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Wednesday, 18 April, 2001, 16:30 GMT 17:30 UK
Belgium's Fleche at last
Rik Verbrugghe (left) and Ivan Basso
Verbrugghe lads Basso shortly before his crucial attack
  • Results
    Rik Verbrugghe ended 12 years without a home win at one of Belgium's major Classics, the Fleche Wallonne.

    The local favourite, from the French-speaking Wallonia area of Belgium where the historic race takes place, dominated the 198km event on Wednesday.

    He became the first home winner since his own current Lotto team boss Claude Criquiélion took the honours in 1989.

    Verbrugghe produced an incredible attack on the final climb to the finish, the legendary Mur de Huy.

    The crowd here was really fantastic
      Local hero Verbrugghe

    His three breakaway companions had no answer to a powerful surge up the savage 20% (one-in-five) hill.

    Fass Bortolo rider Ivan Basso of Italy was five seconds adrift in second.

    ONCE's German rider Joerg Jaksche finished third and Spain's Cesar Solaun, of, was fourth.

    The quartet arrived at the bottom of the 0.5km climb together but were rapidly scattered by Verbrugghe's powerful attack.

    "The last 500 metres were the hardest but the crowd was there to support me and by that time I knew I had won," Verbrugghe said afterwards.

    Shot of cyclists climbing the Mur
    The 20% slope of the Mur de Huy

    The winner was given enthusiastic support as he made the crucial move, one year after he finished second in the race.

    Spain's David Etxebarria held off the remaining riders to grab fifth place ahead of Italian world number one Francesco Casagrande, winner here in 2000.

    Verbrugghe had attacked to join Basso, Jaksche and Solaun, the remnants of an early break some 30km from the finish.

    The 26-year-old already has a major win to his name this season, after taking the Criterium International in France at the start of the month.

    "I had nothing to lose here, my season was already successful.

    "It could only improve today so I did not need to panic," said Verbrugghe, a podium finisher in last year's Fleche.

    Liege on Sunday

    Fleche-Wallonne, from Charleroi to Huy, is not part of the World Cup series but it is arguably the top one-day event outside the main weekend-only series.

    Its international status is reflected with the lack of a home winner since Criquielion's second success. He also won in 1985.

    The next big Classic is Sunday's Liege-Bastogne-Liege race, the fourth round of the World Cup.

    After Fleche, it forms a second part of the "Ardennes Weekend", a term which harks back to the days when Fleche was run on the Saturday.

    The longer gap now offers more recovery time, but often a rider that has done well in Fleche cannot maintain his form for Liege four days later.


    1. Rik Verbrugghe (Bel) Lotto 4 hours, 50 minutes, 3 seconds (40.958 km/h)
    2. Ivan Basso (Ita) Fassa Bortolo five seconds behind
    3. Jörg Jaksche (Ger) ONCE 12 seconds
    4. Cesar Solaun Solana (Esp) 20
    5. David Etxebarria Alkorta (Esp) Euskatel
    6. Francesco Casagrande (Ita) Fassa Bortolo
    7. Dario Frigo (Ita) Fassa Bortolo
    8. Davide Rebellin (Ita) Liquigas
    9. Michael Boogerd (Ned) Rabobank
    10. Peter Luttenberger (Aut) Tacconi, all same time
    11. Michele Bartoli (Ita) Mapei 27 seconds
    12. Raimondas Rumsas (Ltu) Fassa Bortolo
    13. Francisco Mancebo Perez (Esp)
    14. Marcos A. Serrano Rodriguez (Esp) ONCE
    15. Oscar Camenzind (Sui) Lampre
    16. Mario Aerts (Bel) Lotto
    17. Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Saeco, all same time
    18. Angel Castresana Del Val (Esp) Euskatel 0.37
    19. Axel Merckx (Bel) Domo
    20. Paolo Bettini (Ita) Mapei, both same time

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