• Flèche Wallonne number five for Alejandro Valverde. (Getty)
Alejandro Valverde and Anna Van der Breggen continued their dominance at Flèche Wallonne with both riders adding to their consecutive title runs.
By
Cycling Central

Source:
Reuters
20 Apr 2017 - 5:26 AM  UPDATED 20 Apr 2017 - 6:50 PM

Alejandro Valverde's stellar start to the season continued when he won a fourth consecutive Flèche Wallonne title and a record fifth overall in the Ardennes classic race.

The Movistar rider will be the hot favourite for Sunday's Liege-Bastogne-Liege, the fourth of five 'Monument' classics on the calendar.

The 36-year-old Valverde powered away some 150 metres from the line on the punishing Mur de Huy, a 1.3km climb averaging 9.3 per cent gradient with a passage at 26 per cent.

Dan Martin (Quick-Step Floors) was second, one second behind, with Dylan Teuns (BMC) taking third place.

"It was a very fast race. In the last 60 kilometres, many teams just went on the attack and kept going on and on," Valverde said.

"They turned up the heat on to drop my teammates before the final but in the end I still had three or four. Being there, with the physical condition I enjoy these days, I knew I had great options for the win.

"Entering the last kilometre, there was some headwind but then it was tailwind so I was confident going in the front position to chose my trajectory in the curves, that's very important.

"I was born to cycle, not to play football. I've loved it since I was a child. I was hungry to win and I never lost it."

David Gaudu (FDJ), at 20 the youngest rider in the bunch, attacked with 250 metres left but Valverde was lying in wait and pounced shortly afterwards to add a fourth consecutive win to the Fleche title he claimed in 2006.

The women's race was won by Anna Van der Breggen (Boels Dolmans) in a repeat of the weekend Amstel Gold Race results.

She won her third consecutive Flèche Wallonne ahead of team-mate Elizabeth Deignan and Katarzyna Niewiadoma (WM3 Energie).

Van der Breggen attacked on the Côte de Chervae. Niewiadoma countered. Deignan marked Niewiadoma, and Van der Breggen bridged across. With less than five kilometres remaining, the podium had ridden away.

“It was the perfect situation to be away with three and to have two teammates,” Van der Breggen said. “It might have looked easy, but it was not. It was a really hard race.”

Van der Breggen wasted no time in launching the race-winning move. Playing off Deignan’s attack, she accelerated between the final two climbs and immediately gained a small gap that she was able to extend before the finish.

“I’m really tired but really happy,” she said “After Sunday last week and my birthday yesterday, it’s a whole party week.”