When it comes to La Flèche Wallonne, there are no secrets to winning on the brutally steep Mur de Huy summit finish. Good positioning and good legs.
Although Mike Woods had both today, he couldn’t quite crack the podium and instead settled for fourth place after stellar teamwork set him up in the finale. Woodsy may have missed the podium, beaten on the day by Pogačar, Skjelmose, and Landa, but he takes confidence from what was his best result since 2021.
“I was really pleased with today. I gave it my all, and I had an exceptional lead out from Simon, and just really great teamwork all day. All the guys were great, so I can’t complain. Obviously it’s nicer to finish higher up the results sheet, but fourth is sill great for me. Especially after the tough season I had last year, this is the best result I’ve had since 2021. I’m just really pleased to be moving in the right direction, and to be back at the front of the race, and especially as I was at the front of the race, and I went for it, so I’m proud of that,” explained Woods.
The sun finally made an appearance in the Classics season today and as the flag dropped in Herve, the fight for the breakaway was well and truly on. When the eight-man breakaway went clear, it was Daryl Impey who flew the IPT flag in the group.
The peloton kept the group close, with the gap never extending to more than three minutes, and after the first ascent of the Mur de Huy, the peloton was already closing in.
“It was my role to get up the road if it was around eight riders. I was happy to have made the breakaway after a few attempts at the start. I knew the race had a chance to split around the 10 kilometer mark as the road narrowed so I took my chance there. It’s a shame they caught me on the steep part on the Cherave 1.5 laps to go as I would have liked to pass the climb in front and be able to help do the run in. I made it over but was near the back and it wasn’t possible after that,” said Impey.
Woods was well protected by his teammates all day and as the attacks started to play out on the second ascent of the Mur, Simon Clarke was quick to jump on the wheel. Ultimately, as is typical in Flèche Wallonne, the breakaway was caught before the foot of the final ascent, at which point Clarke hit the front with Woods in his wheel to deliver him in perfect position on the early slopes of the climb.
Woods hit the front of the climb and maintained his position as he reached 300 meters to go, at which point Pogačar surged past and extended a lead over the rest of the peloton. Digging deep, Woods battled to stay on the podium but just missed out, finishing three seconds behind.
Sports Director Sam Bewley praised the team performance today, a good sign ahead of Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday.
“I mean this race is tailor made for Woodsy, and we knew he could have a really good result today. Obviously when Pogačar is on the start line it’s hard to beat him, but the guys were awesome today. The depth and collective strength of our team really showed today, and we put Woods in a perfect position, and he did a really good climb,” said Bewley.
“The team had a plan, all the boys nailed their jobs, Woodsy had a great final and I enjoyed my last Flèche Wallonne and even though I couldn’t do what I wanted at the end, I’m still proud I went for it and animated the race,” added Impey.