Vacanze-Elitron                3.22
66 Matthias Kessler (Ger) Team Telekom
67 Domenico Passuello (Ita) Quick.Step-Davitamon               11.17
68 Cédric Fragniere (Swi) Crédit Agricole
69 Cédric Vasseur (Fra) Cofidis, Le Crédit par Téléphone
70 Manuel Beltran Martinez (Spa) Team Coast
71 Johan Coenen (Bel) Marlux-Wincor Nixdorf
72 Christophe Brandt (Bel) Lotto-Domo
73 Andrea Peron (Ita) Team CSC
74 Fabrice Gougot (Fra) Phonak Hearing Systems
75 Bram De Groot (Ned) Rabobank
76 Mario Aerts (Bel) Team Telekom
77 Serge Baguet (Bel) Lotto-Domo
78 Francesco Casagrande (Ita) Lampre
79 Thierry De Groote (Bel) Palmans-Collstrop
80 Jose Luis Rubiera Vigil (Spa) US Postal presented by Berr
81 Steve De Wolf (Bel) Palmans-Collstrop
82 Vladimir Miholjevic (Cro) Alessio
83 Nico Sijmens (Bel) Vlaanderen-T Interim
84 Wim Van Huffel (Bel) Vlaanderen-T Interim
85 Sergiy Adyeyev (Ukr) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago                11.22
86 Gabriele Missaglia (Ita) Lampre
87 Denis Lunghi (Ita) Alessio                                  11.25
88 Franck Bouyer (Fra) Brioches La Boulangère
89 Ellis Rastelli (Ita) Gerolsteiner
90 Paolo Bossoni (Ita) Caldirola-Sidermec-Saunier Duval
91 Vladimir Duma (Ukr) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago
92 Steven Kleynen (Bel) Vlaanderen-T Interim
93 Jörg Jaksche (Ger) O.N.C.E.-Eroski
94 Andreas Klöden (Ger) Team Telekom
95 Rolf Aldag (Ger) Team Telekom
96 Thorsten Rund (Ger) Team Coast
97 Anthony Charteau (Fra) Brioches La Boulangère
98 Mikel Artetxe Gezuraga (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
99 Daniele Righi (Ita) Lampre                                  11.36
100 Giuseppe Guerini (Ita) Team Telekom
101 Giampaolo Caruso (Ita) O.N.C.E.-Eroski                     11.39
102 Luca Paolini (Ita) Quick.Step-Davitamon
103 Björn Leukemans (Bel) Palmans-Collstrop
104 Christopher Jenner (NZl) Crédit Agricole                   11.45