La Flèche Wallonne: Kasia Niewiadoma takes long-awaited victory on Mur de Huy

Polish rider outclimbs Demi Vollering and Elisa Longo Borghini to take first road victory in nearly five years

Clock16:05, Wednesday 17th April 2024
Kasia Niewiadoma's victory will be a popular one, after so many years striving to get back to the top step of a podium

© Getty Images

Kasia Niewiadoma's victory will be a popular one, after so many years striving to get back to the top step of a podium

Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) took her first road victory in nearly five years as she outclimbed the field on the steep Mur de Huy to win La Flèche Wallonne Femmes.

The Polish rider was neck and neck with Demi Vollering (SD Worx-Protime) and Elisa Longo Borghini (Lidl-Trek) for most of the fearsome final climb, but launched with 200m to go and rode away from her rivals, who couldn't match her move.

Vollering took second as Longo Borghini crossed the line in third.

Various riders tried to attack in the finale, with Riejanne Markus (Visma-Lease a Bike) starting the Mur de Huy with a 15-second advantage, but it all came down to the steep climb with the Dutchwoman swept up within the final 900m.

Sara Martín (Movistar), Julie Van De Velde (AG Insurance-Soudal) and Elena Hartmann (Roland) made up the break of the day, with Martín and Van De Velde the final survivors, but they were brought back in the final 10km.

Though Niewiadoma took a win and a rainbow jersey at the Gravel World Championships last autumn, the 29-year-old hadn't won on the road since the Women's Tour in 2019 before Wednesday. After a string of podiums in some of the biggest races in the world, she finally took to the top step.

“It means a lot," Niewiadoma said at the finish. "I really hope that with that victory I inspired a lot of people who are pursuing their dreams for so long, because I’ve experienced a lot of failures, a lot of second and third places, but I never stopped believing that as a team we could win another race. So I do really hope that that race will inspire people to just keep believing, keep pursuing their dreams, because the reward is always there waiting for us."

Like the men's race, the women faced cold and wet conditions on the roads around Belgium, and though the race wasn't hugely aggressive, the conditions still made for a very hard day out.

"The race was super brutal, because as we started it started to rain so hard, and the temperature dropped very low," Niewiadoma said. "But that being said, I knew that this was my day, somehow I just felt it, and to be honest the weather conditions were kind of on my side because I always benefit from hard races like this. As a team we just kept a positive atmosphere, even though we were all shaking from the cold temperatures, everyone was there for each other and my teammates were amazing, taking care of me, bringing warm clothes so I could change and just remain focused on the final."

A tough, wet day before an exciting Mur de Huy finale

It was a fairly tense start to the day leaving Huy, with a crash in the neutral zone ending some riders’ race before it had even begun, and the grim, cold weather making the conditions particularly difficult from the get-go.

With no one keen to spend a day up the road in the rain, no breakaway went in the early part of the day, with things all together after the first hour and 30km of racing. The second climb of the day, the Côte de Courrière, sparked off some action, and a group of three went away soon after the top, made up of Sara Martín, Julie Van De Velde and Elena Hartmann. With a break finally up the road, they quickly built up a lead of about two minutes – enough to stay away but kept in check by the peloton.

In the peloton, a few riders began struggling early at this point, with Mavi García (Liv AlUla Jayco) dropping from the peloton before the 100km to go mark. The race settled down again quite quickly, and on the rolling roads in the middle of the course, the leaders’ gap grew out to four minutes, as the peloton stayed calm and the weather started to improve slightly.

With the cold, wet day, combined with the tough course, making for such a hard day, it seemed as if the peloton were happy to try and save their energy before the finale, which would see them take on the Mur de Huy twice in one of the most demanding finishes of the calendar.

Going into the final 45km, things started to heat up as the gap to the break finally began to shrink. With 40km to go, Grace Brown (FDJ-SUEZ) and Pauliena Rooijakkers (Fenix-Deceuninck) launched a counterattack from the peloton, getting around 20 seconds ahead of the bunch. As the break hit the Mur de Huy for the first time, Hartmann was the first to struggle with the steep gradients, allowing Van De Velde and Martín to push on as a duo, but their lead was at that below three minutes and falling as the peloton picked up the pace. When the peloton took on the steep climb, there was a little test from Lotte Kopecky, but no real action.

With 24km to go, Brown and Rooijakkers caught then passed Hartmann, but were still two minutes behind the leaders, with the peloton another 30 seconds back as the Côte d’Ereffe and Mur de Huy finale approached. The peloton, led by the likes of Lidl-Trek and Movistar, were really picking up the pace by now, and with 16km Rooijakkers and Brown were caught as the gap to the leaders shrunk to below a minute.

Taking on the Côte d’Ereffe, the pace saw riders start to drop off the back of the bunch as the break came within touching distance of the peloton. Before the catch was made, Rooijakkers made another dig and went past the leaders, who were then caught. On the short ramp after the top of the Côte d’Ereffe, the action started from the peloton with 9km to go, with Elise Chabbey (Canyon-SRAM) and Elisa Longo Borghini (Lidl-Trek) bridging over to Rooijakkers, soon followed by Kopecky. Despite being a strong group, they were only a few seconds ahead of the bunch and were playing a tactical game with their teammates and rivals behind, and with 5.7km to go things were back together again.

Alena Amialiusik (UAE Team ADQ) was the next rider to try to attack and didn’t get away, but Riejanne Markus (Visma-Lease a Bike) countered and did get a gap at a risky moment. The Dutch time triallist went into the final kilometre with a lead, but as expected things came back together at the base of the climb as Canyon-SRAM and Movistar closed things down.

Starting the slopes of the Mur de Huy, Vollering was setting the pace, looking to take things up early, but Niewiadoma and Longo Borghini were sitting ominously on either side of her. The bulk of the climb was a tense, neck-and-neck affair between the three riders, and Vollering tried to up the pace near the top, but with 200m to go Niewiadoma put in one final dig, and her rivals just couldn’t follow. She got a small gap on Vollering and Longo Borghini, and on the eye-watering gradients of the Mur de Huy, that was enough. The 29-year-old pushed onto the line and celebrated an emotional, long-awaited win, as Vollering and Longo Borghini rolled over the line a couple of seconds in arrears.

For the latest news, interviews and analysis from the world of professional cycling, be sure to check out the Racing tab on the GCN website and visit our essential guide to The Spring Classics to stay up to date with all of the action from cycling's most exciting season.

Race Results

1

pl flag

NIEWIADOMA Katarzyna

CANYON//SRAM Racing

3H 55' 29"

2

nl flag

VOLLERING Demi

Team SD Worx-Protime

+ 2"

3

it flag

LONGO BORGHINI Elisa

Lidl-Trek

+ 4"

4

fr flag

MUZIC Evita

FDJ-SUEZ

+ 7"

5

za flag

MOOLMAN-PASIO Ashleigh

AG Insurance-Soudal Team

+ 11"

6

nl flag

ROOIJAKKERS Pauliena

Fenix-Deceuninck

+ 15"

7

fr flag

LABOUS Juliette

Team dsm-firmenich PostNL

+ 19"

8

nl flag

VAN EMPEL Fem

Team Visma | Lease a Bike

+ 24"

9

it flag

CAVALLI Marta

FDJ-SUEZ

+ 27"

10

es flag

SANTESTEBAN Ane

Laboral Kutxa-Fundacion Euskadi

"

Provided by FirstCycling

Major Races

See All

29 Jun - 21 Jul

fr flag

Tour de France

2.UWT

12 Aug - 18 Aug

fr flag

Tour de France Femmes

2.WWT

4 May - 26 May

it flag

Giro d'Italia

2.UWT

2 Jun - 9 Jun

fr flag

Critérium du Dauphiné

2.UWT

Provided by FirstCycling

Related Content

Link to La Flèche Wallonne: Stevie Williams wins atop Mur de Huy in apocalyptic conditions
Stevie Williams had shown himself as the day's strongest rider on the penultimate ascent, before crossing the finish line full of emotion at the end

La Flèche Wallonne: Stevie Williams wins atop Mur de Huy in apocalyptic conditions

In the toughest edition of the race seen in decades, wind, rain and snow make for an attritional affair, as Kévin Vauquelin and Maxim Van Gils finish second and third

Clock
Link to Giro d'Italia stage 19 results: Andrea Vendrame wins from elite breakaway in Sappada
Andrea Vendrame celebrates victory on stage 19 of the Giro d'Italia

Giro d'Italia stage 19 results: Andrea Vendrame wins from elite breakaway in Sappada

Italian steals a march on early descent before soloing to victory over the Cima Sappada

Clock
Link to RideLondon Classique stage 1: Lorena Wiebes sprints to victory in Essex
Lorena Wiebes takes victory in Colchester

RideLondon Classique stage 1: Lorena Wiebes sprints to victory in Essex

SD Worx-Protime dominate the sprint on the opening day. Behind Wiebes, Letizia Paternoster takes second and Clara Copponi third

Clock
Link to Giro d'Italia stage 18 results: Tim Merlier wins sprint finish ahead of Jonathan Milan
Tim Merlier celebrates victory on stage 18 of the Giro d'Italia

Giro d'Italia stage 18 results: Tim Merlier wins sprint finish ahead of Jonathan Milan

Belgian grabs his second stage victory of the race in chaotic and entertaining finale in Padova

Clock
Subscribe to the GCN Newsletter

Get the latest, most entertaining and best informed news, reviews, challenges, insights, analysis, competitions and offers - straight to your inbox