Alena Amialiusik finished 6th in today's La Flèche Wallonne in Huy, Belgium. Amialiusik, who went into the race battling illness, made the elite selection on the penultimate climb as a result of great teamwork from CANYON//SRAM Racing but was unable to hold the pace of Anna van der Breggen (RLT) on the final Mur de Huy. Last year's winner van der Breggen would go on to win her second La Flèche Wallonne in as many years, while Evelyn Stevens (DLT) and Megan Guarnier (DLT) finished second and third.
An early break formed in the Women's WorldTour race that was only caught back by the work of RaboLiv on the second lap. Working strongly on the flat sections and pacing the climbs, the dutch team reduced the gap to the early break. The next pre-selection was made on the Côte de Bohissau, after which a barrage of attacks attempted to split the peloton further.
Tiffany Cromwell attacked on the top of the Côte de Solières, followed quickly by a counter attack from Carmen Small (CBT). But it was RaboLiv again who kept the pace high preventing any further dangerous moves in the final 30km. Van der Breggen paced the final Mur de Huy ahead of Stevens and sprinted to an impressive victory in front of a massive crowd.
Alena Amialiusik: The race was good and I really like having the extra small lap and the new climb to this year's course. The team work also was good today. We were all together at the front and we were present in every attack. We were not talking a lot between each other but we understood without words what we have to do.
I was not feeling good these last two days, I had the flu and this morning I also wasn't feeling so good. I didn't know how I would go but I knew I would try my best. On the second last climb, Tiffany did really a great job for me. She did an amazing lead out to take me into the climb in the best position at the front.
I am pleased for Hannah who is back to racing, (I think she looks strong) and I'm happy with my result today. Now I will have some days to take care and recover. Big thanks to our physiotherapists who in the last two days did everything to make me feel better.
Tiffany Cromwell: It was better than I expected. To be honest I wasn't sure how I would go today. I knew it would be either really good or really bad. I wasn't feeling great coming off racing in Spain last week. On the first lap I didn't feel like I had a lot of power in my legs. But on the second lap I came good, I made the split on the Côte de Bohissau, and then I was like okay let's see what I can do now to help the girls. I tried a couple of attacks but didn't really get away. So then I drove it to the penultimate climb to set it up for Alena to put her into the best position possible. And that for me was the finish line of my race.
The crowd on the Mur is always nice. It's one of those races where you have such good atmosphere that you kind of forget how hard the climb is. I was trying to hear on the speakers how Alena was going but you couldn't really hear that over the crowd. It's a beautiful race for the atmosphere.
I think for how the team performed it was certainly positive. Alena always wants more, it's one of her favourite races, but she came in a little bit sick, so to get 6th is a really great result for her and I hope she's not too disappointed. Obviously everyone is going quite well because we did have almost everyone there in the front group when the first selection was made. Of course Hannah is just back from injury so it was always going to be a tough race for her, but her time will come. But we were there and I felt like we backed each other up.
Elena Cecchini: The smell of patatine and hot dogs on the Mur the first time was worse than the climb itself! It made my stomach churn and it didn't help my suffering!
Of course, the idea was to help Alena today but we didn't know how she would be. She is having good form and normally we must support her for this race. On the second lap, on the Côte de Bohissau, the peloton was down to just 20 riders and I hoped that we would remain like that. It would have been better to control the situation and to help Alena because we were with four riders. But then it came back to be a bigger group. When we took the second to last climb it was all about the legs and you can't invent a story. I was happy I could see Alena in the front but I didn't have the legs to be there too. After that it was all I could do to reach the top of the Mur.
I think overall we did well for the team. When you just have one card to play then it’s different for us compared to other teams who have several cards to play in this type of race.
Hannah Barnes: The race for me was hard. Mentally and physically. The terrain was hard. I didn't really contribute much. I found it hard to move up and when I could it was open and windy. I think, well I was, setting myself too high of an expectation for today's race. I didn't expect to finish that far down. There's just pressure from myself. Before the race I was thinking I wanted to finish in the main group. If I were to race it again tomorrow I would set something more realistic, like to contribute more and get past 100km. I just need to rethink things and set some more realistic goals.
Alexis Ryan: I really enjoyed the course and I did better than I expected to. I was always near the front and making sure we were represented. I didn’t expect that I would last until the Mur. I came off the Côte de Cherave with Lisa and we caught back on to the main group at the Mur.
I think the team rode really well. We were always moving around the peloton as a unit and we were always at the front or near the front. I feel like today we almost got to the point where we didn’t need to talk at all to communicate, we knew what the other was thinking.
Could I be successful in this race in the future? I don't know if I have the potential to be a pure climber. The climbs here are very steep, but they're also short. I think if I focus on getting stronger in the future then I can be successful. For my first year doing Flèche I feel I did pretty well.
Lisa Brennauer: It was so nice to have all the fans there on the Mur. The fans really help a lot when you’re suffering so much and people are cheering for you, from the first rider to the last, it's really nice.
I think I did a lot better than previous years with positioning and that helped me to be able to stay in the first groups. For me there was really only a few chances to be able to attack. I'm not the rider who can wait for the two last climbs on this course to be able to contribute. The best opportunity I saw was directly the same time Tiff attacked on the top of the long 4km climb. It was good that she did it because I also thought it was a good moment. At the next opportunity the speed was so high from RaboLiv that nothing was going away. I must say that Rabobank took control of the peloton on the second lap and they did that on a very good section where you could actually make a difference to bring back the break.
In the end we had our protected rider in this final group of seven which was our team goal. If you want to ride on the podium then you have to have a day at 100% and unfortunately Alena couldn’t because of her illness. That was our card to play in this race and the team worked well to make that happen.