April 20, 2011 - Belgian racer Philippe Gilbert of Omega Pharma won the Fleche Wallonne on Wednesday, just three days after also snagging the Amstel Gold race.
Gilbert bagged the Fleche, the second of the three Ardennes Classics, after seeing off Spaniards Joaquim Rodriguez of Katusha and Samuel Sanchez of Euskaltel at the summit of the 9.3 degree average gradient 1.3km climb at the Muur de Huy following a gruelling 201km in the saddle.
He fought his way to the front to triumph as Rodriguez had to make do with a runner-up finish for the second straight year ahead of Olympic champion Sanchez.
Preben Van Hecke, a Belgian with Topsport Vlaanderen, Pole Maciej Paterski of Liquigas, Maxime Vantomme, a Belgian with Katusha and Finn Matti Helminem of Landbouwkrediet set the early pace in bright sunshine before Vasil Kiryienka of Belarus and Swede Thomas Lovkvist tried a counter attack some 15 km from the line.
With 8km remaining French hope Jerome Pineau and Italian Marco Marcato made a move of their own and went into the start of the Muur de Huy with a 13sec lead.
Gilbert, ably assisted by his team over the last 20km in particular, then prepared for a final, successful, dash for the line over the final 300m.
"This a big surprise for me," said an elated Gilbert, who can now target a hattrick in Sunday's Liege-Bastogne-Liege, for which he will certainly rank among the favorites.
"At the start I was still tired from Sunday, I was having trouble concentrating and stuck towards the back. But as the kilometres elapsed I started to feel better. My teammates came over several times to bolster my morale. That's how I managed to keep fresh through to the end," said Gilbert.
1. Philippe Gilbert (BEL/OLO) 201km in 4hr 54min 57sec
2. Joaquin Rodriguez (ESP/KAT) at 0:03sec
3. Samuel Sanchez (ESP/EUS) 0:05
4. Alexandre Vinokourov (KAZ/AST) 0:06
5. Igor Anton (ESP/EUS) 0:06
6. Jelle Vanendert (BEL/OLO) 0:06
7. Frank Schleck (LUX/LEO) 0:06
8. Daniel Moreno (ESP/KAT) 0:09
9. Christophe Le Mevel (FRA/GRM) 0:12
10. Paul Martens (GER/RAB) 0:12
11. Alberto Contador (ESP/SAX) 0:15
12. Michael Albasini (SUI/HTC) 0:17
13. Ryder Hesjedal (CAN/GRM) 0:18
14. Robert Gesink (NED/RAB) 0:20
15. Bert De Waele (BEL/LAN) 0:20
16. Greg Van Avermaet (BEL/BMC) 0:20
17. Juergen Van den Broeck (BEL/OLO) 0:23
18. Ben Hermans (BEL/RSH) 0:26
19. Rigoberto Uran (COL/SKY) 0:28
20. Benat Intxausti (ESP/MOV) 0:28
21. Remy Di Gregorio (FRA/AST) 0:28
22. Simon Gerrans (AUS/SKY) 0:28.