De Marchi, who posted a career-best result at the first race in the series, Amstel Gold Race last Sunday, was the team’s chosen leader for the second test in the Ardennes Classics trilogy and he was able to hold his own amongst a select group of favorites on the steep final climb.
The Italian rider was able to use Rosskopf, who formed part of the day’s early breakaway, to his advantage in the final 25 kilometers of the race before making the final selection that went on to battle for the win, which went to Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – Quick-Step).
The five-rider leading group went clear after just ten kilometers, of the 195.5-kilometer course, which featured a total of 11 climbs, including three ascents of the iconic Mur de Huy.
With Rosskopf flying the CCC Team flag at the front of the race, the rest of the team was able to sit comfortably near the front of the main bunch as the gap went out to five minutes 45 seconds in the opening 30 kilometers.
A reaction at the front of the peloton, which looked like it could force echelons to form, saw the gap start to fall before it settled at around the four to five-minute mark going over the day’s first two climbs, the Côte de Tancrémont, and the Côte des Forges.
When Rosskopf and his fellow leaders entered the finishing circuit, which included the Côte d’Ereffe, the Côte de Cherave, and the 1.3-kilometer long final climb, the gap was down to three minutes 40 seconds and it continued to fall as the pressure behind mounted.
As the bell rang to mark the start of the final 29-kilometer lap, Rosskopf was the last man standing from the early breakaway and looked strong as he pushed hard at the front of the race before being caught by a 25-rider chasing group, including De Marchi.
Rosskopf was able to provide the late support that the team was looking for and as the group swelled in numbers the CCC Team duo was joined by another teammate, Serge Pauwels.
De Marchi hit the foot of the final ascent of the ‘Wall’, which topped out at a gradient of 19 percent, alongside the pre-race favorites and despite sitting in around 30th position heading into the town of Huy, he was able to dig deep and ride his own tempo up through the field to finish just outside the top twenty in 21st place.
The Ardennes Classics will draw to a close on Sunday (28 April) with Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
Quotes From the Finish Line:
“I was feeling really good. Firstly, I was just happy to be in the breakaway. It was windy all day so it took a bit of good positioning to get into the breakaway, but we had a lot of guys trying so we were all helping each other at the front in the beginning. I’m happy that we could stay away until the last lap of the finishing circuit. If I had been caught 500 meters earlier on the steep part of the Mur de Huy, then it probably would have been a waste as they would have gone straight past me. So, I think it was important to make it over the steep part and then it’s easier to sit in once you’re at the top.”
“It’s always nice for the team to have someone at the front of the race. If you’re not going for the win, then it’s the next best thing to have a little bit left to contribute when you get back to the bunch. I’m happy with my form and how the race went today.”
Alessandro De Marchi:
“It was another day where I was feeling good and raced well at the end, but again, I missed that extra something to finish off the day with a result. It is a bittersweet moment and I am split fifty-fifty about how I feel after the race.”
“On the one hand, I am happy because I showed once again that my shape is good and I am definitely starting to understand these kinds of races and understand how to play the game. I feel good about this. But, on the other hand, I saw, maybe as I expected, that the final of today’s race was maybe too fast and too explosive for me. I miss this kind of effort.”
“I decided to not to try to anticipate anything when the small groups of riders were going off the front and instead I waited in the bunch until the second ascent of the Mur de Huy. There was a big split at this moment and I decided to go as it was a good move and one that could have been decisive because some of the favorites missed it. But, in the end, it didn’t work out and those riders who missed out made it back. It then came down to the last climb and I think I miss some speed on this kind of climb.”
“However, I am confident about my feelings and with Liège coming up in the next few days, I feel good and I am looking forward to it with a lot of confidence. The guys were all really good today and they helped me a lot. Černý and Owsian did a super job in the first half of the day for me and with Joey out in front, it was a great situation for his. He did a really great job too and the whole team was working really well together which was nice to see.”
La Flèche Wallonne
One-day race: Ans > Mur de Huy (195.5.km)
Top 3: 1. Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) 2. Jakub Fuglsang (Astana Pro Team) 3. Diego Ulissi (UAE-Team Emirates)
CCC Team Top 3: 21. Alessandro De Marchi 34. Serge Pauwels 41. Joey Rosskopf