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  La Flèche Wallonne Féminine Preview  
  The opening three World Cup rounds delivered wins by Jolien D'hoore, Lizzie Armitstead and Elisa Longo Borghini. La Flèche Wallonne Féminine is by far the hardest of the races and both Lizzie Armitstead and Elisa Longo Borghini will be gunning for a second World Cup victory in 2015. Defending champion and now World Champion Pauline Ferrand-Prevot will also line up in an attempt to defend her title. 2012 winner Evelyn Stevens is also on the start list. Five time winner Marianne Vos will not however be making it number six.

2014 Results

2 Elizabeth ARMITSTEAD +1
4 Evelyn STEVENS +7
5 Ashleigh MOOLMAN +11
6 Marianne VOS +13
7 Emma POOLEY +13
8 Linda VILLUMSEN +21
9 Claudia HAUSLER +24
10 Eleonora VAN DIJK +28

Past Winners

2014 - Pauline Ferrand-Prevot
2013 - Marianne Vos
2012 - Evelyn Stevens
2011 - Marianne Vos
2010 - Emma Pooley
2009 - Marianne Vos
2008 - Marianne Vos
2007 - Marianne Vos
2006 - Nicole Cooke
2005 - Nicole Cooke
2004 - Sonia Huguet
2003 - Nicole Cooke
2002 - Fabiana Luperini
2001 - Fabiana Luperini
2000 - Geneviève Jeanson
1999 - Hanka Kupfernagel
1998 - Fabiana Luperini

The Route

Two laps of a hilly circuit that finished on the famous Mur de Huy. The opening lap features four climbs starting with the Côte d'Ereffe after just twelve kilometres before the Côte de Bellaire at the 31km mark. Unlike last yere where there was four climbs in quick succession after this, this year there is the Côte de Bohissau after 39.5km before the first passage of the Mur de Huy after 57.5km on the first lap. Much of the second lap is the same as the first but with five and a half kilometres to go riders must tackle the 1.3 kilometre long Côte de Cherave with an average gradient of 8.1% Over the top there is a quick descent before a short run in to the Mur de Huy. While the average gradient of the 1.3km climb is 9.6% it reaches a maximum of 26%.

List of Climbs
12.0km - Côte d'Ereffe 2.1km at 5%
31.0km - Côte de Bellaire 1km at 6.3%
39.5km - Côte de Bohissau 2.4km at 5.5%
57.5km - Mur de Huy 1.3km at 9.6%
70.0km - Côte d'Ereffe 2.1km at 5%
89.5km - Côte de Bellaire 1km at 6.3%
97.5km - Côte de Bohissau 2.4km at 5.5%
115.5km - Côte de Cherave 1.3km at 8.1%
121.0km - HUY (Mur de Huy) 1.3km at 9.6%

The Contenders

Start list available here

Pauline Ferrand-Prevot

The defending champion took the win last year after strong support from Marianne Vos. At the time the win was the biggest of her career but since then the now World Champion in both the road race and cyclocross has been on the rise. Only started her road season less than a month ago where she finished second at Trofeo Alfredo Binda before adding seventh place at Ronde van Vlaanderen a week later. Climbs with the best and her finish on the line especially uphill is quick. Backed by a strong team including Shara Gillow and Katarzyna Niewiadoma and Anna Van der Breggan who are both likely to be around the mark themselves and a strong option should something happen to the World Champion.

Lizzie Armitstead and Boels Dolmans

The teams recruitment saw them dominant early in the season and while they have appeared slightly less so of late the team they bring here has a number of contenders. Lizzie Armistead's second place finish last year surprised many considering she had not really been in contention before. Last year her climbing improved but her sprint suffered because of it. This year she is back sprinting better than ever but will it hurt her on a day like today? After missing out on the win last year expect to see Armitstead chasing victory today.

In Evelyn Stevens the team has the 2012 winner and a rider who goes well on this sort of terrain. Knowing the team has a number of cards to play Stevens could go for a long one and look to time trial to the finish. Megan Guarnier is one of the best when the road starts to go uphill. Attacked early from a select group at Strade Bianche and soloed to the finish as nobody was willing to chase her down with Armitstead sitting on. Ellen Van Dijk is another one. Mostly thought of as one of the best time trialists in the peloton, which she is but climbs well on the shorter steeper climbs. Sixth in 2013 and tenth last year. How the team uses its riders will be one of the biggest questions of the race.

Elisa Longo Borghini

Winning Ronde van Vlaanderen was the biggest win of her career and added a second World Cup to her palmares after her 2013 Trofeo Alfredo Binda victory. Despite her win in Flanders this was her big goal and based on current form adding another World Cup win is there for the taking. Has had a strong season finished third at Strade Bianche and fourth at Trofeo Alfredo Binda. After finishing second in 2013 and third last year, will 2015 be the year she comes out on top? Mara Abbott is worth keeping an eye on as well. Finished seventh back in 2009 and is arguably the best pure climber in the peloton.

Ashleigh Moolman and Annemeik Van Vleuten

Moolman finished fifth in 2012, was the first South African to stand on a World Cup podium in third the following year and added another fifth place last year. The race is one that is perfect suited to Moolman's style as the last three years have shown. On a new team that is yet to take a win Moolman will be even more motivated.

Annemeik Van Vleuten's best result here was sixth in 2011 and was just outside the top 10 in 2010 and 2012. To challenge for the win she needs to be at her absolute best and so far this year has been consistently inside the top 10.

Emma Johansson and Orica-AIS

On paper the former number one ranked team has several options but will it come together on the day for them? The team has not been able to repeat their performances of their first of second years. Emma Johansson made a quick return after a broken collarbone and finished in the first chase group at Ronde van Vlaanderen. Johansson has finished on the podium three times and in seven participations has never finished worse than 12th (her first attempt). Was sick over the weekend and missed Ronde van Gelderland and is unlikely to be at her best.

Katrin Garfoot finished 16th in 2014 riding for the Australian National Team before turning professional two months later. On paper the finish up the Mur du Huy suits her. Rachel Neylan was a late signing and if she has the form that earned her a silver medal at the 2012 World Championships can be competing with the best.

Alena Amialiusik and Tiffany Cromwell

Could the Belarusian Champion again be the surprise packet? Hard one day races like this are where she is at her best. Has joined the strong Velocio-SRAM and will be looking to continue her rise. Has ridden the race three times in the past with her best finish seventh in 2013. Has had a strong start to 2015 especially in the hillier races - fifth Trofeo Alfredo Binda, sixth Ronde van Vlaanderen and seventh at Strade Bianche. While Amialiusik is likely to be the best option for the team it would be a mistake to discount Tiffany Cromwell who has been riding herself in to form recently.

Jolanda Neff

What can the talented young Swiss cross country expert do here? There is no doubting the 22 year olds talent, has two under 23 cross country World titles to her name. Impressed at Trofeo Alfredo Binda at the end of March finishing sixth but this is a different test. Don't be surprised to see her around the mark though.

Carlee Taylor and Jessie Daams

Neither is an outright favourite but both are capable of performing well here. Aussie climber and workhorse Taylor has finished just outside the top 10 in 14th. Climbs very well and while she is unlikely to be able to follow the top names another result in or around the top 10 is well within her. Daams is just returning from a knee injury but is another who could go well.

Other names to watch: Rossella Ratto, Solovey, Carmen Small, Tatiana Guderzo and Eugenia Bujak.
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