Joaquim Rodriguez triumphs in “Fleche-Wallone”, the second of the so-called “Ardennes Classics”: after two second places in a row in 2010 and 2011, ´Purito´ had finally no rivals in the final uphill, Mur de Huy, a climbing with several sections steeper than 15%. Katusha Team was active during all the route, a difficult job because of the wet and windy conditions: first, the Russian Team kept under control the daily breakaway, a two-man escape that reached a highest gap of 7’ over the main group; second, neutralized several attacks from some dangerous rivals. For instance Andy Schleck (Radioshack-Nissan), launched by his teammate Laurent Didier, tried his luck with 40 kilometers to go: but he was followed by Yuriy Trofimov, and his blitz was over a few kilometers later. With 9 kilometers to go, right after Cote de Villers-le-Bouillet, Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda) and Petter Nordhaug (Sky) left the group: the duo kept around 10’’ over the chasing group until the beginning of Mur de Huy, where their action was again neutralized by the work of Katusha, still with four riders ahead. And in the final climbing Rodriguez managed to make the difference, as he can always do when the road gets steep: his rush had no rivals, and the Spanish rider took a cozy solo win ahead of Michael Albasini (GreenEdge) and the last year’s winner Philippe Gilbert (BMC), both 4’’ far from the leader of Katusha Team. Thanks to this performance, Katusha Team is now second in UCI World Tour Team Rankings behind Omega Pharma-Quick Step, with 502 points; while Rodriguez is third in UCI World Tour Individual Rankings, with 222 points.
“It’s the best and most incredible victory of my whole career – said ‘Purito’ – today is definitely one of the best days of my life. I’ve always been in love with these Classic races, and a victory in these competitions has always been one of my main goals: finally, after many good results, I managed to win. Obviously I have to thank my teammates: all of them did a great job from the beginning to the end. And, most of all, thanks to the whole staff of Katusha, the Russian Cycling Global Project. It’s true that Mur de Huy was a more suitable final part to my characteristics than Cauberg, but I have to admit it was really hard: it looked like an easy victory, but I did a strong effort in order to defeat my rivals. Now I can get ready for ‘Liege-Bastogne-Liege’ with high motivations: I don’t think this victory will change anything, I’m not the only forerunner, there are many strong riders with chances to win. Everything changed from ‘Amstel Gold Race’ to ‘Fleche Wallonne’: everything can change on Sunday too. So we have to pay a lot of attention and work at our best if we want to take this legendary double”.