Cycling

Alaphilippe defends Fleche Wallonne title

Julian Alaphilippe (AP)
Julian Alaphilippe (AP)

Huy - France's Julian Alaphilippe won the Fleche Wallonne one-day classic for the second year running on Wednesday, adding to last month's Milan-San Remo triumph.

The Deceuninck Quick-Step rider took victory ahead of Denmark's Jakob Fuglsang atop the famed Mur de Huy in Belgium to claim the 83rd edition of the Ardennes classic.

Alaphilippe and Fuglsang had led Sunday's Amstel Gold Race in the Netherlands only for rising Dutch star Mathieu van der Poel to snatch away victory in a sprint finish.

However the 26-year-old Alaphilippe, who claimed his first win in one of cycling's 'Monument' races at Milan-San Remo, was not to be denied a second time.

"I think he (Fuglsang) was as disappointed as me not to have won the Amstel. We could have had a one-two, and here we again found ourselves in front," said Alaphilippe, who also edged Fuglsang to win the Strade Bianche last month.

"The end wasn't easy. Fuglsang is a very good rider who I respect a lot. He was difficult to beat."

Italy's Diego Ulissi secured third place ahead of young Belgian Bjorg Lambrecht and Germany's Maximilian Schachmann.

Five-time former champion Alejandro Valverde of Spain finished 11th, a day ahead of his 39th birthday.

Adam Yates and Roman Kreuziger were knocked out of contention following a crash 30 kilometres from the finish, along with Ion Izagirre, a recent winner at the Tour of the Basque Country. 

A group driven by Schachmann's Bora team attempted to widen the gap after the second of three climbs of the Mur de Huy, but they were caught by a chasing pack led by the team-mates of Valverde and Alaphilippe.

Enric Mas, working in support of Alaphilippe, then pressed ahead with a steady tempo to ward off attacks, setting up the latter for another enthralling showdown with Fuglsang.

"It's a race that is important to me," said Alaphilippe, who was full of praise for his team-mates. "The Ardennes classics period is one I really like."

"Last year, it was my first big win. It wasn't easy wearing the number one jersey. I tried to detach myself from all the pressure."

Fuglsang said he was pleased with his performance despite another near-miss.

"I'm happy to finish on the podium," he said. "I'm happy with this result. I was more disappointed with my third place at the Amstel.

"Here, it was a good fight on the Mur de Huy knowing that this race is not necessarily made for my qualities."

The third and final of this year's Ardennes classics, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, takes place on Sunday. 

Results:

1. Julian Alaphilippe (FRA/DEC) 4hr 55min 14sec, 2. Jakob Fuglsang (DEN/AST) same time, 3. Diego Ulissi (ITA/UAE) at 6sec, 4. Bjorg Lambrecht (BEL/LOT) 8, 5. Maximilian Schachmann (GER/BOR) s.t., 6. Bauke Mollema (NED/TRE) s.t., 7. Patrick Konrad (AUT/BOR) s.t., 8. Michael Matthews (AUS/SUN) s.t., 9. Jelle Vanendert (BEL/LOT) 11, 10. Enrico Gasparotto (ITA/DDT) s.t.

Selected:

11. Alejandro Valverde (FRA/MOV) 11

16. Michal Kwiatkowski (POL/SKY) 11

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