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Before this season Alejandro Valverde set himself two objectives: to do well in the Tour de France and win a spring Classic. On Wednesday he fulfilled one of those goals when he proved the fastest the final time up the Mur in Huy to take the Flche Wallonne laurels ahead of Samuel Sanchez and Karsten Kroon, writes Susanne Horsdal.
"I was a long way behind when we went onto the Mur, but I easily moved up, and when I saw Sanchez and Kroon come back, that's when I made my final attack," said a thrilled Valverde.
"I had a perfect race, I felt really well throughout the day, and I remembered the Mur from last year. But at this time last year my form had already peaked, so this season I changed my intensity in training leading up to this week, because I wanted to win one of these three races (Amstel, Flche and Lige-Bastogne-Lige)," explained the Caisse d'Epargne rider, who also put this win down to a change in mentality.
"My team manager, Eusebio Unzue, convinced me that if I could make it to the podium in two world championships (second in 2003 and 2005) I could also win a Classic," explained Valverde.
Asked which victory was bigger, today's or his stage at Courchevel in the Tour de France last year when he beat Lance Armstrong, Valverde couldn't decide. "They both mean a lot to me, but they're different races and they give me a different feeling," said Valverde, who hopes to be able to repeat his performance in Sunday's Lige-Bastogne-Lige.
As does last Sunday's Amstel victor, Frank Schleck, who finished fourth in Flche behind CSC team-mate Kroon. "I'm really happy I could help Karsten today, because he helped me so much in Amstel. Even though I didn't have good legs in the first 120k's today, I felt better as we went along and my objective is to win on Sunday," said Schleck with a twinkle in his eye.
For CSC team leader Ivan Basso, Flche was his first appearance in this year's Classics, but today he took on the role of domestique, something Kroon benefited from. "It was really team work. Voigt, Sastre and Basso worked for Frank and me, and despite being very tired on Monday and Tuesday I felt good today, so I'm confident ahead of Lige," said Kroon after his first podium finish in a Classic.
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