PREVIEW | Flèche Wallonne 2024 - Can Tom Pidcock win his second Ardennes classic at the Mur de Huy?

On the 17th of April comes the second of the Ardennes classics. This is the Fleche Wallonne, the Belgian classic most known for it's spectacular and incredibly finale up the Mur de Huy. We preview the race ahead.

198 kilometers and 2700 meters of climbing. That is the data you’ve got for this race, it is one that doesn’t feature any long ascent however it does feature a lot of rolling roads throughout the entire route. It's a classic that suits the pure puncheurs and also some climbers, a race which is frequently quite controlled and sees a sprint finish up the very steep ramps of the final climb. The race starts west of Huy this year in Charleroi, and has slightly less climbing meters despite the longer distance.

profile flechewallone2024
Charleroi - Mur de Huy, 198 kilometers

This however has proven to be over the year a race which is only decided in the final climb, hence most favourites will just ride as conservatively as possibly until that point whilst their teams to the work to control the race. The race is decided on a circuit, in which the riders will ride 4 laps of with 31.5 kilometers in distance.

The Côte de Cherave has been removed this year, and so we have the traditional final circuit back featuring only two climbs. They are significantly different, but even the presence of one more lap. In each lap we've got the Côte d'Ereffe, summiting with 13 kilometers to go, having 2.2 kilometers at 5.4%. A small hilltop follows, but then the very fast and furious run-in to the Mur de Huy begins and that is where the race will be decided.

A grind, an ascent that gets steeper all the way up. It’s a pure anaerobic effort, and is ideal for the lightweight puncheurs and climbers. The ascent is 1.2 kilometers long at 10.3% and gets steeper and steeper towards the finish line. It's an effort that is gradually upped all the way. The fight into the bottom of the climb is every year very intense, and once there it's usually a lead up into the spring. The final 300 meters are very steep and so riders frequently try slightly earlier, but a long-range attack is unlikely to succeed.

PREVIEW | Flèche Wallonne 2024 - Can Tom Pidcock win his second Ardennes classic at the Mur de Huy?

The Weather

map flechewallone2024
Map Flèche Wallone 2024

No wind present on the day, however we've got some rain. Earlier in the night and morning there will be some rain which will make the roads more treacherous. However, this is a race that doesn't have many descents or tricky roads, it won't make too much difference.

The Favourites

UAE - A very strong team with a lot of depth. Juan Ayuso and Brandon McNulty are not perfectly fitted to this race but should enjoy more the favourite status, together with João Almeida who shouldn't be a fan of explosive racing but can surprise if he finds his best form. The team will more likely prioritize it's puncheurs as former winner Marc Hirschi showed good form at Amstel and rode to second place; Finn Fisher-Black who hasn't shown his best form recently but definitely packs a strong punch; and Diego Ulissi who sacrificed himself for Adam Yates at the Giro d'Abruzzo but was actually the strongest in the queen stage. A rider who's performed here in the past, he definitely enjoys the short and steep climbs.

Tom Pidcock - Pidcock took a much needed victory at Amstel Gold Race, which will certainly boost him. The Briton is not consistent, so I do not rate him as high as other favourites for the day... But in his best day he can certainly win. A very steep yet short climb, it almost fits him like a glove, and in the lead of INEOS Grenadiers he can count on an experienced lineup who can take him to the base in a good position.

Israel - Such a strong team for a non-World Tour outfit. Even missing Michael Woods who loves Huy, the team brings in several strong contenders for a result. Dylan Teuns is in brilliant form following his results in Flanders and Brabantse Pijl and is one of the past winners of this race. Stephen Williams will be another lover of such an effort, he showed several times this season alreay that he can ride for the win even among the very best classics riders in the world. Jakob Fuglsang should be on a supportive role but he has a history in this race, whilst George Bennett is also an interesting card following a very strong return to good form in Abbruzo.

Santiago Buitrago - Not a strong team in comparison to others, but with two strong headliners. Pello Bilbao will be an outsider and contender for Top10, but the team should focus on Santiago Buitrago who raced quite well in the Ardennes last year; and this spring has already proven to perform very well in this exact type of climb too.

Aleksandr Vlasov - No Martínez, Schachmann or Roglic... This is not a race where depth helps honestly, but the German team absolutely do come without less weapons then what they hoped for. Still, Russian climber Aleksandr Vlasov leads the team and he is a dangerous rider. At Paris-Nice he looked brilliant and he's the kind of rider who can perform in this terrain too. He raced only once here, in 2022, and finished third. A good history, and he could well do the same this time around.

Mattias Skjelmose - The team has Andrea Bagioli, Bauke Mollema and Toms Skujins who can be used if the race explodes earlier, but Skjelmose will be released only in the final ascent. The Dane was second to Tadej Pogacar - who is absent - last year. By the logic, if he has the same legs, he can win. The truth is that yes, the Lidl-Trek leader is absolutely a victory contender, having shown great form at Itzulia Basque Country and being a rider who thrives in these types of climbs.

Benoît Cosnefroy - Second in 2020, Cosnefroy is another rider like Tom Pidcock who can win on his best day, but absence from the front is also not unexpected. Amstel suits him better, but he finished 16th... He won Brabantse Pijl and so the form is certainly there, he can very well be in the fight for a top result. Paul Lapeira is a also a card for the Decathlon team.

Davis Gaudu - Winner of the Tour du Jura this weekend, it will be a good sign ahead of Fleche which suits him very well. The lightweight Frenchman can definitely surprise into a win; whilst Groupama also have the presence of Valentin Madouas, Rémy Rochas, Romain Grégoire and Quentin Pacher who can fight for a top result.

Tiesj Benoot - Benoot does not have the explosivity to win a race such as Amstel and Liège, but the same does not apply to Flèche Wallonne which just about has the steepest finale in the World Tour. Benoot is in great form and he is a very consistent classics rider. In great form following a podium spot in Amstel, he will definitely be a danger man in the gruelling drag to the line here.

But the list of contenders does not end there. In fact, I argue there are a few podium contenders even outside of all the names previously mentioned. Maxim van Gils is certainly one of them if he has the legs he showed throughout much of the classics campaign. Soudal - Quick-Step also have fourth at Amstel Mauri Vansevenant and Ilan van Wilder who is a quality rider for days of racing such as this.

Arkea has Kévin Vauquelin and Clément Champoussin; Astana has Christian Scaroni, Samuele Battistella and Simone Velasco; EF have Ben Healy and Richard Carapaz... Whilst some teams should focus more on one specific option such as Quentin Hermans, Guillaume Martin, Alex Aranburu and Michael Matthews.

Prediction Flèche Wallone 2024:

*** Mattias Skjelmose, Dylan Teuns, Santiago Buitrago
** Tom Pidcock, Tiesj Benoot, Stephen Williams, David Gaudu
* Maxim van Gils, Aleksandr Vlasov, Marc Hirschi, Michael Matthews, Benoît Cosnefroy, Pello Bilbao, Ilan van Wilder, Mauri Vansevenant, Diego Ulissi, Kévin Vauquelin, Toms Skujins

Pick: Mattias Skjelmose

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