Stevie Williams wins La Flèche Wallonne

Conquers the Mur de Huy on his OSTRO VAM

In hypothermic weather conditions at La Flèche Wallonne, Stevie Williams proved throughout the day that he was the strongest of the bunch. Though the race may boast the hardest final kilometer of the classics season, La Flèche Wallonne typically follows a fairly well-established script. A break gets away early, is held at a reasonable time advantage, and all contenders spend the day hiding in the bunch, staying safe, and waiting for the moment within the final 300 meters of the race when they will hopefully launch the winning move. Initially, the race on Wednesday followed this game plan when a break was established early and held about a five minute advantage. The weather was cool but clear. But then as the race moved onto the final circuit which would scale the Mur de Huy four times, the weather took a turn for the much worse with wind, rain, sleet and even snow pummeling the riders.

The heavens open up

As the race entered the final 60 km, when many pre-race favorites had been forced to abandon due to the extreme cold, IPT’s Stevie Williams was seldom away from the front five in the peloton. He showed his cards early on the penultimate time up the Mur, looking to be easily the strongest of the bunch. So much so that he and three other riders slipped off the front in chase of a lone escapee who had over a minute advantage. Though Williams and his group were caught within the last 20 km, while removing some of their rain-soaked layers, it was clear that the finale would be decided by this extremely reduced peloton of barely 30 riders.

Sprinting in slow motion

Once on the final slopes of the Mur de Huy, Williams hung back a little, almost looking for a moment like he had overplayed his hand and no longer had the strength for one final kick. Then with less than 300 meters to go to the finish line, he surged to the front with the aid of his OSTRO VAM and Black Inc 48|58 wheels with such a level of speed that none of the other riders had an answer to it. “The boys backed me all day and they gave me the best chance to try and do a result today. Everybody was waiting [on the Mur de Huy] with about 300 [meters] to go, so I thought if I could get a jump here and put five or 10 seconds into the group, it could give me a good chance to hold on. I was looking around a bit because the legs were empty, but I’m really happy to hold on. I’m exhausted, lost for words, and a bit emotional really. To win bike races is hard, especially here at the Classics.”

With the benefit of having past winners of La Flèche Wallonne on his team, like DS Rik Verbrugghe and teammate Dylan Teuns, supporting him today, Williams highlighted the teamwork behind the victory: “I’ve been speaking to Rik the last few days and Dylan who’s won here before. To have someone who has been there and done it as well, it gave me that confidence and all the team is just amazing, so what a day.”

Racing with a dream team

That many of these same riders and directeur sportifs like Sam Bewely and Darryl Impey, were instrumental in Stevie Williams’ overall victory at the Santos Tour Down Under at the beginning of the season indicates what a dream team they are. Racing on the Factor OSTRO VAM combined with the Black Inc 48|58 wheelset, Williams had the perfect equipment to face the windswept conditions on the open sections while still enjoying a setup light enough to ease his way up the 20% pitches of the Mur.

Importantly, this is the first Ardennes Classic victory for the new OSTRO VAM, and with Liège-Bastogne-Liège coming in just a few day’s time, hopes are high that this will be the first of many classic successes.

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