Following on from his fourth place at Amstel Gold Race last Sunday, Nathan Haas will lead Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka at Flèche Wallonne today and the Australian feels that the team should take advantage of their underdog status in the Ardennes classic.
Starting out in Binche, the riders take on 146.5 kilometres in the lumpy Belgian terrain before they reach the finishing line on top of the infamous Mur de Huy for the first time. The ascent is just 1.3 kilometres long but as its name reveals, it’s extremely steep. The first 900 meters have an average gradient of nearly 12 % with parts over 20 % in the steep corners towards the top.
The finishing circuit is 29 kilometres long and includes the two short climbs, Côte d’Ereffe (2.1 km / 5 % avg.) and Côte de Cherave (1.3 km / 8.1 %) in addition to Mur de Huy. Côte de Cherave has its top just 5.5 kilometres from the finishing line and serves as a good place to attack for those who aren’t explosive enough to follow the favourites on the final ascent.
Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka brings several strong climbers to the race and Haas can count on strong support from Johann Van Zyl, Jaco Venter, Igor Antón, Serge Pauwels, Merhawi Kudus, Jacques Janse van Rensburg and Ben O’Connor.
Nathan Haas: “To me, Flèche Wallonne is easily the most dangerous one of the Ardennes races. There is really only one moment in this race that counts and that’s the final 1.3 kilometres. Positioning is paramount, which also makes for a very tactical race. It’s a bit like an ice sculpture with Mur de Huy being that last pick of the ice where you either make something really beautiful at the end or the whole thing collapses. It’s really an amazing race. We hope to play the card of the powerful underdog. We know this is a very hard race but we have a few extra climbers coming in now and I don’t think we are a team that should be dismissed”.