Preview: Who’s going to win the 2022 men’s Flèche Wallonne?

Can Alaphilippe take a fourth win? Will Pogačar take his first win? Will someone else triumph?

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With Paris-Roubaix now behind us, it’s time for Wednesday’s 86th edition of the men’s Flèche Wallonne. Read on for everything you should know about the route and the riders to watch. And if you haven’t already, be sure to check out our preview of the women’s Flèche Wallonne.

CyclingTips’s star ratings

Before we dive into the nitty-gritty, here’s a snapshot of the riders we think you need to keep an eye on.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️: Alaphilippe, Pogačar, Roglič
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️: Pidcock, Evenepoel, Valverde
⭐️⭐️⭐️: Woods, Cosnefroy, Hirschi
⭐️⭐️: Fuglsang, Kwiatkowski
⭐️: Haig, Wellens, Vlasov

The course

The 2022 men’s Flèche Wallonne is raced in the Ardennes region of eastern Belgium and covers some 202 km from Blegny, north-east of Liége, to Huy to the south west.

The race comprises a meandering opening section of roughly 120 km, after which the riders begin what is almost three full laps of a 31.2 km circuit. Of the race’s 11 classified climbs, just two come in the first 120 km; the remaining nine climbs all come in the final 83 km, with three ascents of three different climbs:

  • Côte d’Ereffe: 2.1 km at 5%
  • Côte de Cherave: 1.3 km at 8.1%
  • Mur de Huy: 1.3 km at 9.6%

The most important of those climbs is the race-ending Mur de Huy. This is a nasty little climb that is above 10% gradient for much of its length, with one particular ramp approaching 20%.

How it might unfold

It’s usually pretty easy to predict how Fléche Wallonne will be decided: with a full-gas dash up the Mur de Huy. It is likely to be a sizeable group that reaches the bottom, but by the top just a handful of riders will be in with a shot at victory.

Sure, there’ll be an early breakaway, and there’ll almost certainly be a bevy of aggressive racing in the final 50 km or so. But chances are the teams of the favourites will do everything they can to close it all down and turn it into a final-climb slugfest.

That’s normally what happens. But who knows: maybe this year will be different?

The contenders

Here are the riders we’ll be keeping a close eye on at the business end.

Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) is the defending champion, a three-time winner, and probably the man to beat on Wednesday. ‘Lou Lou’ tends to excel on this sort of short but steep climb, and assuming he’s fighting fit after his crash at Brabantse Pijl last week, the world champ is in with a great shot of a fourth win.

Note that Quick-Step also has Remco Evenepoel at its disposal. Perhaps the Belgian will be keen to chance his arm with an attack before the final climb. Either way, it’s going to be interesting to see how Quick-Step deploys its resources, particularly given how frustrating a spring it has been for a team normally so dominant at this time of year.

Alaphilippe (right) beating Roglic to the line last year.

Primož Roglič (Jumbo Visma) was second last year and certainly wouldn’t be a surprise winner this time around. The Slovenian comes to this race with a couple wins for the year and will almost certainly be spotted near the front on the Mur de Huy. Roglič surged early last year before being overhauled by Alaphilippe in the closing metres. With slightly better timing, he could end up one step higher on the podium. Update: Roglič doesn’t seem to be racing after all. His teammate Jonas Vingegaard could well be worth a watch though …

Speaking of strong Slovenians that we wouldn’t be surprised to see win, how about Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates)? With victories at the UAE Tour, Strade Bianche, and Tirreno Adriatico, not to mention top-fives at Milan-San Remo and Ronde van Vlaanderen, the reigning Tour de France champ is having another incredible season.

The 23-year-old is probably slightly better suited to longer climbs, but a win on Wednesday is well within his wheelhouse.

And he’s not the only great option for UAE Team Emirates. 2020 winner Marc Hirschi is also on the startlist and while he hasn’t been quite at his best in recent months, this is a race that suits him wonderfully.

Pogačar has done a lot of winning in recent years, but he’s yet to win Flèche Wallonne. That might change on Wednesday.

At 41 years old, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) is absolutely still a contender. The Spaniard holds the men’s record for the most wins at this race with five, and while he’s beyond his best, he’s still a real shot at another podium on Wednesday. He was third last year, and comes to the race with three wins for the year already (plus second at Strade Bianche).

Israel-Premier Tech heads to the race with two great options in Michael Woods and Jakob Fuglsang. Woods excels on short steep climbs like this, and was third and fourth in the past two editions. Fuglsang was second back in 2019 and while he’s not having a career-best season, his undeniable class means you can never truly write him off.

Ineos Grenadiers have been the team of the spring so far and there’s no reason to think that won’t continue at Flèche Wallonne. Tom Pidcock is yet to get on the winner’s list this season but has looked dangerous at various points. The steep final climb suits a slight, powerful rider like him, as he showed with his sixth place last year.

Amstel Gold Race winner Michał Kwiatkowski is perhaps Ineos’s other main option. The former world champion has been third, fifth, sixth, and seventh in the past, and given his current form, another top finish is very much a possibility.

Kwiatkowski took a wonderful win at the Amstel Gold Race a week or so back. Could he take another victory in Huy?

Benoît Cosnefroy (AG2R Citröen) has had a wonderful spring with six top-five finishes, including second at Amstel Gold Race and Brabantse Pijl. The Frenchman was second in 2020 and judging by his form in recent weeks, another top finish is definitely on the cards.

For other possible challengers, consider Valenciana winner Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe), Aussie climber Jack Haig (Bahrain Victorious), and possibly even Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal).

When to start watching

The race kicks off in Blegny at 11:25 am local time (2:25 am PDT / 5:25 am EDT / 7:25 pm AEST) but, truthfully, you’re unlikely to miss all that much if you don’t tune in until later.

The first of those final nine climbs starts with 83 km to go, at roughly 2:20pm local time (5:20 am PDT / 8:20 am EDT / 10:20 pm AEST). The pace will almost certainly be on by the second ascent of the Mur de Huy which kicks off with around 33 km to go, at roughly 3:30 pm (6:30 am PDT / 9:30 am EDT / 11:30 pm AEST). And if you really just want to watch the final ascent of the Mur de Huy, you’ll only need to tune in at around 4:15 pm local time (7:15 am PDT / 10:15 am EDT / 12:15 am AEST).

Who’s your pick to win the 2022 men’s Flèche Wallonne?

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