Flèche Wallonne: Williams, Niewiadoma Win in Huy


Williams conquers the Mur de Huy

HUY, Belgium (April 17, 2024) — Stephen Williams (Israel – Premier Tech) took victory in the 2024 Flèche Wallonne, making history by becoming the first British winner of the race, with a brilliantly timed finish on the fourth climb of the Mur de Huy. After a race which saw sunshine, torrential rain and even snow, Kevin Vauquelin (Arkéa – B&B Hotels) and Maxim Van Gils (Lotto Dstny) were also on the podium, after crossing the finish line in second and third respectively, closely behind the victorious Williams.

A 30th start in Charleroi

174 riders took the start of the 88th edition of the Flèche Wallonne, as Charleroi hosted the start of the race for the 30th time. The 2024 midweek Ardennes classic marked the 40th finish of La Flèche Wallonne atop the Mur de Huy, with the peloton taking on the brutal climb of the famous Chemin des Chapelles on four occasions for the first time ever. Ben Hermans (Cofidis) was finally unable to take the start, in what would have been his 12th participation at Flèche Wallonne, having achieved his best result of 14th on his debut in 2009.

Six riders clear at the front

At km 11 Igor Chzhan (Astana) and Johan Meens (Bingoal WB) joined the four riders already at the front, Lilian Calmejane (Intermarché-Wanty), Alan Jousseaume (TotalEnergies), James Whelan (Q.365) and Txomin Juaristi (Euskaltel-Euskadi), who had been the first attacker in the first kilometer. Aaron Van der Beken (Bingoal WB) tried to go with Meens in the chase to the front group but finally dropped back. Juaristi was also the first rider to reach the summit of Côte d’Yvoir at km 42.7 and the six-man breakaway had established an advantage of 4’30” over the peloton after 50 km of racing.

Difficult weather conditions

The breakaway riders were absolutely drenched by torrential rain as they rode into Huy for the first time and there was even some snowfall. Whelan struggled for several minutes to get his jacket on correctly, but finally managed to do so before the Mur de Huy, although he briefly lost some ground on the other five in the break. As the peloton reached the top of the Mur de Huy for the first of four climbs of this famous ascent, they reduced the gap to the breakaway to 2’. That first ascent of the Mur saw a group of several riders dropped by the peloton, including Aleksandr Vlasov (BORA – hansgrohe) and Mauri Vansevenant (Soudal Quick-Step). After the first Mur de Huy climb Jousseaume was back in the peloton after more than 100km in the breakaway, whilst Dylan Teuns (Israel – Premier Tech), the winner of the 2022 edition, was dropped by the peloton with 75km to go.

Mur de Huy takes its toll

A reduced breakaway of Calmejane, Meens and Juaristi were swallowed up by the bunch, before the riders tackled the Mur de Huy for the second time. This time it was the big favorites who lost contact with the main peloton: Marc Hirschi, Tom Pidcock, Mattias Skjelmose and David Gaudu were excluded from the group. Valentin Madouas, who took the lead at the Mur summit (km 135.3), was one of the most aggressive, but Soren Kragh Andersen (Alpecin – Deceuninck) launched into a solo attack 60 km from the finish. With 46km of racing to go there were only around 30 riders left in the peloton and they were 1’ behind the solo race leader Kragh Andersen. Meanwhile Markus Hoelgaard (Uno-X Mobility) briefly got 20″ in front of the bunch trying to chase down Kragh Andersen, but his attempt to do so did not last long.

Amazing effort by Kragh Andersen

On the penultimate climb of the Mur Kragh Andersen crossed the summit 1’ ahead of Santiago Buitrago (Bahrain – Victorious) and Richard Carapaz (EF Education – EasyPost), 1’05” ahead of the peloton led by Kevin Vauquelin (Arkéa – B&B Hotels). Israel – Premier Tech’s Stephen Williams went on the offensive with 28km to go, chasing Kragh Andersen, then a quartet composed of Maxim Van Gils (Lotto Dstny), Vauquelin, Buitrago and Carapaz joined Williams in the chase. Those five chasers were caught by the peloton 17 km from the finish. Kragh Andersen was in turn caught by the peloton on the final Côte d’Ereffe climb with just under 15 km to go, having spent 46 km solo at the front of the race.

17/04/2024 – La Flèche Wallonne – Charleroi / Huy (198,6km) – WILLIAMS Stephen (ISRAEL – PREMIER TECH) 1er sur la ligne devant VAUQUELIN Kévin (ARKEA-B&B HOTELS) – © A.S.O./Gaetan-Flamme

Williams is the winner

The 2024 winner Williams timed a late attack perfectly and ultimately shot across the finish line at the top one of the hardest climbs in pro cycling after 198.6km of racing with his historic performance, getting the better of a strong group of 31 riders who battled it out on the Mur de Huy. Vauquelin was so close to the victory, as Williams was just too strong for him in the final meters, with Van Gils in third, followed over the line by Benoit Cosnefroy in fourth and Buitrago in fifth.

Flèche Wallonne Femmes: Kasia Niewiadoma, finally!

HUY, Belgium (April 17, 2024) — Few victories are as exciting and as meaningful as the one Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Canyon//SRAM) scored today in the 27th edition of La Flèche Wallonne Femmes. The Polish rider defeated 2023 winner Demi Vollering (SD Worx-ProTime) and Italian national champion Elisa Longo Borghini (Lidl-Trek) in the final climb to the Mur de Huy to finally net her first win after a 1770-day drought. It has taken her 53 top5 placings, including a 2nd position on the 2021 edition of this very race, to finally raise her arms in victory again. ‘Kasia’ exploded in tears after the finish line, leaving an emotional lesson: she who perseveres, succeeds.

139 riders started the 27th edition of La Flèche Wallonne Femmes at 14:02 from Huy’s Grand-Place, taking on a 146-kilometre course to finish atop the iconic Mur de Huy. A rain shower turned into a snow fall as temperatures froze down to 5ºC, creating some hard weather conditions that would prove impactful in the unfolding of the race. Arkéa-Samsic’s Maaike Coljé was the first to abandon following a crash in the neutral zone. No breakaway went clear as the Côte de Gives (km 7,1 – 2,1 km at 5,5%) and Côte de Courrière (km 37,6 – 1,4 km at 7,1%) were ridden and left behind, creating some damage as pre-race favorites like Mavi García (Liv-AlUla-Jayco) struggled to keep up with the peloton’s pace.

A three-woman breakaway set the tone

Sara Martín (Movistar Team), Julie Van de Velde (AG Insurance-Soudal Team) and Elena Hartmann (Roland) attacked and went clear at kilometer 40, clocking a 1’40” advantage on the pack atop the Côte d’Evrehailles (km 53,4). The weather got better, from rainy and cold to just cloudy, as 89 kilometers into the race their gap topped at 4’25”, with Visma | Lease a Bike at the helm in the bunch. It was in the Côte d’Ereffe (km 101,4 – 2,1 km at 5%) that the peloton woke up. FDJ-SUEZ’s Grace Brown and Fenix-Deceuninck’s Pauline Rooijakkers took off and crested the climb 3’35” behind the front trio, with the peloton 10 seconds further back.

17/04/2024 – La Flèche Wallonne Femmes – Huy / Huy (146km) – NIEWIADOMA Katarzyna (CANYON//SRAM RACING) – © A.S.O./Billy-Ceusters

Everything up for grabs at the Mur de Huy

The first climb to the Mur de Huy (km 114,3 – 1,3 km at 9,6%) proved too demanding for Hartmann, who left Van de Velde and Martín alone at the head of the race. Across the summit, they had 2’09” on Brown and Rooijakkers and 2’32” on a 50-strong peloton led by SD Worx-ProTime. The chasing duo was reeled in with 17 kilometers to go by a peloton that was just 1’20” behind the head of the race at that point following a coordinated effort by Canyon//SRAM and the aforementioned SD Worx-ProTime. Several attacks happened up the Côte d’Ereffe (km 133,1 – 2,1 km at 5%) as the front duo was swept up and a 50-strong group was left at the head of the race. Riejanne Markus (Visma | Lease a Bike) put on a solo attack with 5 kilometers to go that stuck until the foot of the Mur de Huy. She was caught with 700 meters to go by Demi Vollering (SD Worx-ProTime), who marshalled the main group until Niewiadoma’s final, winning acceleration 200 meters from the finish.

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