Posted by Editoress on 04/17/02
Courtesy Team Saturn
Luperini Wins Flèche Wallonne for Second Consecutive Time on Dry Roads, Melchers Moves into the World Cup Jersey
The fifth edition of the Flèche Wallonne was held under cloudy skies today. Fortunately, the heavy clouds were only a warning of how bad the weather in Belgium at the spring classics can be and did not prove to turn into the dreaded cold, wind driven rain that typically accompanies the race.
The fourth of the Women's World Cup Series is considered one of the more challenging stops for most of the competitors. Held on a 93.5 kilometer circuit, the race begins and finishes on the infamous Mur de Huy, a narrow and extremely steep climb out of the city of Huy. The final ascent is a 2 kilometer climb that has sections of 19% grade in it, and tests even the best of climbers. With plenty of "cotes," or climbs, prior to the final leg ripper, the race has typically been won in a solo effort in the final kilometers.
The World Cup standings still had Saturn's Petra Rossner in the Rainbow Jersey with a 22 point lead over Dutchwoman, Mirjam Melchers. The field of 140 was one of the best yet assembled this year, with plenty of Italian, Belgium, French, and trade teams to mix things up.
Last year's race winner Fabiana Luperini's Edil Savino Team began the attacks early in the race, keen to break things up for their outstanding climber. A break of ten formed on the second to last climb before the Mur de Huy, but with an effort from the peloton, it was brought back to the fold. It was however, an indication of who was on form on the climbs, as the best of the climbers came to the fore including Luperini, Priska Doppmann, Nicole Brandali (Acca Due) and Saturn's Lyne Bessette clearly showing their strength.
On the final climb, Doppmann and Luperini raced away and gradually put time into what was left of the field. However, turning onto the last 800 meters of the climb, they were in site of Melchers, Bessette, and Britain's Caroline Alexander. On the steepest portion of the climb, Luperini was well clear of her chasers and had enough time to celebrate her worthy victory. Meanwhile back on the 19 percent grade, Bessette attacked and never looking back stayed clear for a second place victory. Doppmann crossed the line for third.
Back in the bunch, Rossner fought hard to minimize the damages, but Melchers had a strong ride, and although unofficial at this point, appeared to finish fifth and therefore moved into the World Cup Jersey by five points of Saturn's Rossner.
The fifth stop of the World Cup is on Sunday in Spain and should suit Rossner and her Saturn Team as they attempt to reclaim the rainbow jersey.
Flèche Wallonne Results:
1. Fabiana Luperini - Edil Savino
2. Lyne Bessette - Saturn Cycling Team
3. Priska Doppmann- Suisse National
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