Italian veteran Davide Rebellin, of the Serramenti team, joined an elite club of triple winners when he won the Fleche Wallonne one-day classic for the third time in Huy on Wednesday.
Rebellin, who previously won in 2007 and 2004, played a smart waiting game on the notoriously steep 'Mur de Huy' climb before overtaking Luxembourg's Andy Schleck then Australian Cadel Evans in the final 200 metres on his way to triumph.
The 37-year-old Italian promptly pointed to his head as he crossed the finish line of the hilly 195.5km race, his gesture appearing to underline the old cycling adage that you need the head as well as the legs to be successful.
It means Rebellin becomes only the fourth rider in the race's 73-year history to win it three times, after Belgian pair Eddy Merckx and Marcel Kint and Italian Moreno Argentin.
In his wake Schleck, of the Saxo Bank team, came in second place while Damiano Cunego of Lampre took third place for the second consecutive year. Evans had been hoping to go one better than his runner-up place to Luxembourg's Kim Kirchen last year but the Australian's efforts driving the pack on the final, steepest sections of the climb appeared to take their toll.
After his efforts had allowed Schleck and Rebellin to sit on his wheel, the Silence-Lotto rider eventually slipped to fifth place, one behind Olympic road race champion Samuel Sanchez of Spain.
For much of the day the peloton pursued solo breakaway rider Christophe Moreau, who had escaped early on and went on to build a lead of over six minutes, at a comfortable pace. Whether or not the veteran Frenchman's pride had been piqued by the lack of any French winner in the race since Laurent Jalabert in 1997, his bid was soon doomed as the peloton chased him down in the closing 50km.
Moreau, of the Agritubel team, was caught with 23km to go and from there a series of attacks and counter-attacks came and went in the lead-up to the Mur de Huy which often decides the winner.
One of those attacks was by Rebellin's Columbian teammate, Jose Serpa. Although futile, it gave Rebellin's team an option and gave the Italian the luxury of sitting on the wheels of those anxious enough to give chase.
At the foot of the third and final climb to the summit of the Mur de Huy the peloton and all the favourites were all together, only for another Frenchman from Agritubel, David Lelay, to shake things up. However, his attack, with nearly 1km of climbing to go, was more than audacious and moments later a rapidly tiring Lelay was overtaken by those wise enough to know the toll that can be paid on the 'Mur'.
© AFP 2009
Marianne Vos rules Mur de Huy
By Gregor Brown, Cyclingnews.com
Marianne Vos won the women's Flèche Wallonne with a hard fight over Emma Johansson (Red Sun) and Claudia Häusler (Cervélo TestTeam) Wednesday in Huy, Belgium. The Dutchwoman of team DSB Bank topped the 1300-metre long Mur de Huy climb at the end of the 98-kilometre race. It was her third straight win in La Flèche Wallonne.
|1 Davide Rebellin (Ita|Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli)||4:42:15|
|2 Andy Schleck (Lux|Team Saxo Bank)||0:00:02|
|3 Damiano Cunego (Ita|Lampre - N.G.C.)|
|4 Samuel Sanchez (Spa|Euskaltel - Euskadi)||0:00:07|
|5 Cadel Evans (Aus|Silence-Lotto)|
|6 Thomas Lövkvist (Swe|Team Columbia - Highroad)|
|7 Alejandro Valverde (Spa|Caisse d'Epargne)||0:00:11|
|8 Simon Gerrans (Aus|Cervelo Test Team)|
|9 Michael Albasini (Swi|Team Columbia - Highroad)|
|10 Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita|AG2R La Mondiale)||0:00:15|
|1 Marianne Vos (Ned|DSB Bank - LTO)||2:35:40|
|2 Emma Johansson (Swe|Red Sun Cycling Team)||0:00:06|
|3 Claudia Häusler (Ger|Cervelo TestTeam)||0:00:10|
|4 Amber Neben (USA|Equipe Nürnberger Versicherung)||0:00:15|
|5 Noemi Cantele (Ita|Bigla Cycling Team)||0:00:20|
|6 Nicole Cooke WAL Vision 1 Racing||0:00:21|
|7 Mara Abbott (USA|Team Columbia Highroad Women)||0:00:22|
|8 Christiane Soeder (Aut|Cervelo TestTeam)||0:00:28|
|9 Loes Gunnewijk (Ned|Team Flexpoint)||0:00:31|
|10 Marta Vila Josana Andreu (Spa|Team Cmax Dila')||0:00:33|