Rising Swiss star Marc Hirschi continued his meteoric rise to prominence on Wednesday as he took victory at La Fleche Wallonne. He is the first Swiss rider to do so since the legendary Ferdi Kübler in 1952.
Hirschi was part of a bunch finish and patiently bided his time before moving across to the right-hand side of the road and pulling away in the final part of the Mur de Huy. He was able to overhaul Mike Woods of EF Pro Cycling in the last 50 metres.
Earlier in the day there was heartbreak for debutant Mauri Vansevenant with just a few kilometres to go as he crashed after slightly overcooking a turn. The young Belgian rider, competing in his first WorldTour race, had been in the breakaway since the beginning of the day, and forged on solo with 20 kilometres left in the day. His gap was holding steady and while the odds still tipped slightly in the favour of the peloton, he was still in with a shot of victory. The crash spelled the end of his hopes of glory.
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Despite getting back onto his bike relatively swiftly, he was reeled in initially by Rigoberto Uran – who had broken away from the peloton – before the group swallowed them both up at the very foot of the Mur de Huy itself.
An elite group of puncheur-climbers contested the finale, with Richie Porte the first to try and put daylight between himself and the pack. His move was followed by a powerful dig from Mike Woods with just 100m left of the climb, but that too was brought back by the rampaging Hirschi. Benoit Cosnefroy was able to ride on Hirschi's coat tails to come past Woods on the line, delivering an impressive second place for AG2R La Mondiale.
Highlights from the men's edition of La Fleche Wallonne as Hirschi takes the spoils
Speaking afterwards, Hirschi said.
It went perfect for us. We had a small break of four guys. My team did a really good job.
"We put one or two guys on front to control the race. On the final laps it was so fast that we brought the break back anyway. On the last climb it was just about the legs."
'It was perfect for us!' - Hirschi on finish of La Fleche Wallonne