The race named after a motorway returns this Friday as my favourite week(ish) in cycling kicks off with E3 Harelbeke!
Last year’s edition of the race saw the big guns hit out early and a strong trio of Naesen, Gilbert and Van Avermaet managed to hold off a chasing group with the latter winning a sprint to the line.
Will we see something similar this year? Let’s take a look at what is in store for the riders.
A fairly benign opening half of the race before all hell breaks loose later in the day.
The riders will have to tackle 15 hillengen throughout the afternoon, but they will face a whopping 13 of them in the last 100km. As you can see on the profile, it is constantly up or down and offers the riders very little respite. A winning move can go at any time but the Kapelberg / Paterberg / Oude Kwaremont combinations is the likeliest of places where any big splits will be made.
Short but brutally steep, the Paterberg is 380m of cobbled hurt. The climb averages a leg-numbing 13.7% and even though the ascent won’t last long, big gaps can be made here if the strongest riders pretty much sprint up it.
Once over the top a fast descent on narrow roads follows with only a few kilometres of flat before they hit the Kwaremont.
The Oude Kwaremont is a lot shallower gradient wise (4.2%) compared to the Paterberg but it is the length of the cobbled climb that makes it tough, with 1500m of cobbles in the 2.2km climb.
From there it is only 36km to the finish and a group of strong riders can stay ahead of a chasing bunch.
As is often the case in Belgium, the weather can play a massive part in the outcome of the race.
Tomorrow it looks as if the riders will have a stiff breeze that comes from the South throughout most of the day, with a scattered shower here or there. The wind is strong enough for some crosswinds in the exposed areas. More importantly for any would be attackers though, it means that it will be a cross-tail wind after the Tiegemberg with only a few kilometres of headwind as they turn back towards Harelbeke.
How will the race pan out?
E3 is a really weird one to judge as we have no real form guide over the past week or so as to who might be going well in this type of race. We should expect an attacking race and it is vital for a team to have several options going into the closing 60kms. Having multiple lead riders in the front group is important!
I think we’ll see some of the “lesser” riders try to light it up on the Taainberg; someone has to replace Boonen right? If enough teams are represented then it could feasibly make it all the way but the likelihood is that some of the “bigger” riders well then attack on the Paterberg/Kwaremont combo and make it across.
As to how it pans out from there, it beats me, but I have a suspicion we might see a solo rider escape from around a group of 6 or so and make it all the way to the line.
Two’s A Crowd (Contenders)
This is where I would normally hark on for ages about all the teams and the possible riders that might win but if I’m honest, I don’t have the time to do that just now. Which is kind of annoying as rambling at extreme lengths is something I enjoy, I mean, just look at how long it has taken me to make this small point…Instead, I’m just going to name two riders here who I think might have a chance. There are other previews that will go more in-depth with teams etc (I’ll be back to do that properly for the weekend) so check out the likes of @InsideThePeloton and @Cyclingmole for that.
Ever since he smashed it up the Muur for Stolting back when the Three Days of De Panne was actually over three days, I’ve had my eye on this talented Dane. Now into his second season at World Tour level he’ll be even stronger as a rider, especially after he completed his first Grand Tour last year. A brute of a rider, he won’t be afraid of the cobbles or the short power climbs that E3 has to offer. Stuyven will come into this race as leader for Trek and with Degenkolb possibly still recovering after his illness that saw him miss Milan Sanremo, I think Pedersen will be second in command. He’s shown hints of good form recently too after he finished a very respectable 4th place in the recent TT at Tirreno. Earlier in the year he took a win at the Herald Sun Tour in a reduced bunch gallop proving he has a good turn of pace too. He’s certainly a danger man!
I don’t think Pedersen will win though, instead, we’ll see a win from the strongest team here; Quick Step. It won’t be Gilbert, Stybar or Terpstra but instead we will see Yves Lampaert come out on top at the end of the day.
I have the same feeling that I had before Dwars last year. There’s just something about the way he has been riding recently, working strongly for his team, patiently waiting for his own chance to shine. His performance on the final stage of Paris Nice was very impressive as he managed to finish in 13th place that day, ahead of the likes of Barguil and Henao and only 1’30 down on the winner. A rider similar to Pedersen, he possesses a strong engine so he could possibly solo to the line but he’s not a slouch in a sprint either. After his 2016 classics campaign was derailed by a rather innocuous accident involving his girlfriend and a shopping trolley, he returned to the fold last year. At the age of 26, he should now be developing into one of the best classics riders in the peloton and I think we’ll see him in full flight tomorrow.
I love Lamp-aert!
1pt EW Lampaert @ 50/1 (Would take 33/1 lowest)
0.25pt EW Pedersen @ 250/1 (Would take 125/1 lowest)
Thanks as always for reading! Once again, apologies this isn’t the usual length/in-depth ramblings but I don’t have the time today. Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will we see an aggressive race? Anyway,
Those were My Two Spokes Worth.