E3 Harelbeke is the first World Tour race of Flanders week and we’ve got a strong field of riders all aiming for the win. The race has already courted some controversy before even starting with the ‘sexist poster’ storm which had a nod to Peter Sagan’s podium antics in this race. Harelbeke has been known for its risque posters in the past but the majority seemed to think this strayed over the line. The race itself covers famous hellingen such as the Paterberg (scene of many of Boonen’s attacks), Oude Kwaremont and the Kapelberg. These tough climbs favour strong riders and the strongest, most in-form rider shows himself by riding away from the peloton.
E3 Harelbeke Profile
E3 Harelbeke Contenders
John Degenkolb has become a favourite from his race winning display at Milan – San Remo last weekend, he has had decent results in the past and is clearly in form. Sagan and Cancellara are standard favourites, Cancellara has won 3 times in the last 5 years and Sagan won E3 Harelbeke last year. Sep Vanmarcke is a good shout for a top 5 place, which he’s done three times so far in this race, his weaker team seems to stop him winning the bigger races. Geraint Thomas has finished 3rd and 4th in the last two years and is a good shout to do well again if he can ride for himself – Ian Stannard is the other key Team Sky option.
Niki Terpstra came second last year, but will be racing at Dwars door Vlaanderen a couple of days before which may hinder him here. Greg van Avermaet is perpetually in the mix for these sorts of races but is missing the big win so far this season – his attack on the Poggio last weekend was a huge effort and a sure sign of strength. Sebastian Langeveld has a number of top ten finishes at Harelbeke and should get a similar result this year but would be doing well to make the podium.
Edward Boasson Hagen performed well at Milan – San Remo and has top ten finishes here – he seems to be in decent form and a part of the usual MTN team of people who were good four years ago. Zdenek Stybar won this year’s Strade Bianche but despite only having a 19th place to show for his efforts at Harelbeke, is still a contender. And finally, Sebastian Turgot has finished tenth here twice and should be the focus of AG2Rs efforts.
E3 Harelbeke Outsiders
As usual, there’s a couple of outsiders who can do well provided they get a break and their teams let them off the leash. Luke Rowe for Sky can do well provided he is released from protective duties for Geraint Thomas, Ian Stannard and Bradley Wiggins.
Yves Lampaert is a part of a strong Etixx – Quickstep line-up and again if he gets a chance he’ll be able to give a strong showing after winning Driesdaagse van West-Vlaanderen recently.
E3 Harelbeke Prediction
1 – John Degenkolb
2 – Greg van Avermaet
3 – Peter Sagan