Photos: Yuzuru Sunada
Tomorrow is the 78th running of La Flechè Wallonne. The Belgians own this race with 38 victories since its inception in 1936. The string of victories is impressive for Belgium as they won every race from 1936-1947 (the race did not run in 1940). Then the streak was broken up by the likes of Coppi and Ferdi Kubler, but then picked up again with successive victories from 1953-1962. Again the streak was broken up again, this time by Raymond Poulidor in 1963 and a couple of Italians in 1965 and 1966, but it picked back up again with Eddy Merckx taking one of his 3 victories in 1967 (the other 2 took place in 1970 and 1972). Dutchman Joop Zootemelk snapped the Belgian stronghold from 1967-1975 with victory in 1976. Belgium then experienced a bit of a “drought” from 1977 to 2001 with just 3 victories in that span. In fact, the Italians dominated the race from 1990-1994, winning every edition. Belgium picked back up with two straight in 2001-2002, but then dropped off from 2003-2010. Philippe Gilbert restored Belgian victory with one in 2011 and despite Katusha dominating the race the past two editions (Purito in 2012 and Daniel Moreno last year), it looks as if Gilbert is peaking at the right time and is clearly the favorite. It ultimately comes down to who has the firepower to go when they hit the treacherous Mur de Huy (26% in one section!).
Last kilometers of the 2013 edition.