After four straight years of domination of La Flèche Wallonne by Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Julian Alaphilippe‘s defeat of the Spaniard on the Mur de Huy on Wednesday had a real feel of an end of an era.
Not since Tom Boonen in 2004-2007 at E3 Harelbeke has a rider remained unbeaten in a major race for so long as Valverde in Flèche Wallonne. And if by some twist of fate, Alaphilippe were to stop racing tomorrow, his defeat of Valverde on the Mur de Huy will be seen by many as the standout moment of his career.
Victory in La Flèche Wallonne is the first Classic win of Alaphilippe’s career, too, as well as France’s first in the race since Laurent Jalabert back in 1997. But as Alaphilippe was quick to admit afterwards, it was beating Valverde, dubbed the King of the Mur de Huy since 2014, that made it even more exceptional.
“I’ve been twice on the podium here before today and the first time [in 2015] was a surprise, and the second the confirmation of my earlier result,” Alaphilippe said.
“But I really needed to win a big race, and to do that and get my first Flèche Wallonne ahead of Valverde is something very special.”
Explaining his lack of celebrations as he crossed the line, Alaphilippe revealed that “I didn’t think I had won. I thought [Vincenzo] Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) was still ahead after breaking away. Then my cousin, who was waiting on the line, told me I had got it.”
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