Julian Alaphilippe and Philippe Gilbert will be part of the team for the second race of the Ardennes Classics.
When you say Flèche Wallonne, you say Mur de Huy. One of cycling's most steepest and punishing finishes, the 1300m-long climb has welcomed the riders since 1983 and has become the race's key point, witnessing all kinds of winners, from riders who attacked early on the climb to those who waited for the final 300 meters, just after the famous S-bend, which usually sees the hopes of many contenders take a big blow.
Averaging 9.6% but ramping up to 25% in some sections, Mur de Huy comes this year at the end of a 198.5km-long race which will set off from Seraing, for the first time in history a start venue at the eight-decade old Classic, and see the riders take on a total of eleven climbs, two of which – Côte d'Ereffe and Côte de Cherave – could make things really interesting before the final ascent of the famed Mur de Huy.
Victorious here seven years ago on his way to a rare Ardennes triple, Philippe Gilbert will return at the start for the first time since 2016 and will be joined by Julian Alaphilippe, who rose to prominence at his Flèche Wallonne debut in 2015, when he finished runner-up. The Frenchman, who came close to victory also two seasons ago, was the highest-placed Quick-Step Floors rider in last Sunday's Amstel Gold Race and will look to be again in the mix.
Luxembourg Champion Bob Jungels, neo-pro James Knox, Vuelta al Pais Vasco stage winner Enric Mas, Maximilian Schachmann – who got his maiden victory in March, at the Volta a Catalunya – and Pieter Serry will round up our team for the 82nd edition of the Belgian race.
"The ten climbs tackled before the final ascent of the Mur de Huy will make up for a tough race, harder than last year. The presence of Côte de la Vecquée and Côte de la Redoute means things will be more demanding in the first part of the course than at the past editions, when the action did not start until late in the race", said sports director Davide Bramati. "We were aggressive in the first of the Ardennes Classics and we will have the same approach in Flèche Wallonne. The boys are in high spirits and know what they have to do, so we are confident we'll be there when it will come down to crunch time, fighting for another solid result."
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele/ Getty Images