Joaquim Rodriguez of Katusha, fresh off two stage wins in the tour of the Basque Country, added another victory to the list with a win up the super-steep Mur de Huy in the 2012 Flèche-Wallonne cycling race.
Rodriguez, nicknamed “Purito,” is a master of the short, extremely steep climbs, and the Mur de Huy is certainly that: 1.3 kilometers long, it has an average gradient of 9.3 and ramps up to 25 percent.
This year’s route took riders up the Huy; once early in the 194-km race, once 31 km from the end, and again for the uphill finish.
Rodriguez waited until the steepest section of the final climb, and attacked. Riders chased him, but none could catch him and he crossed the line pedaling comfortably with a four-second gap.
The victory meant all the more to the 32-year-old rider as he finished second here in 2010 and 2011.
“It’s the best and most incredible victory of my whole career,” Rodriguez said on the Katusha website. “Today is definitely one of the best days of my life. I’ve always been in love with these Classic races, and a victory in these competitions has always been one of my main goals: finally, after many good results, I managed to win. Obviously I have to thank my teammates: all of them did a great job from the beginning to the end.
“It’s true that Mur de Huy was a more suitable final part to my characteristics than Cauberg [the final climb in the Amstel Gold Classic], but I have to admit it was really hard. It looked like an easy victory, but I did a strong effort in order to defeat my rivals.
“Now I can get ready for Liege-Bastogne-Liege with high motivations. I don’t think this victory will change anything, I’m not the only forerunner, there are many strong riders with chances to win. Everything changed from the Amstel Gold Race to Fleche Wallonne and everything can change on Sunday too. So we have to pay a lot of attention and work at our best if we want to take this legendary double.”
Katusha All the Way
In a way, Katusha earned this win; the Russian team, along with Lotto-Belisol, drove the peloton all day long, and particularly at the end, trying to stifle breakaways.
The weather was miserable at the start, cleared for the middle kilometers, and rain came pelting down again shortly before the finish, the last showers were intense but brief; just enough to make sure every rider was thoroughly miserable and the roads dangerously slick for the finish.
After a few abortive attempts, two riders got away 55 km into the race: Dirk Bellemakers of Landbouwkrediet and Anthony Roux of FDJ opened a gap and eventually stretched it to seven minutes. 45 km later Sander Armee of Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator tried to bridge, but never made it, getting caught with 44 km to go.
A number of small…