Anna van der Breggen holds the record of five consecutive victories at La Flèche Wallonne Féminine: a domination which started in 2015. The second oldest single-day race of the UCI Women's WorldTour – after the Trofeo Alfredo Binda-Comune di Cittiglio in Italy – has a characteristically steep finish on the legendary Mur de Huy which perfectly fits the Dutch rider’s abilities. Let’s recall all five Flèche Wallonne Féminine victories of the 2016 Olympic Champion, 2018 UCI Road World Champion, two-time Giro d'Italia Internazionale Femminile winner (2015 and 2017) and winner of the UCI Women’s WorldTour in 2017
On a warm, sunny Wednesday 22 April 2015, Van der Breggen, wearing the Rabo-Liv colours, was among the favourites with the former winner, the French rider Pauline Ferrand-Prévot. Van der Breggen’s Dutch compatriot Marianne Vos, who had already won five editions (2007, 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2013), didn’t participate after breaking a rib during mountain bike training.
The menu was appetizing: two laps, 121km and the Côte d'Éreffe, Côte de Bellaire, Côte de Bohissau climbs, plus, of course, the Mur de Huy, along with the new Côte de Cherave just 5.5km before the finish.
And it was on that new climb that the race exploded with the attack from Van der Breggen’s team mate Roxane Knetemann and Annemiek van Vleuten on the front, chased by Rabo-Liv, then a small strong group with Van der Breggen, Ferrand-Prévot, Ashleigh Moolman Pasio of South Africa, and the Americans Evelyn Stevens and Megan Guarnier who got very close to the two leaders in the final climb. That’s when Van der Breggen attacked, bridging across to Van Vleuten and crossing the line solo with 12 seconds on her compatriots and 20 seconds ahead of Guarnier.
2016: fighting with Evelyn Stevens to the line
Van der Breggen made it two in a row the following 20 April. Six other riders got clear on the penultimate passage on the Huy in a strong and truly international group along with the eventual winner: the European Champion Kasia Niewiadoma from Poland, American Champion Guarnier and her compatriot Evelyn Stevens, Italian Elisa Longo Borghini, Belarusian Alena Amialiusik, and Australian Katrin Garfoot.
Van der Breggen and Stevens broke away between the Côte de Cherave and the final climb, then sprinted at the top of the Mur with the Dutch rider making the difference in the last 200 metres. Guarnier finished third once again. “The first win here was nice, but the second one might be better,” said Van der Breggen. “It was exciting to sprint to the line with Evelyn. The Mur de Huy is a beast, but I felt strong.”
2017: the victory with the biggest gap
On 19 April 2017, wearing the European Champion’s jersey, Van der Breggen won her third consecutive edition of La Flèche Wallonne Féminine, and this was the victory with the largest margin.
The Pole Niewiadoma was the first to attack on the Côte de Cherave. Van der Breggen’s Boels-Dolmans team mate, the Briton Lizzie Deignan, answered, then Van der Breggen bridged across before reaching the summit of the climb. Next it was Deignan’s turn to accelerate: Niewiadoma followed with Van der Breggen, but the Dutch woman was too strong and she attacked just before the base of the Mur de Huy then increased the gap, crossing the line with 16 seconds in hand. Deignan marked Niewiadoma and took second place.
“After Sunday last week with the Amstel Gold Race and my birthday yesterday, it's a whole party week,” said Anna Van der Breggen in celebration.
2018: a powerful sprint for number four
La Flèche Wallonne Féminine was once again blessed by exceptionally warm sun on 18 April 2018, with temperatures on the Belgian route more than 20 degrees.
The battle started on the first lap, with former winner Ferrand-Prévot breaking clear on the ascent of the Côte de Cherave, followed by Guarnier, Australian Amanda Spratt and the Netherlands’ Janneke Ensing. They had still 40 seconds at 20km to go, but the group pushed hard to reduce the gap.
Moolman Pasio attacked in the last kilometre, followed by Guarnier, Van Vleuten and Van der Breggen. The latter opened full gas at 200 meters to the finish line, catching her fourth win in a row in front of Moolman Pasio and, again, Guarnier.
2019: The fifth win… in the rainbow jersey
The Flèche Wallonne Féminine 2019, held on 24 April, had a new start location at the Grand-Place square in Huy. Van der Breggen was once again the logical favourite, with even more focus on her because she had the chance to celebrate on the top of the Mur with the rainbow jersey.
In a day full of attacks, it was once again a move by Niewiadoma - and once again on the Côte de Cherave - that created the decisive group in which, among its 13 riders, were all the favourites. The young Dutch rider Floortje Mackaij broke away at 3km to go, reaching a 15-second advantage. But on the final km on the Mur, Van der Breggen accelerated, along with Niewiadoma, caught her compatriot at 500 metres out, and then spent all her energy in the last 200 metres to win again.
Annemiek van Vleuten finished second and Van der Breggen’s Boels-Dolmans team mate Annika Langvad of Denmark was third.
Will Anna van der Breggen manage to become the first rider to win six times – or even more – consecutively, in the next edition of the race? Only time will tell.