La Flèche Wallonne is a race that in the modern era of cycling ends always the same. Everything is decided on the extremely steep Mur de Huy (1km, 11.2%), which is perfectly suited for puncheurs like Alejandro Valverde, who has won this race five times. At age 41 Valverde still was one of the main favourites with Movistar teammate Enric Mas providing a leadout for him, but that did not help the Spaniard as he could not challenge Dylan Teuns, who took the surprise win.
La Flèche Wallonne is a unique race. Most people find it boring if they start to watch it early with 70 km to go, but usually it is worth to start watching in the last 5 kilometres to see the battle for the position before the Mur de Huy and some attacks from non-favourites.
This year it was Søren Kragh Andersen, who attacked late and caught Mauri Vansevenant who had been in a previous attack. DSM did not send a strong puncheur to this race and Kragh Andersen was their best option. He was doing the most of the work as Vansevanant was already tired and his teammate, reigning champion Julian Alaphilippe, was one of the main favourites.
They both were caught at the start of the Mur de Huy by Movistar, who was pacing for Alejandro Valverde. This was the last chance for Valverde to win La Flèche Wallonne as he is retiring after this season. Enric Mas was doing a good job and was looking back as Valverde was not on his wheel. He was deep in the peloton with Julian Alaphilippe. Terrible initial positioning by both of them, and instead it was Dylan Teuns who was sitting right behind Mas.
After Mas finished his turn, Aleksandr Vlasov was the first to launch his attack. He was quickly followed by Teuns and Valverde. The main favourite of the race, Tadej Pogačar was struggling early and could not do anything on Mur de Huy. It was surprising to see that Pogačar was the favourite of the race, where his best result was 9th in 2020. Whilst Pogačar is undoubtedly the best GC rider in the world, the Mur de Huy is a very specific finish requiring outstanding 2-3 minute power on steep gradient, where he is not head and shoulders above the rest of his competitors like in other terrain.
Teuns was drilling hard with Valverde sitting on his wheel. At the final straight it was looking like Valverde would pass the Bahrain-Victorious rider, but in the end he could not do it. Maybe he would have won with better positioning before the climb as he needed to move up while Mas was pacing.
This arguably is the biggest win of Teuns’ career. This was the 8th time he started La Flèche Wallonne, with his previous best result being 3rd in 2017. Teuns was not the main favourite, but his form was looking good as he finished in Top 10 in Amstel Gold Race, De Brabantse Pijl and Ronde van Vlaanderen. Definitely he will have a decent chance to win Liege-Bastogne-Liege later this week with a strong team at Bahrain-Victorious.
Teuns time up Mur de Huy was 2 minutes and 50 seconds, which was 10 seconds slower than Alaphilipe’s time last year, when he set the record on the climb.
Valverde finished 2nd for the third time in La Flèche Wallonne. Vlasov and Daniel Martinez, who were already showing great punch in early races, finished 3rd and 5th, while Alaphilippe was only 4th, disappointing by his high standards in this race. This was his worst result for him, as he had won this race three times and finished second twice. The main favourite Pogačar was only 12th, perhaps showing he is losing some form after not taking more than 20 days off from racing since the start of the UAE Tour back in February. Liege-Bastogne-Liege on Sunday should suit him much better.