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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

8th Women's Flèche Wallonne - CDM

Belgium, April 20, 2005

Cooke the favourite for Huy

Sonia Huguet wins in 2004
Photo ©: AFP

La Fleche Wallonne for women has been held since 1998, and has been a staple of the women's World Cup. This year's eighth edition will mark the fifth round of the World Cup, currently led by Dutchwoman Mirjam Melchers (Buitenpoort-Flexpoint) after her victory in the Ronde van Vlaanderen. Both Melchers and her teammate Susanne Ljungskog will be key riders to watch on Wednesday when the race finishes atop the leg-searing Mur de Huy.

But the favourite for this race is probably 2003 winner Nicole Cooke (Safi-Pasta Zara-Manhattan), who won the warmup GP de Wallonie in Dottignies on Sunday and looks to be in the right form.

The women will start and finish in Huy and tackle the final 106 kilometres of the men's course, including five climbs before the final ascent of the Mur, which averages 10% over 1.3 km and nearly always decides the outcome of the race.

Other teams to watch include Nürnberger Versicherung, which will be trying to get Oenone Wood into a favourable position for the finish and put her back into the World Cup leader jersey that she lost after the Flanders finish debacle.

Curiously, last year's winner, 2003 French champion Sonia Huguet, has done almost nothing since. However, she will be back with the French national team to defend her title in Huy.