21 Apr 2022

Dylan Teuns wins the Flèche Wallonne

Only three days after competing at Paris-Roubaix, Dylan Teuns pretty much surprised everyone including himself at the Ardennes classic Flèche Wallonne: in the finale on the steep slopes of the Mur de Huy, the Belgian rider of Team Bahrain Victorious put his plan into action perfectly, beating record winner Alejandro Valverde to the line. As for the Tour of the Alps, Pello Bilbao defended his GC leader jersey thanks to a great team effort.

With its hilly course cutting trough Belgium’s Ardennes and the brutally steep final climb on the Mur de Huy the Flèche Wallonne is a fixture on the cycling calendar. For this one-day race Team Bahrain Victorious fielded a team around its two co-captains Wout Poels and Dylan Teuns, with strong support from the likes of Damiano Caruso, Jack Haig, Gino Mäder, Luis Leon Sanchez and Stevie Williams. Still hardly any pundits would mention either Poels or Teuns as one of the pre-race favourites. And as the team’s sports director for this race, Gorazd Stangelj made it clear that his riders were outsiders for the win much rather: «We need to make the race hard so we finish with a reduced bunch. After all, we can rely on a large number of strong riders and a very strong team, but we do not habe a real favourite in our ranks.» As for the bookies, the three clear-cut favourites were Pogacar, Alaphilippe and Valverde.

After an animated start phase of about 30 kilometers eight riders managed to go up the road, with two more riders managing to bridge the gap some 40 kilometers later. As a result a ten-rider breakaway took charge of things while Team Bahrain Victorious kept its powder dry in the peloton, saving precious energy. But the speed went up significantly when the race approached the Mur de Huy for a first time, and once the climb had been crested the riders in red, orange and black made their presence felt for a first time. They moved up to the sharp end of the peloton and started to up the pace in a bid to split the peloton into echelons in the crosswind, but that would not work. At the same time the early breakaway still was up the road. On the second approach of the Mur de Huy, Jack Haig made it into an attack that got brought back quickly. As soon as the race went into the last local loop, Wout Poels moved up in the peloton to up the pace and Damiano Caruso took over soon after.

As for the final 20 kilometers it was one attack after the other and as a consequence the breakaway was brought back well in time. When the race reached the foot of the Mur for a third and final time, two riders had a slender lead over the charging peloton. From the very start of this final ascent, Dylan Teuns managed to position himself far up front, focussing on the moves and acceleration of record winner Alejandro Valverde: «Thanks to my team mates I got into the Mur in a perfect position. With 500 meters to go I almost got locked in by others, but I knew exactly where Alejandro planned to attack, so I reacted right away, jumped on his wheel and had a little bit more left in the tank in the dash for the finish line. This victory has been a dream for a long time - and it does not come out of nowhere as I’ve made it to the podium of this race five years ago when I finished in 3rd.»

The third stage of the Tour of the Alps from Lana to Villabassa was generally considered to be the Queen’s stage, packing more than 3200 meters of ascending and two tough categorized climbs with the Terento and the Passo Furcia into a distance of 154.6 kilometers. After multiple failed attempts a group of ten riders went up the road and two more riders gave chase and managed to bridge the gap - but all of these riders were trailing by four or more minutes in the GC. For this reason Team Bahrain Victorious was happy to control the race and to keep the gap below three minutes all the way to the foot of the Passo Furcia. On that pass the Ineos Grenadiers took over and further upped the pace before sending its riders on the attack one after another. Thanks to the able help of Mikel Landa, Pello Bilbao managed to neutralise all attacks on his GC lead. While the strongest riders of the day’s breakaway contested for the stage win, the large chasing group crossed the finish line in Villabassa about one minute adrift.  

1. Dylan Teuns, BEL/TEAM BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS, in 4:42.12 hours
2. Alejandro Valverde, ESP, + 0.02
3. Aleksandr Vlasov, ROC, st

Photos: Sprint Cycling Agency