Of course, Tadej Pogačar and Demi Vollering — two of the biggest names in the sport — won today. That was to be expected at Flèche Wallonne, one of the world’s most coveted Classics. But year in, year out, this race is about much more than its winners and losers. It’s about the Mur de Huy, one of the sport’s most sacred landmarks, that hosts to an annual coming together between fans and cyclists. It’s bike racing's version of a block party. And it is not to be missed.
Tucked in the middle of the week, the Flèche Wallonne could easily be overlooked. Yet it is one of the world’s most esteemed races. Now in its 87th edition (25th for the women), the race is unique, and much of it is due to the race’s spectacular finish.
Barely a kilometre long, the Mur de Huy is seemingly without end, as the riders must negotiate the narrow road with its steep pitches that surpass 20%. But the Mur is also an ideal stage for the fans to see the stars, as each race tackles this wall no less than three times. It is no wonder that fans flock here year in, year out. It’s simply a great way to spend a day, watching great racing from morning well into the afternoon, and cheering for the crème-de-la-crème of international cycling. Oh, and the frites and beer is pretty good too.
Basking in the early-morning sun, the women make their way up the Mur for the first time.
The town’s name is painted up the entire final climb.
Kasia Niewiadoma's fans were some of the first to arrive.
Off the back is nowhere to spend your day on the Mur de Huy. Just ask Danish national champion Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, who played catch up after suffering numerous mid-race setbacks.
A lone rider makes her way up the Mur.
Dutch fan Fred Edden comes over every year. Packing into two buses, fans from his native Limburg have made it an annual tradition of coming to the Mur. It is a time to catch up with old acquaintances and watch great racing at the same time.
Driving the pace in the final kilometres, Demi Vollering powers away from her competition in the final metres of the Mur de Huy.
World champion Annemiek van Vleuten is not at her best this year, but she dug deep on the Mur de Huy as this would be her last appearance before retiring at the end of the year.
Liane Lippert (l) and Gaia Realini (r) joined Vollering on the podium after the women’s race.
Brats anyone? It’s lunchtime on the Mur de Huy!
And don’t forget the meatballs with your frites!
Or a glass of Belgian beer to wash it all down.
The men’s peloton arrived a few hours after the women, making their way up from the town of Huy in the river valley below.
This fan from the Loire River Valley in France watches the race on the big screen, wrapped in the flag from the town of Tours.
Fans can try their hand at the spinning wheel in between laps, with the winners receiving a Cofidis water bottle.
The men enter the final 300 meters of the Mur de Huy on lap two. The crowds only seem to thicken as the day goes on.
Even riders well off the pace receive a hero’s welcome.
With a perfectly placed attack, Tadej Pogačar powers away from the rest of the field on his way to another memorable victory.
One look was all it took for both Pogačar and his opponents to know that the race was over.
For some riders, the Mur de Huy is much more than the finish of a bike race.