Michael Albasini continued his run of extraordinary form with a second place finish at La Flèche Wallonne. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) took the win atop the Mur de Huy after finishing second in two previous editions. Albasini, with third-place finisher Philippe Gilbert (BMC) on his wheel, held off a large chase group that had swallowed a two-rider break at the race's end.
Michael Albasini climbs the mur of Huy. Photo: ©Graham Watson
"Today was a really great result for myself and the team," said Albasini. "The guys placed me perfectly at every part of the race and made it possible for me to conserve my energy in the last part of the final climb."
Wet, windy weather tormented the field over the 194 kilometer Ardennes Classic. An early crash split the peloton in two after an early break of two riders went up the road. The chase group eventually rejoined the front group and a second two-rider break formed before the bunch hit the Mur de Huy the first of three times.
The two rider break of Dirk Bellemakers (Landbouwkrediet) and Anthony Roux (FDJ-Big Mat) built up a maximum advantage of eight minutes before Katusha and Lotto-Belisol combined efforts to bring them back. The duo maintained a slim advantage over the bunch the second time up the Mur.
The main group caught the break 30 kilometers from the finish and several other pairs of riders attempted to break clear. Hail began to fall in the closing kilometers and a dangerous two-rider move of Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda) and Lars Nordhaug (Sky Procycling) formed ahead of the third and final ascent of the Mur de Huy.
Rodriguez jumped successfully from the chase group that overtook Hesjedal and Nordhaug one kilometer from the top of the climb.
Michael Albasini finishes 2nd at Flèche Wallone 2012, Photo: ©Graham Watson
"I really want to thank the entire team for once again believing in me and making it possible to get this result," said Albasini. "It was the strongest guy who won today, but I still managed to get my first podium finish in a Spring Classic - and I'm thrilled with that."