Fleche Wallonne: Alejandro Valverde wins in sprint finish

Alejandro Valverde
Alejandro Valverde also won the Fleche Wallone in 2006 and 2013

Spain's Alejandro Valverde sprinted to victory for the second year running at the Fleche Wallonne classic in Belgium.

Valverde prevailed on the steep Mur de Huy finish ahead of France's Julian Alaphilippe and Swiss Michael Albasini to win the race for the third time.

Britain's Chris Froome was involved in a crash 11km from the finish, although he got back on his bike after a delay.

Dutch rider Anna van der Breggen won the women's race, with Lizzie Armitstead the leading Briton in 21st.

The men's race boasted Tour de France champion Vincenzo Nibali, 2013 Tour winner Froome and last year's Giro d'Italia champion Nairo Quintana.

All three were keen to experience the Mur de Huy - a short, but sharp, climb with an average gradient of 9.3% and one section at 26% - which features in this year's Tour de France.

Seven riders broke clear at about 10km into the race and built up a lead of eight minutes, but they were hauled in on the second of three climbs up the formidable Mur.

Belgian Tim Wellens then made a break for home but was caught within 3km of the finish, and Valverde led from the front of the peloton on the final 1.3km climb.

Froome suffered cuts and bruises in his fall but crossed the line in 123rd place.

"Chris was pretty banged up but showed real courage to finish the race and we'll assess his injuries overnight," said Team Sky director Gabriel Rasch.external-link

"He hasn't needed to go to hospital and right now as things stand, we're still expecting him to line up at the Tour de Romandie next Tuesday."

Fleche Wallonne (Waremme-Huy, 205.5 km) results:

1. Alejandro Valverde (Spa/Movistar) 5hrs 8mins 22secs

2. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra/ Etixx-Quick-Step) Same time

3. Michael Albasini (Swi/Orica) Same time

4. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa/Katusha) Same time

5. Daniel Moreno (Spa/Katusha) Same time

6. Alexis Vuillermoz (Fra/AG2R) +4secs

7. Sergio Henao (Col/Team Sky) Same time

8. Jakob Fuglsang (Den/Astana) Same time

9. Tom-Jelte Slagter (Ned/Cannondale) Same time

10. Wilco Kelderman (Ned/LottoNL) Same time

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