Kasia Niewiadoma finally secured La Fléche Wallonne

Written by: Niels Goudriaan
Posted 1 month ago

Rain, wind, snow and sun could not keep  Katarzyna Niewiadoma of Canyon//SRAM of her win ath the 27thedition of La Fléche Wallonne. The Polish rider finally triumphed, outsprinting previous winner Demi Vollering and Italian champion Elisa Longo Borghini on the climactic ascent to the Mur de Huy. This was her first win in Huy after a lengthy 1770-day dry spell, during which she accumulated 53 top-five finishes, including a second place in this race’s 2021 edition. Overwhelmed with emotion, Niewiadoma’s tears at the finish line underscored a powerful message about the rewards of perseverance.

‘’This victory means a lot to me. I really hope that with this victory I have inspired a lot of people who are pursuing their dreams to keep going. I’ve failed a lot of times, with many near-misses, and never stopped believing. Reward is always there, waiting for us.’’

The 2024 edition of La Flèche Wallonne Femmes with a parcours spanning 146 kilometers, featuring seven climbs that challenged even the most seasoned riders. The race started in Huy and included an initial loop of 115 kilometers with multiple climbs. The iconic Mur de Huy, with its peak gradients exceeding 10%, was the highlight and final obstacle of the race. The finishing circuit, tackled twice, culminated on this steep ascent, setting the stage for some amazing racing.

The race started wet, when, just after the presentation, rain poored down on the riders.

139 riders started from Huy’s Grand-Place on the 146-kilometer journey of the 27th La Flèche Wallonne Femmes, aiming to conquer the steep Mur de Huy. Weather conditions rapidly deteriorated, with rain turning into snow and temperatures dropping to 5ºC, adding significant challenges to the race. Early on, Arkéa-Samsic’s Maaike Coljé retired due to a crash in the neutral zone. Despite the demanding conditions, no significant breakaways materialized on the early climbs of Côte de Gives and Côte de Courrière, which proved testing for favorites like Mavi García, who struggled to maintain contact with the main group.

Three riders—Sara Martín of Movistar Team, Julie Van de Velde from AG Insurance-Soudal Quickstep, and Elena Hartmann of Roland—made a significant move 40 kilometers into the race. They established a 1 minute 40 second lead by the Côte d’Evrehailles, which increased to 4 minutes 25 seconds by the 89-kilometer mark as conditions improved from rainy to cloudy. The chase intensified on the Côte d’Ereffe, where Grace Brown of FDJ-SUEZ and Pauline Rooijakkers of Fenix-Deceuninck attacked and began to close the gap, trailing the leaders by 3 minutes 35 seconds with the main peloton just behind.

At the Mur de Huy, the race heated up with Elena Hartmann falling back, leaving Julie Van de Velde and Sara Martín in the lead. They held a significant gap over the chasers, but the peloton, driven by SD Worx-ProTime and Canyon//SRAM, closed in. In the final kilometers, Riejanne Markus launched a solo attack, which held until the final ascent of the Mur de Huy where she was overtaken by Demi Vollering.

The excitement began to build as the peloton approached the final kilometers of the race. At 1.3 kilometers from the finish, Demi Vollering set a blistering pace, leading a small group of riders towards the first corner. Among them was Niewiadoma, poised for a strategic move.

The Dutch champion held a steady pace on the Mur with Longo Borghini, Moolman Pasio and Katarzyna Niewiadoma in her wheel. Moolman Pasio had to pass the high speed in the final 250m. At 200m the Polish Kasia Niewiadoma attacked, leaving Vollering and Longo Borghini behind crossing the finish line with emotions running high.

‘’The race was super brutal. As we started, it started raining so hard and temperatures became very low. I knew it was my day, I just felt it, and the weather conditions got on my side because I always benefit from hard races like this. As a team, we always keep a positive atmosphere even when shaking from the cold. My teammates were amazing, taking care of me and bringing me to the front every time I needed it.’’

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