Kim Kirchen takes Flèche Wallonne win

Luxembourger too strong for Evans

Luxembourg's Kim Kirchen of the High Road team won the Fleche Wallonne classic race Wednesday, seeing off Australian Cadel Evans and Italian Damiano Cunego.

Kirchen, 29 and the first man from the Grand Duchy to win the event in this its 72nd edition, just edged out his rivals on the final climb after a punishing 199.5 kilometres race.

Robert Gesink of the Netherlands was fourth ahead of compatriot Thomas Dekker and Italy's Davide Rebellin, twice a winner.

A 20-strong group broke away at the midway point amid blustery conditions which made the going slippery. Over the final dozen kilometres Sweden's Gustav Larsson, then Germany's Fabian Wegmann, then Russia's Alexandre Efimkin hit the front only for Larsson to fall five kilometres from the line.

Wegmann tried to stave off the chasing pack on the final climb but Evans and company reined him in on a steep gradient of some 20 percent.

Kirchen chose his moment to nip in as the German's challenge fell away with Evans, Cunego, Dekker and Rebellin in hot pursuit. The Luxembourger, who turned pro in 2000 and whose uncle Jean was fifth in the 1948 Tour de France, was adding the classic to his win in the 2003 Paris-Brussels and the 2005 Tour of Poland.

"I did the same as last year, only that this time I was stronger," said Kirchen, beaten to the line 12 months ago by Italian Danilo Di Luca.

Evans said he was happy with his staying power despite just missing out. "This result proves I am in good condition and that my first part of the season is going very well."

For full results, report and photos, visit Cyclingnews.com.

© AFP 2008

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