Bookended by the Amstel Gold and Liege-Bastogne-Liege in what has become the mini-series of races known as the Ardennes Classics, the Fleche Wallonne is also the penultimate Spring Classic. With a route that stretches 194 kilometres and takes in 10 classified climbs this is not a walk in the park, midweek leg spin for the riders. Hotly contested and proudly supported by all Belgians its stature as a semi-classic in the racing calendar somewhat sells it short. Finishing in the town of Huy, mid-way between Charleroi and Liege, this valley holds the cherry on the Fleche Wallonne cake, the Mur de Huy - an iconic part of the classics season. Just over one kilometre long this “wall” is 25% at its steepest and covered three times during the race.
Jerome Coppel looks out at the cold, wet and windy Belgium morning before the race.
This year a nervous start, high winds, hails storms and crashes were not enough to dull the racing, with the Mur giving us a spectacular finish. After 920 miles in two days here is my perspective of the 2012 Fleche Wallonne, from start to finish, male and female races, filled with crazy beer drinking, Belgian crowds. The Fleche Wallonne - a semi-classic, but a classic way to start to wrap up the early season races, I am sure you will agree.
Rain gear was on from the start
The early pace was really high. Tails winds, small roads and nervous riders meant splits in the peloton.
The final 100 metres, a rider at the Women's World Cup event fights her way to the line.
The leaders keep the pace on one of the many climbs in Fleche Wallonne
Lotto and Katusha take up the pace behind the leaders, keeping them in check before their leaders went on the attack.
A little assistance
Liquigas lead the charge on the second of 3 times up the Mur de Huy
Beer and bikes: a part of Belgian culture
Riders focus on the 25 per cent section of the Mur de Huy
Simon Geschke feeling it at the finish.
Evelyn Stevens celebrates her win on the Mur de Huy
Daniel Martin at the finish