Alaphilippe beats Roglic for third Fleche Wallonne

Charleroi (Belgium) (AFP) –


World champion Julian Alaphilippe won the Fleche Wallonne cycling classic in Belgium on Wednesday after reeling in Slovenia's Primoz Roglic on the final 1.3km climb that hits gradients of more than 19 per cent.

The Frenchman, who also claimed victory in 2018 and 2019, sat up at the line and wagged a finger after his impressive late comeback.

"Honestly this one (of the three) does a lot of good, with the world championship jersey. I really enjoyed it. I'm really happy," said Alaphilippe, who wears the rainbow jersey this season as world champion.

Roglic attacked near the bottom of the final Mur de Huey climb and only Alaphilippe and Alejandro Valverde were able to follow, as the Spaniard finished third, six seconds down.

Alaphilippe said he kept a low profile to conserve energy for the finale after feeling off-form this week.

"I conserved my energy all day long and I knew exactly what I had to do for the finale," said th Deceuninck-Quick Step rider.

"I wanted to show I had the mentality and lift my arms up at the end of the race," he said adding that at the end he had both the legs and the attitude to match Roglic.

Vuelta a Espana champion Roglic took defeat on the chin.

"Julian was definitely the strongest. Congratulations to him, he deserves to win," said Roglic.

British rookie Tom Pidcock finished sixth, some 11 seconds down after falling and losing a shoe, but the power of his first performance here bodes well for Ineos' new rider.

There were 12 categorised climbs and another dozen hills on the 193.6km run from Charleroi to the steep finish at the Mur de Huy climb.

Earlier, Tour de France champion Tadej Pogacar's Team UAE Emirates withdrew from the men's race just hours before the classic started due to Covid-19 cases.

Pogacar was scheduled to compete alongside last year's Fleche Wallonne winner Marc Hirschi.

UAE Emirates said they aim to participate in Sunday's Liege-Bastogne-Liege, another key early season race.