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Classic Race Report: Marc Hirschi (Sunweb) won the 2020 Flèche Wallonne, but rider of the day was young rider, Mauri Vansevenant (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) who was out front all day and crashed before the last climb. The top men were together for the tough last 1K, and it was the young Swiss star, Hirschi who jumped with 500 metres to go to take the day. Benoît Cosnefroy (AG2R-La Mondiale) took second place and Canada’s Michael Woods (EF Pro Cycling) was third.
Marc Hirschi had the form
It was unclear who would be riding the 2020 Flèche Wallonne. In the end, the winners of the last six editions, World champions Julian Alaphilippe and Alejandro Valverde, and Primož Roglič, Miguel Ángel López, Egan Bernal and Diego Ulissi were not at the start. Tour winner Tadej Pogačar, 3rd in the Tour Richie Porte, stage winners Marc Hirschi, Daniel Felipe Martínez, Lennard Kämna and Michał Kwiatkowski were all there. Other contenders; Sergio Higuita, Michael Woods, Dylan Teuns, Andrea Bagioli, Wout Poels and Jonas Vingegaard were also on the start line.
The weather wasn’t great, but the racing was hot
The riders were faced with a race of over 202 kilometres. After 120 kilometres, the race would hit the local circuite around Huy, with climbs of the Côte d’Ereffe, the Côte du Chemin des Gueusses and the iconic Mur de Huy, with the summit finish. This circuit of climbs had to be completed three times.
It was early in the race when the break of the day with four men formed. The young Belgians Mauri Vansevenant and Aaron Van Poucke were joined by the Dutchman Mathijs Paasschens and Marlon Gaillard from France and at one point had more than 9 minutes. UAE team Emirates and INEOS Grenadiers set the pace. The British team had fourth in the Worlds, Kwiatkowski and UAE were working for Pogačar.
Tour winer, Tadej Pogačar was happy at the start
Break of the day: Aaron Van Poucke (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise), Mauri Vansevenant (Deceuninck – Quick-Step), Marlon Gaillard (Total Direct Energie) and Mathijs Paasschens (Bingoal-Wallonie Bruxelles)
After 117 kilometres, as they started the circuit, the lead had dropped to under 5 minutes. Just after the first passage of the Côte d’Ereffe, Ide Schelling and Alessandro De Marchi counterattacked, but they still had to climb up the Mur de Huy for the first time and they would have to cross a four-minute lead. With two more laps of 32 kilometres to the finish, it was a big ask.
The peloton was in no hurry to chase the break
Not spring, but autumn
On the way to the Huy the second time, the race was changing. At the head of the race, the escapees were still together and Schelling and De Marchi were still in pursuit. In the pack; UAE Team Emirates and INEOS Grenadiers had help from Sunweb and EF Pro Cycling. On the Huy, Van Poucke was dropped from the front, while the lead was at 1:30 on De Marchi, who had left Schelling behind.
Ide Schelling (BORA-hansgrohe) and Alessandro De Marchi (CCC) decided to chase the break
A hard day in Wallonia
On the false flat after the summit, Gaillard was also dropped, leaving Vansevenant and Paasschens off the front. Like Schelling, De Marchi would never reach the leading group, as the Italian was caught at 27 kilometres from the finish. On the Côte d’Ereffe, Paasschens had to let Vansevenant go on his own. The Deceuninck – Quick-Step rider is in his first professional season, but looked strong enough to take the win.
Di Marche and Schelling worked well together
The break on the Huy
After Rui Costa tried a counterattack in vain, Rigoberto Urán jumped out of the peloton on the Côte du Chemin des Gueusses. The experienced Colombian looked to be catching Vansevenant, who had already raced more than 180 kilometres off the front. At 4 kilometres out, things went wrong for the young rider when he missed a corner and ended in the bushes at the side of the road. He was back on his bike very quickly, but had lost his lead and he and Urán were swept up by the peloton.
De Marchi eventually left Schelling, but was caught later by the peloton
The peloton start to climb
The peloton hit the Mur de Huy
The peloton headed towards the final climb of the Huy. First on the Chemin des Chapelles, Deceuninck – Quick-Step set the pace. The favourites all moved forward the steepest part of the climb and then Richie Porte took the lead at the Claude Criquielion monument. On his wheel were Tadej Pogačar and Marc Hirschi.
Another young winner?
Could Vansevenant do it?
Then Michael Woods made his move, but Hirschi was glued to his wheel. Once the finish line came into view, the Swiss rider passed the Canadian 75 metres from the line to win the Flèche Wallonne for the first time in his career.
Hirschi kept close to the front
It was a waiting game for Marc Hirschi
Big one-day win for Hirschi
2020 Flèche Wallonne winner, Marc Hirschi (Sunweb) “It went great for us. There was a small four-man breakaway and my team did a good job, one or two guys controlled the race. It was already going fast on the circuit, so the boys fell back. On the last climb it all came down to the legs. It was so tough, so you don’t really notice what is happening around you because you are very in the zone. It is steep, but you always have to wait. You should not turn on too early. It’s really brutal. You are full of lactate and then it mainly comes down to your head: you have to be strong in your head to bite through the pain. In all the races that I have won, I never felt that I was super strong. I often don’t feel so good at the start of the race, even today I didn’t feel so good, but then I always get the motivation to make the best of it. I just thought about my position and in the last metres you have the legs, or not. I was lucky today that I had the legs. Also, I didn’t make any mistakes today. I am also happy with how the team has raced and how I have raced myself, I was always in the right position. I’m going to enjoy it first and it’s a bonus to come, but I definitely want to take advantage of this great form. Now I’m taking some quiet days and then we’ll see on Sunday.”
1. Marc Hirschi (Swi) Sunweb in 4:49:17
2. Benoît Cosnefroy (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale
3. Michael Woods (Can) EF Pro Cycling
4. Warren Barguil (Fra) Arkéa Samsic
5. Dan Martin (Irl) Israel Start-Up Nation
6. Michał Kwiatkowski (Pol) INEOS Grenadiers
7. Patrick Konrad (Aust) BORA-hansgrohe at 0:05
8. Richie Porte (Aus) Trek-Segafredo
9. Tadej Pogačar (Slov) UAE Team Emirates
10. Simon Geschke (Ger) CCC at 0:10
11. Valentin Madouas (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
12. Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Bingoal-Wallonie Bruxelles
13. Daniel Felipe Martinez Poveda (Col) EF Pro Cycling
14. Rudy Molard (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
15. Jesus Herrada (Spa) Cofidis at 0:15
16. Wout Poels (Ned) Bahrain-McLaren at 0:18
17. Krists Neilands (Lat) Israel Start-Up Nation
18. Nicholas Schultz (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott
19. Andrea Bagioli (Ita) Deceuninck – Quick-Step
20. Hugo Houle (Can) Astana
21. Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal
22. Louis Vervaeke (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix
23. Gorka Izagirre Insausti (Spa) Astana
24. Clément Champoussin (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale
25. Matej Mohoric (Slo) Bahrain McLaren
26. Alexis Vuillermoz (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale at 0:28
27. Omar Fraile Matarranz (Spa) Astana
28. Julien Simon (Fra) Total Direct Energie at 0:31
29. Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) Alpecin-Fenix at 0:33
30. Enrico Gasparotto (Swi) NTT Pro Cycling.