Pogacar, Vollering win Flèche, aim for Ardennes hat trick

Brussels, April 19 (BNA): Nothing can stop Tadezh Pogacar at the moment, not even one of cycling’s toughest climbs.

The two-time Tour de France champion claimed his third one-day classic win of the season by clinching atop the Mur de Huy for the first time to claim the Flèche Wallonne, and add another trophy to his already career, the Associated Press reports.

The 24-year-old has been untouchable across the board this year, dominating the field at the Tour of Flanders and then the Amstel Gold race last weekend. His performance on Wednesday in the small Belgian town along the Meuse River saw him take his sixth race win of 2023 — taking his six wins in the Paris-Nice races and the week-long Tour of Andalucia — a streak that compares to cycling great Eddy Merckx.

In the women’s race earlier on Wednesday, Demi Fullering was also in a class of her own on the final uphill climb leading to the finish as she held off all of her rivals to secure a second One-Day Classic win in the space of four days.

The 26-year-old Dutch rider accelerates at the foot of the Mor de Hoy – a 1.3-kilometre (0.8-mile) ascent with an average gradient of 9.6% with sections as steep as 19% deciding the outcome of the race. She pulled away from the leading pack to follow up her win at the Amstel Gold Race last weekend with another big win.

Pogacar and Vollering will be aiming for a treble in the Ardennes this weekend in Liege-Bastogne-Liege, a more prestigious classic they’ve already won two years ago.

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Pogacar will face defending champion Rimko Evenpoel, who is also the world champion. Only the late David Rebelin and Philippe Gilbert managed to win the Amstel, Flesch and Liège races respectively during the same season.

Liège-Bastogne-Liège is one of cycling’s “monuments” – the sport’s five most important one-day events – along with the Tour of Flanders, Milan-San Remo, Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Lombardy.

The battle between the main male contenders began once the final breakaway rider, Louis Vervaijk, was caught by the peloton with one kilometer to go. Michael Woods, Pogacar and Tom Pidcock rode up front at a brisk pace until France’s Romain Bardet attacked with 250m to go.

Pogacar had no problem countering the move, getting out of his saddle in a last-ditch effort to brush off his rivals with ease. Matthias Skgelmos finished second, ahead of Mikel Landa.

“I dropped everything on the climb, it was really tough,” said Pogacar. “It gives me a lot of push when the team does a great job. … I needed to get it done otherwise all the work would have been for nothing.”

Fullering’s power explosion left everyone in its wake. Kasia Niewiadoma tried hard to stay on the wheel of the Dutch car but fell near the top as Liane Lippert made a late effort to secure second place five seconds in arrears. Jaya Realini was third, seven seconds off the lead.

Fullering, who attacked again to keep Leibert at bay, was in tears after crossing the end as she thanked her SD Worx teammates over the team radio.

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“It went at my own pace and I couldn’t believe there was a gap,” said Fullering. “I saw it very late and the gap was really big and I was really surprised by that, so I’m really happy.”

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