|Joaquim Rodriguez wins his first classic|
Fleche Wallonne 2012 had a big favourite, namely Joaquim Rodriguez. Everybody said he'll notch a classic on his belt. Philippe Gilbert, Jelle Vanendert and Enrico Gasparotto said in pre-race interviews that the Spaniard was the man to beat.
Normally a rider with remote chances of winning is a "dark horse". Rodriguez was everybody's top pick, hence the "white horse" pun. And he delivered the goods, leaving Michael Albasini (GreenEdge, what a season for him and his team so far), Philippe Gilbert (BMC) and Jelle Vanendert (Lotto) trailing by 4 seconds with an impressive burst of energy on THE WALL Mur de Huy. After finishing second in 2010 and 2011 (+previous runner-up in Amstel Gold Race and Liege-Bastogne-Liege) it was time for a 1st place.
La Fleche Wallonne is the poorest of the classics, always being won in the final 1.3 km and all. They seem to coast along waiting for the final climb. Only bad luck can sort the men from the boys till THE WALL (Frank Schleck puncturing with 15 km remaining ... auch !) And then Mur de Huy comes and Oh My GOD ! It is indeed an epic climb and rightly titled THE WALL.
My podium pick was off. Was I the only one thinking Rodriguez won't win ? :D Anyway my "dark horse" Romain Bardet (AG2R) finished a solid 29. Remember he is only 21 (!) and this is his first season as a professional rider. One rider to keep in mind for future classics. Maybe even for next weeks' Liege-Bastogne-Liege ...
You can also check out the VeloVoices review of Fleche Wallonne 2012.
Race results (link for FULL results)
1. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha)
2. Michael Albasini (GreenEdge) +4
3. Philippe Gilbert (BMC) +4
4. Jelle Vanendert (Lotto) +4
5. Robert Kiserlovski (Astana) +7
6. Daniel Martin (Garmin) +9
7. Bauke Mollema (Rabobank) +9
8. Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) +9
9. Diego Ulissi (Lampre) +9
10. Jurgen van den Broeck (Lotto) +11