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Hirschi, Van der Breggen win Fleche Wallonne classic races

Swiss cyclist Marc Hirschi, 22, easily wins the 2020 Men's Flèche Wallonne in Belgium ahead of Benoit Cosnefroy and Michael Woods.

HUY, Belgium -- Marc Hirschi extended his stellar run in a breakout cycling season to win the Fleche Wallonne one-day classic on Wednesday.

In his first start at the race defined by the short but grueling Mur de Huy finishing climb, the 22-year-old Swiss rider went clear in the last 100 meters to win comfortably ahead of Benoit Cosnefroy. Michael Woods was third.

“It’s just brutal,” Hirschi said of the steep ride to the top. “You have to be strong in the head to get through the pain.”

Hirschi added his first win in a classic to his bronze medal from the world championships road race on Sunday and his impressive Tour de France. There, he won a stage, was a regular threat in breakaways and won the prize as the most combative rider overall in the three-week tour.

In the women’s race earlier, world champion Anna van der Breggen won for the sixth straight time.

Four days after claiming the world champion’s rainbow jersey, Van der Breggen was able to follow an attack from Demi Vollering on the steep climb to the finish. Vollering ran out of gas in the final meters and Van der Breggen overpowered Cecilie Uttrup-Ludwig to prevail in the sprint.

Vollering completed the podium.

“I think it was the closest of every year. It means a lot,” said Van der Breggen. “This finale is incredibly hard, winning six times is crazy.”

Van der Breggen, who also claimed gold in the road race at the 2016 Rio Olympics, secured a rare double at the world championships last week, winning both the road race and the time trial.

Normally scheduled in the spring, the Fleche Wallonne races were pushed back to September because of the coronavirus pandemic that brought the cycling season to a halt for several months.