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“A fourth win next year? Well, for now I’ve won three and was second in the Amstel Gold Race. Now it’s time for Liège-Bastogne-Liège but after winning and riding well, I’m feeling very relaxed and confi...

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ALEJANDRO VALVERDE

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23.04.2015 @ 01:59 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) lived up to the role of pre-race favourite and defending champion at the Flèche Wallonne UCI WorldTour race, taking his third victory in the Belgian one-day Classic. 

The 34 year-old Spaniard won thanks to a perfectly timed attack from the front and crossed the line with his arms in the air in celebration, finishing several bike lengths clear of Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-Quick Step) and Switzerland’s Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEdge). The race was marked by several crashes that took big-name contenders Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing Team) and Chris Froome (Team Sky) out of contention but produced a thrilling finale. 

The addition of the Côte de Cherave close to the final assault of the Mur de Huy inspired attacks by Vincenzo Nibali (Astana Pro Team), Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing Team) and especially Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal). However Valverde’s Movistar Team chased down the attacks and controlled the peloton before Valverde made his winning move. 

Valverde won La Flèche Wallonne in 2006 and 2014 and has clearly learnt how to conquer the legendary Mur de Huy climb that leads to the finish line. 

“It was a very hard day, with lots of crashes and lots of tension, I can’t remember such a tense day for a long time,” Valverde said after celebrating his victory with several of his Movistar teammates. 

“The Mur de Huy is a very hard but a very good climb for me. My Movistar team controlled the race a lot. We had Giovanni Visconti in the late break and then I decided to keep the rhythm steady and to speed up the pace at the end. With 200 metres to go, I knew I was going to win because I had the spark to give it a bit more.” 

Victory at La Flèche Wallonne makes Valverde the big favourite for Sunday’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège race, the last major UCI WorldTour classic of the spring. He finished second last year behind Australia’s Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) but won in 2008 and 2006. 

“A fourth win next year? Well, for now I’ve won three and was second in the Amstel Gold Race. Now it’s time for Liège-Bastogne-Liège but after winning and riding well, I’m feeling very relaxed and confident,” Valverde said.

 

Valverde scored 80 UCI WorldTour points for his victory at La Flèche Wallonne, lifting him from eighth to second in the individual UCI WorldTour rankings. 


Australia’s Richie Porte (Team Sky) still leads the individual rankings with 303 points after his victories in the Paris-Nice and Volta Ciclista a Catalunya stage races. However Valverde now has 238 points and is on a charge to the top. He won the 2014 UCI WorldTour individual ranking thanks to his consistency in the one-day classics and stage races, leading Movistar to victory in the team ranking. 

Tour of Flanders winner Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) is third in the individual rankings with 237 points, with Paris-Roubaix winner John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) fourth with 232 points. Etixx-Quick Step retained the lead in the latest team classification of the UCI WorldTour. The Belgian team again scored important points thanks to Alaphilippe’s second place at the Flèche Wallonne and has a total of 699 points. Team Sky is second with 643 points, with Katusha third with 585 points. Australia still leads the nations ranking with 638 points, one point ahead of Spain, while Colombia moved up to third with a total of 442 points. 

The UCI WorldTour continues on Sunday with Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the oldest and arguably the hardest one-day classic on the UCI WorldTour calendar.

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