WITH SECOND PLACE finishes in each of his last two appearances at the event, Joaquin Rodriguez entered the 2012 Flèche Wallone with a legitimate claim to inclusion among the shortlist of favourites to take the second of the Ardennes classics.
He left it having added a title to his palmarès and, in doing so, underscored his enduring potency as a master of short, painful ascents.
Reaching the base of the final climb, a 1.3km drag known as as the “Le Chemin des Chapelles” (“The Path of the Chapels”), at the head of a group that included defending champion and one-day specialist Philippe Gilbert (BMC), Rodriguez embarked on a devastating attack that erased the 13-second advantage of leaders Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda) and Lars Petter Nordhaug (Team Sky) and opened up what would prove a decisive four-second advantage.
The remaining podium places went to Michael Albasini, who has impressed as the designated leader of Australian outfit GreenEdge, and Gilbert, who has yet to add another title to his 2011 Ardennes hat-trick.
Ireland’s Dan Martin (Garmin) finished in sixth place, nine seconds adrift of Rodriguez’s pace.