HUY, Belgium (VN) — Ryder Hesjedal and Lars-Petter Nordhaug played the odds today in the Flèche Wallonne, attacking long and trying to stay clear up the Mur de Huy. The idea was to ease the pressure off their teammates, but they also fancied their chances.
“It’s a tough one,” Hesjedal told VeloNews. “I’ve watched this race a lot; you see someone with 30 seconds come back with the speed that they [the group] comes up. With that said, I still made it to the steepest part in front of the group, even starting with only 12 seconds.”
The pair reached the base of Huy’s 1.3km ramp ahead of the group of favorites. Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda) took control, climbing out of his saddle, then seated, trying to find a way to make the climb’s grade hurt less.
Nordhaug (Sky) stayed behind. The Norwegian was among the riders to crash in the Amstel Gold Race finale on the Cauberg and suffered Wednesday with his injuries.
“I tried not to go full gas at the bottom and save something,” Nordhaug told VeloNews. “When they came, it was too fast for me.”
“Lars-Petter’s still struggling after Amstel,” Sky’s sports director, Marcus Ljungqvist told VeloNews. “He can hardly get out of the saddle and stand up on the pedals to push, that’s his problem.”
Nordhaug edged ahead of Hesjedal with around 600 meters left, but couldn’t break free and had the group breathing down his neck. Eventual winner Joaquím Rodríguez (Katusha) prepared to launch from behind.
Hesjedal crawled past his companion enough to get a front-row view of the Rodríguez missile launch. He kept pushing to the line for 21st, 18 seconds behind the winner. Nordhaug crossed a minute and two seconds behind. After the line, they complimented each other on their effort.
The move was born eight kilometers out, just after the penultimate Villers-le-Bouillet climb. Nordhaug explained that they faced strong headwinds, not to mention on/off rain showers in cold temperatures. Hesjedal looked as if he had finished a mountain bike race after crossing the line.
“I felt good, so I figure I’d take my chance,” said Hesjedal. “I was actually surprised I felt really good.”
His big dream is to win the Liège-Bastogne-Liège classic on Sunday and next month, the Giro d’Italia.
“I just want to come out of these are Ardennes better than when I came in, to fine tune things in [Tour de] Romandie with some stage racing. Today was a good sign for Liège, Romandie and the Giro.”