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by Neal Rogers
April 12, 2018
In today’s Daily News Digest: Wellens solos to victory at Brabantse Pijl, dedicates victory to Michael Goolaerts; Bastianelli wins first edition of women’s Brabantse Pijl; Autopsy confirms cardiac arrest caused Goolaerts’ Roubaix crash; Rémy Di Gregorio provisionally suspended for EPO; Five-time Flèche champion Valverde: ‘If I’m in the lead with 200 metres to go, it’s hard to beat me’; 100% launches Speedcraft Air to control nasal dilation; RockShox’s new TwistLoc brings remote lockout control to the grip; Fox boosts travel in its cross country platform with 34 Step-Cast 120mm fork.
When it comes to the Ardennes Classics, Spaniard Alejandro Valverde is in a league of his own. He’s won Flèche Wallonne on five occasions, including the last four, and is a four-time winner of Liège-Bastogne-Liège. There may be no such thing as guaranteed success when it comes to bike racing, but it seems Valverde has made the Mur de Huy and the streets of Ans his own playground. Next week, the Spanish veteran returns for more success before turning 38 years old at the end of the month.
“As long as I win, I’ll keep going,” Valverde said in an ASO press release. “I think the Mur de Huy perfectly suits my characteristics. I try to make sure nobody goes away, I evaluate the distance and then I strike. If I’m in the lead with 200-250 metres to go, then it’s really hard to beat me. It’s a distance I’ve come to master, that’s where I have the edge. Liège also has a hard finish that I like.”
With more than 100 victories since he turned professional in 2002, Valverde made it clear his range covers much more than the sole Ardennes classics. This year again, he leads the UCI rankings with nine victories taken at both stage races and single-day events. But he feels most comfortable when a hard race wears out everyone in the peloton. “A hilly, demanding route benefits me,” he said. “It’s harder for me, too, but everything becomes easier in the finale. My rivals have struggled, too, and then I don’t have to do the same kind of efforts for positioning.”
At Flèche Wallonne, Valverde remains the man to beat for Dan Martin (second behind Valverde on the two races last year), Julian Alaphilippe (only Valverde got the best of him at Huy and Ans in 2015) or Dylan Teuns (third at Flèche in 2017).
“I have to adapt every year, depending on the race conditions and what my rivals have been doing,” Valverde said, adding that he will rely on a solid Movistar squad, including Mikel Landa and Marc Soler, to “always be in a good position.”