Spaniard Daniel Moreno clinched Russian team Katusha’s second win in two years in the Fleche Wallonne one-day classic on Wednesday, after staying in the same hotel room as several previous winners.
Moreno had been allocated the lucky No. 11 room in Katusha sports director Valerio Piva’s hotel near Liege.
Previous occupants included Italians Moreno Argentin and Michele Bartoli, before they took six victories between them in the Liege-Bastogne-Liege Classic in the last two decades, as well as three winners of the Fleche Wallonne in the past six years.
Italian Mario Cipollini also slept in the room before winning the world championships in Zolder, Belgium, in 2003.
“I didn’t believe in that sort of thing, but I am starting to now,” Moreno told reporters. “It’s brought other riders luck in the past and now it’s brought me luck too.”
Moreno hit the jackpot when he shadowed world champion Philippe Gilbert of Belgium on the final lung-bursting Mur de Huy climb, before blasting off 300m from the summit and overtaking early attacker Carlos Betancur of Colombia.
Colombian Sergio Henao finished second, three seconds behind Moreno, with Betancur third, giving Fleche Wallonne the first all-Spanish speaking podium in the race’s 83-year-history.
“I knew that Gilbert was very strong,” Moreno said. “He’s always good and he attacked where he did two years ago. So I followed him, maybe he’s not on his best day, but it was certainly mine.”
Moreno, 31, said he had inherited the role of team leader after Spanish teammate and defending champion Joaquim Rodriguez crashed and was injured in the Amstel Gold Race.
“We talked it over and agreed it was better for me to go for it rather than him, but it doesn’t change things long term,” Moreno said. “Joaquim is much better than me at handling pressure, and I’ll be happy to support him when he fights for a win in the Liege-Bastogne-Liege Classic on Sunday.”
Spain’s twice Tour de France champion Alberto Contador finished 33rd after fading in the finale.
“I didn’t have the legs today, I just couldn’t get the right kind of rhythm,” he said in a statement. “But I hope things will have turned around by Sunday and Liege-Bastogne-Liege.”