Mikel Landa 3rd at Flèche Wallonne
As the semi-classic Flèche Wallonne got closer to its finale, Mikel Landa only got stronger and climbed to a 3rd place on the Mur de Huy. This result is promising for next weekend when the next monument of cycling will be contested with Liège-Bastogne-Liège. At the Tour of the Alps, Jack Haig made good use of the Queen’s stage to move up to 3rd in the overall standings.
With the Mur de Huy as its selective last ascent, the semi-classic Flèche Wallonne is a one-day race where explosive climbers can shine. In almost every edition, the day’s early attackers are brought back well in time to enforce a decision on the iconic Mur, and this year’s race was no different. The day’s breakaway formed early on as eight riders formed a group in multiple attacks, building a gap of almost four minutes after 80 of an overall 194 kilometres. But when the leader of this group got chopped down to less than one minute only 30 kilometres further on, the harmony within the breakaway was over, and the attacks started. In the last hour of racing, two riders joined the remaining two early attackers, but this attack was bound to get neutralised as well.
The riders of Team BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS focussed on keeping their leader Mikel Landa out of trouble and in a good position in the main group. This worked out well, and as the finish line approached, the team's Basque climber felt better and better - despite having been ill after having finished the Tour of the Basque Country in 2nd and not having been able to train for some days. Still, Mikel Landa found no way to react to the winning acceleration of Tadej Pogacar who had been waiting to pounce on the second half of the final ascent. Still, Landa had tackled the Mur de Huy cleverly and paced himself well, finishing the uphill sprint to the line in 3rd place against strong competition. This performance is pretty promising: Next Sunday, Liège-Bastogne-Liège will be contested as the fourth monument of cycling.
As for the Tour of the Alps, the Queen's stage leading from Ritten to Brentonico San Valentino was ridden today. It took quite a while before a 12-rider breakaway could form, and Jasha Sütterlin was representing Team BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS in that group. The breakaway extended its lead to 7 minutes, and Jasha Sütterlin left his companions behind on the descent of the Lago di Cei only to drop back to the group on the following flat section. It was a long wait for the first attacks on the long final ascent, and the later stage winner Lennard Kämna was the first rider to make a move. While Santiago Buitrago tried to counter this move, Jack Haig focussed on the wheel of the GC leader. While Haig finished the stage in 5th and moved up to 3rd on GC, Buitrago ended up conceding almost 30 seconds.
87TH FLÈCHE WALLONNE: HERVE - MUR DE HUY, 194.3KM
1. Tadej Pogacar, SVN, in 4:27.53 hours
2. Mattias Skjelmose, DEN, st
3. Mikel Landa, ESP/TEAM BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS, st
46TH TOUR OF THE ALPS: GC AFTER 3 OF 5 STAGES
1. Tao Geoghegan Hart, GBR, in 11:21.39 hours
2. Hugh Carthy, GBR, + 0.22
3. Jack Haig, AUS/TEAM BAHRAIN VICTORIOUS, + 0.28
Photos: Sprint Cycling Agency