(Reuters) - Spain’s Alejandro Valverde became the first man to win the Fleche Wallonne classic four times when he lived up to expectations in Wednesday’s 196-km one-day race.
The Movistar rider perfectly timed his attacks in the final ascent in the Mur de Huy, a 1.3-km climb at an average gradient of 9.8 percent, to add to his 2006, 2014 and 2015 titles.
Fellow Spaniard Joaquim Rodriguez was the first to attack in the Mur de Huy but Valverde was alert and went with him before counter attacking Dan Martin and sprinting to victory.
France’s Julian Alaphilippe matched his performance of last year by again finishing second with Ireland’s Martin, his Etixx-Quick Step team mate, coming home in third place.
“I had very good feelings, I knew I could win but I was nervous nonetheless,” said Valverde, who matched Belgian Marcel Kint in winning the race three times in a row.
The Spaniard, whose main target this year is next month’s Giro d’Italia, will be the hot favorite to win Liege-Bastogne-Liege, the season’s penultimate Monument classic, on Sunday.
Writing by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ken Ferris