Lars-Petter Nordhaug came close to holding off the peloton with a gutsy late attack at Fleche Wallonne.
The Norwegian bounced back in style after crashing three days previous at Amstel Gold whilst in a strong position, attacking over the summit of the Côte de Villers-le-Bouillet and holding on until the final metres on the Mur de Huy.
The move with 8.5 kilometres to go saw a handy gap open out to the chasing pack as Nordhaug was joined on the run-in by Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda), the duo heading under the flamme rouge with an advantage of 13 seconds.
Back in the pack Sergio Henao held a strong position in the bunch, and despite moving up on the steep slopes of the famous finishing climb, the young Colombian ultimately slipped back to 14th place on the line.
Nordhaug was also reeled in on one of the steepest sections of the climb, with attacks soon firing off the front as Joaquim Rodriguez broke his duck in the Ardennes Classics to take the win.
The Spaniard (Katusha) produced a well-timed attack to hold off chasers Michael Albasini (GreenEDGE) and defending champion Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) by four seconds on the line.
Wet weather greeted the riders as they rolled out from Charleroi ahead of 194km of hard racing.
As a two-man move attempted to head clear a crash split the peloton behind, Rigoberto Urán (Team Sky) one of many to go down on the treacherous wet roads.
After things had come back together the peloton finally allowed a break to forge ahead, with Anthony Roux (FDJ-BigMat) and Dirk Bellemakers (Landboukrediet) building up a maximum advantage of 7:10.
Katusha and Lotto-Belisol took up the pace-setting duties on the front, with the race not sparking into life until the Cote de Bousalle, Andy Schleck (RadioShack) putting the power down with Yuriy Trofimov (Katusha) in his wheel in the first significant move of the race.
With the team able to conserve energy in the bunch up to this point, there was unsurprisingly a fight for position ahead of the second passage over the Mur de Huy, the favourites moving towards the front including Henao and Nordhaug as the Schleck group was reeled in.
Next to chance his arm and attack was Giovanni Visconti (Movistar), the Italian national champion pushing on alongside Tom Jelte Slagter (Rabobank) during the false-flat stretch directly following the summit of the Mur.
The rain returned as the riders headed into the final 10km, Nordhaug giving it his all over the summit of the Côte de Villers-le-Bouillet, only for things to come back together and Rodriguez to prove his climbing credentials once again.
After the race Sports Director Marcus Ljungqvist was happy to see Nordhaug back on form despite struggling to even walk a few days earlier following his spill at Amstel Gold.
Ljungqvist said: “It was close at the end and it nearly worked with Lars-Petter. It was more of a tactic to stay out there off the front and hope to get a few more seconds. But it again shows that he has the legs to be up there.
“It was a good effort and we had Sergio who was feeling good and waiting in the front group with Puccio. Lars-Petter was a little bit unsure how he was feeling last time over the Mur so he decided to give it a go. It’s easy to look back and say maybe we should have waited but it was a good effort.
“Sergio was feeling really good and we thought we had a good chance but he just faded slightly at the end. But as a team it’s really nice to see how much better the guys are working. It didn’t work out today but we’ll keep trying until we get the win.”
The Swede was also able to give an update on Urán who was forced out of the race early on following a crash.
“Rigoberto is on his way back to the hotel now,” he confirmed. “He hit his knee in the crash and he’s had a few stitches. Nothing is broken so we’ll see tomorrow how he is. It’s not a good place to get an injury but we’ll look at it again. Despite that the team are in good spirits heading into Liege on Sunday.”