Huy (Belgium) (AFP) – Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe earned the greatest win of his career on Wednesday when he claimed victory in the Fleche Wallonne one-day classic in Belgium.
The 25-year-old, twice a twice runner-up in the Ardennes classic, beat last year’s winner Alejandro Valverde of Spain into second, with Belgian Jelle Vanendert third.
Alaphilippe — who had never won a one-day classic having also finished second at Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the Giro di Lombardia, as well as third at Milan-San Remo — put in a blistering spurt on the punishing final Mur de Huy climb to the finish.
“It’s the third time I’ve participated in this race and the third time I’ve finished on the podium,” said the Quick-Step rider at the end of the 198.5km trek.
Valverde, the record five-time winner of this race, had left too much of a gap to Alaphilippe’s back wheel and when he tried to kick for home, he couldn’t close the distance.
It brought to an end the 37-year-old’s four-year win streak at the Fleche and leaves him at risk of missing out on an Ardennes classic victory for the first time since 2013.
Valverde was fifth at Amstel Gold Race, which he has never won, last Sunday.
If he doesn’t win Liege-Bastogne-Liege this Sunday — he is aiming to match Belgian great Eddy Merckx’s record of five wins in La Doyenne — Valverde will miss out on an Ardennes victory for the first time in five years.
Earlier, Olympic champion Anna van der Breggen won the women’s Fleche race for the fourth year in a row.