The Ardennes Classics continue with the mid-week march up the Mur de Huy Alaphilippe the man to beat in a race he is master of
Look, there’s no denying the spectacle of the Mur de Huy, and we’re as gripped by the tense climactic sprint up it as any cycling fan.
But it’s also true that the iconic climb and its famously steep gradients make Flèche Wallonne the most predictable race on the calendar. Ending a race on the top of such a difficult climb means any attacks prior to it are almost certainly doomed to fail, as the best tactic is virtually always to hold back as much energy as possible to unleash in the final sprint.
The race therefore follows a formulaic pattern, always ending with a big group sprint, and consequently usually produces the same winner — ie, whichever rider has the quickest uphill sprint at that time. Between 2014-2017 that rider was Alejandro Valverde, who won a record-breaking four on the trot, and since 2018 the mantle has passed to Julian Alaphilippe, who remains unbeaten in that time (Marc Hirschi’s victory in 2020 came when the Frenchman skipped the race).
So is Alaphilippe a sure bet once again? His uphill punch is certainly undiminished, and the Mur de Huy is his climb — on the only two occasions he hasn’t won here, he finished a close second instead. His form also seems to be there too, having won a stage and registered two second-place finishes at the Tour […]