La Flèche Wallonne Femmes: a throne up for grabs

Olympic Champion Anne van der Breggen wins the Fleche the 4th time in a row!
Photo by Plomi

Key points:
 Edition 25 of the Flèche Wallonne Femmes, on Wednesday, 20th April, will, for the first time, feature three climbs of the Mur de Huy.
 The retirement of seven-time title holder Anna van der Breggen has whetted appetites. But the Dutch are still the favourites, with the duo Demi Vollering and Annemiek van Vleuten.
 Four days later, on Sunday, 24th April, the best female punchers in the world will gather at Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes, a Doyenne that the legendary Marianne Vos wants to win at last.

A new era of the Flèche Wallonne Femmes will begin on Wednesday, 20th April. After seven consecutive victories, the legendary Anna van der Breggen ended her career this winter and left her throne at the top of the Mur de Huy vacant. The race to succeed her looks wide open, but the Dutch riders, winners of 12 of the last 15 editions, are still holding the line despite the retirement of the two-time world champion. Second in 2015 and 2019, the nearly forty-year-old Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar Team Women) would like nothing more than to win one of the few races that she still has not won in her career. And Demi Vollering, 14 years younger than her and the climbing star of Dutch cycling, has all the talent necessary to be the new queen of the „Mur“, which for the first time will be climbed three times on a course of 133.4 kilometres. 5th in 2019, 3rd in 2020, she finished 10th last year as she worked for Van der Breggen. Van der Breggen, who is now a sports director, advises her from the SD Worx team car, which will be worth its weight in gold on Wednesday.

Of course, not everything revolves around the Dutch clan. Italy’s Marta Cavalli has provided brilliant proof of this in their backyard on the Amstel Gold Race, offering FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope the most prestigious triumph in its history. The French team wants to keep the momentum going with Danish rider Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, who contracted Covid just before the Amstel, but her profile as a puncher ideally suits the Mur de Huy (2nd in 2020). Respectively 2nd and 3rd last year, Polish rider Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Canyon//Sram Racing) and Italian champion Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) also have lofty ambitions.

All the contenders will meet again four days later, on Sunday, 24th April, for the 6th edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes, with seven climbs spread over 142,1 kilometres, including La Redoute and La Roche-aux-Faucons. Amstel Gold Racerunner-up, Demi Vollering, is the favourite to repeat and will lead a strong Team SD Worx. If she wins for the second time in a row, she will equal Anna van der Breggen, who won in 2017 and 2018. Marianne Vos (Team Jumbo-Visma) will want to mark the best climbers to then defeat the peloton in the sprint on the Quai des Ardennes. She has never won Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes (4th in 2020, 6th in 2021). One of the very few titles absent from her resume.

24 teams, the leading riders

Team BikeExchange-Jayco: Amanda Spratt (Aus)

Bingoal Casino-Chevalmeire-Van Eyck Sport: Denise Betsema (Ned)
Lotto Soudal Ladies: Mieke Docx (Bel)
Plantur-Pura: Yara Kastelijn (Ned)

Arkea Pro Cycling Team: Morgane Coston (Fra)
Cofidis Women Team: Rachel Neylan (Aus)
FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope: Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Den), Marta Cavalli (Ita), Evita Muzic (Fra)

Canyon//Sram Racing: Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Pol), Elise Chabbey (Che)

Great Britain
Le Col Wahoo: Elizabeth Holden (Gbr), Eider Merino (Spa)

Valcar-Travel & Service: Olivia Baril (Can), Elena Pirrone (Ita)
Bepink: Silvia Zanardi (Ita)

Andy Schleck-CP NVST-Immo Losch: Claire Faber (Lux)

Uno-X Pro Cycling Team: Hannah Barnes (Gbr)

Movistar Team Women: Annemiek van Vleuten (Ned), Arlenis Sierra (Cub)

Roland Cogeas Edelweiss Squad: Tamara Dronova

The Netherlands
Liv Racing Xstra: Sabrina Stultiens (Ned)
Parkhotel Valkenburg: Femke Gerritse (Ned)
Team DSM: Juliette Labous (Fra)
Team Jumbo-Visma: Anouska Koster (Ned)
Team SD Worx: Demi Vollering (Ned), Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Rsa), Blanka Vas (Hun)

United Arab Emirates
UAE Team ADQ: Mavi Garcia (Spa), Sofia Bertizzolo (Ita)

United States
EF Education-Tibco-SVB: Veronica Ewers (Usa)
Human Powered Health: Nina Buijsman (Ned)
Trek-Segafredo: Elisa Longo-Borghini (Ita), Lucinda Brand (Ned)