La Flèche Wallonne 2024: A Brutal Battle on Belgium’s Toughest Terrain

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La Flèche Wallonne 2024 | How to Watch & MoreMatthias Hangst - Getty Images

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Sandwiched between Amstel Gold Race and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, this year’s la Flèche Wallonne is shaping up to be one of the punchiest in recent memory. Thanks to a quadruplet of runs up la Mur de Huy, one of Belgium’s nastiest climbs, this midweek race might turn out to be the most painful edition ever.

A little history...

Along with Amstel Gold and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, la Flèche Wallonne rounds out the Ardennes Classics, three spring races through the beating heart of one of the world’s most cycling-crazed nations. The Belgian race was born in 1936, and like many of the great European races, it was created to advertise the Belgian newspaper Les Sport. And though it’s never elevated to Monument status, it’s widely regarded—amongst fans and riders alike—as one of the great Spring Classics.

Alejandro Valverde holds the record, with five wins. Behind him, with three wins each, is a list of five riders that includes Eddy Merckx and Julian Alaphilipe. Just seven riders have won the race twice. Meanwhile, in the women’s field, Anna van der Breggen, nicknamed the “Queen of the Ardennes,” won the race a stunning seven times in a row from 2015 to 2021.

The Route

As per tradition, la Flèche Wallonne finishes on the leg-crushing Mur de Huy, a climb whose shortness (1.3 kilometers) is matched by its harshness (9.6% average gradient with a max of 20%). And in case you needed any more evidence of that climb’s brutality, you should know that “mur” means “wall” in French.

The elevation profile for the 2024 edition of La Fleche Wallone.Courtesy of the ASO

However, that last climb up the Mur de Huy will be the peloton’s fourth time up the brutal grade over the course of the race’s 199.1 kilometers. They will first meet it at the 104th kilometer, fourteen kilometers after they first climb the 2.1-kilometer Côte d’Ereffe, one of the race’s other brutal ascents. The third climb is the Côte de Cherave. Averaging 8.1% over 1.3 kilometers, it is the race’s most “mellow” climb.

The course map for the 2024 edition of La Fleche Wallone.Courtesy of the ASO

After leaving from Charleroi and winding around Brussels, the route hits Liege and circles the same course, with riders racing up the d’Ereffe, the Cherave, and the Mur de Huy four times each. This is the first time in the race’s eighty-eight years that riders will climb the Mur de Huy that many times.

Unlike the men’s race, which starts in Charleroi and snakes around Brussels before hitting its circuit around Huy, the women’s race starts and ends in the town of Huy. However, about halfway through their 143.5 kilometers, the women will end up on the same circuit as the men, tackling the Côte d’Ereffe, the Côte de Cherave, and the Mur de Huy. The women will have to face those climbs twice just twice.

How to Watch

In the United States, Flèche Wallonne will be broadcast on Peacock ($5.99/month for Premium, $11.99/month for Premium Plus) and on FloBikes ($29.99 monthly or $150 for the year).

The women’s race will kick off at 5:10 AM EDT, and the men will follow shortly after at 7:00 AM EDT. As of this writing, both races have their own dedicated page on the Peacock app and the FloBikes app, which means you should be able to watch dedicated coverage of each.

Riders to Watch

Since van der Breggen’s retirement, Marta Cavalli of FDJ-Suez and Team SD Worx-Protime’s Demi Vollering have won the race. As both will be back on the start line this week, they’ll be hard to bet against. Other racers like Canyon//SRAM’s Kasia Niewiadoma and Lild-Trek’s Elisa Longo Borghini should make for a thrilling finish.

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Marta Cavalli (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope) celebrates winning ahead of Annemiek Van Vleuten (Movistar) during the 25th La Flèche Wallonne 2022.Luc Claessen - Getty Images

On the men’s side, last year’s winner, UAE Team Emirates’ superstar Tadej Pogačar, might someday join that list. But it won’t happen this week, as he’s skipping Flèche Wallonne to focus on Liège-Bastonge-Liège.

Thanks to Pogačar’s absence and the rash of major injuries this spring, the men’s race should be more wide open than usual. So expect to see some lesser-known names contesting the Mur.

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Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) sprints at the finish line to win the 87th La Fleche Wallonne 2023.Luc Claessen - Getty Images

UAE Team Emirates’ Marc Hirschi—the race’s 2020 winner—was there at the end of Amstel Gold, finishing second to Ineos Grenadiers’ Tom Pidcock. Meanwhile, 2022 winner Dylan Teuns of Israel-Premier Tech finished second at Brabantse Pijl last week. Speaking of Amstel Gold, Tiesj Benoot of Visma-Lease a Bike rounded out the podium, looking stronger than almost everyone else in the peloton. However, the course’s elevation will work against the Belgian, whose strength is on flatter terrain. Otherwise, keep an eye on Brabantse Pijl winner Benôit Cosnefroy of Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale and Groupama-FDJ’s David Gaudu.

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