AKA La Flèche Wallonne
I have ridden this course once and it is a certifiable bitch. The course feels like one perpetual climb, and the descents are so short that it feels like they're over before you even get to coast.
And Mur de Huy is nothing like most people have ever experienced. Not only is it rediculously steep and neverending, but what really makes it unbearable is that by the time you've reached the base of the climb you have already been climbing a few hundred meters! Oh and the pavement sucks; many sections are riddled with potholes and semi-patches which can be dangerous when you combine it with tight pack riding, wet slippery roads and compromised bike handling due to exhaustion.
The favorites towards the end of the race were looking to be Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner), Damiano Cunego (Lampre), Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto and one of my favorite riders) .
With 13km to go, Swedish rider Gustav Erik Larsson (Team CSC) took off with such power that it looked like he may just be able to pull it off...if he can get one or two riders to bridge to him and help out. As luck had it, two riders joined him for the painfest. It's amazing how much suffering can occur in such a short distance. The two riders were Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner) and Alexander Efimkin (Quick Step.)
Of the three, Larsson looked the strongest. But just like many folks who are extremely talented in one way or another, Larsson had a fatal flaw. His was that he has descending issues. Just before he hit the pavement, he gave us all a scare by almost overshooting a turn. After the scare, we were all glued to the TV praying to the anti-crash gods that he makes it safely to the bottom with the other two so there can be a real showdown on Huy. Unfortunately that was not to be. Wegmann continued solo to Huy while Efimkin, who was delayed by Larsson's crash, trailed about five seconds behind.
Watching Wegmann continue on solo made me wonder what would have happened if he had waited a couple of seconds for Efimkin so they could work together. When I put myself in his position to figure out what I would have done, I realized quickly that would have been a tough call. On one hand, the peloton (of about 2o or so?) may have caught Efimkin and layed off the pressure just enough to give Wegmann those precious seconds needed to ascend to the finish line first. But on the other hand, it's not as if Wegmann would be out of view (think out of sight, out of mind) on a wide open slow-climbing Huy where you can see many seconds up the road.
I suppose Wegmann's decision was a non-factor because the outcome would most probably be the same.
As the favorites were engulfing Wegmann on the Mur de Huy, I'm sure all viewers were doing the same as I - screaming at the TV in an effort to push my personal favorites forward as if they were pawns on a game board. Well, it didn't work for my guy Evans. I suppose the TV screams for Luxembourg's Kim Kirchen (Team High Road) drowned out the Evans screams since he finished 1 second behind for 2nd place.
Not to sound corny, but just to finish a course like that within the time limit (usually i think about 5-20% over that of the winner's time) confirms that rider's status as a certifiable stud.