The Quick-Step rider accelerated clear near the summit of the Mur de Huy, coming around Jelle Vanendert (Lotto Soudal) before kicking for a second time as the line approached. There was a late fight-back from Valverde, who was searching for his sixth title, but Alaphilippe’s victory was soon assured with France taking their first win at the race for 21 years.
Valverde suffered to the line to take second, with Vanendert sealing a podium place for the first time after four career top-10 finishes including a fourth place in 2012. Meanwhile, Alaphilippe’s record in La Flèche Wallonne now stands at two second places and, at last, a victory.
“I believed in myself every time, and I worked hard to find that bit that was missing between the podium and first place,” Alaphilippe said. “Honestly, I didn’t know I’d won. I couldn’t hear the radio, I thought Nibali was still out in front. At the end I just did my effort. I have to thank my teammates who did an amazing job today. I’m super happy.
“I’m going to really enjoy this victory, but I’m very motivated for Liège, I’m ready, and I’m going to give it everything.”
The race predictably came down to the final ascent of the Mur but the 80 or kilometres preceding the climb were anything but predictable with several of Valverde’s rivals looking to isolate the Spaniard.
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