La Fleche Wallonne is potentially great, potentially boring, and potentially rubbish. The conclusion to last year’s race was brilliant as we saw master (Valverde) and apprentice (Alaphilippe) duke it out on the Mur and a phenomenal underdog victory. The ‘apprentice’ now returns at an ugly short price (8/11) and I find it hard to back him this time around. He’ll be very hard to beat in straightforward edition so I’m hoping the additional climbs in the final circuit mix things up and shopping around for some EW value. Despite the inclusion of a few more bumps, Liege-Bastogne-Liege remains the far more likely race to see a solo winner and things should still end with a mad scramble up the Mur. Consider this: just once this century (2003) has the race had a top ten separated by greater than 60 seconds.
In The Bet Slip: Dylan Teuns (40/1)
I’ve been slightly disheartened by Dylan Teuns’ form this season but, at 40/1, it looks like the bookmakers have been too. During ‘The Summer of Teuns’ in 2017, the Belgian had mastery over finishes such as this and looks great value. The Bahrain-Merida selection suggests he will be their leader – something which hasn’t been the case very often this season. It’s often said that he is a touch too slow for big bunch charges but the Mur is a nasty obstacle and a hard race could play into his hands. EW chance?
The Young Gun: David Gaudu (80/1)
David Gaudu will look to force a major selection to stand a chance of victory. Thankfully he is in good form and has far more elite level experience than his tender age suggests. He’s frequently gone toe-to-toe with the likes of Valverde, Primoz Roglic and Dan Martin on steep slopes and will surely have learnt from these experiences. A hard race will suit Gaudu and FDJ are likely to build a challenge around him. He’ll need a slice of luck but has a better chance of forcing an opportunity than most at this price.
The “Go Solo” selections: Bauke Mollema (125/1) & Davide Formolo (80/1)
We haven’t had a solo winner in decades but all streaks must come to an end and Liege last year showed us what was possible.
Bauke Mollema was strong at Amstel Gold but never stood a chance in the bunch sprint finish. La Fleche suits him a lot more and the extra climbing should rid him of a few faster companions. The 2016 San Sebastian winner will have to go solo but has the right mix of talent and ambition to sneak away in the closing stages. Formolo is another climber with an increasing connection to the one-day classics. He will want to shake free of any group activity in the closing stages but is one of the likeliest candidates to go on the attack; he’ll be deployed as a weapon in the impressive Bora arsenal.
Just Missed Out: Michael Matthews (50/1)
For the first time in living memory I won’t be having a bet on Michael Matthews at La Fleche, despite his tasty price. He fought hard at Brabantse before being squeezed out in the sprint and will remain very interested in victory on the Mur. Unfortunately, there’s little to suggest he’ll finally find the right formula; especially with the extra bumps. If he wins at 50/1, I’ll cry.