Tom Boonen and Philippe Gilbert will headline a strong Quick-Step Floors team at E3 Harelbeke this Friday. It will be the third time that the pair has lined-up alongside each other after Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, which Boonen abandoned, and Milan-San Remo.
Boonen, who is due to retire after Paris-Roubaix next month, has more wins than any at E3 Harelbeke with a total of five. His last win came in 2012 when he outsprinted Oscar Freire en-route to his third Tour of Flanders title. Boonen has had two top 10 results since that victory but could only manage 14th last year.
Boonen’s Classics took a hit when he crashed during Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and then fell sick, which forced him to pull out of Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne. He returned to action at Tirreno-Adriatico and looked strong as he played the domestique role at Milan-San Remo.
This year’s E3 Harelbeke will be Gilbert’s first appearance in four years. During his time with BMC Racing, there was a clear division between the cobbled Classics and the Ardennes. Gilbert would get the Ardennes while Greg Van Avermaet took the cobbles. However, with Julian Alaphilippe and Dan Martin in the team, Gilbert is getting the opportunity to ride a cobbled Classics programme for the first time in years.
Gilbert, unlike Boonen, has been out racing since Milan-San Remo with the mid-week Dwars door Vlaanderen. The Belgian champion tag-teamed with Yves Lampaert to force the key move on the Paterberg. Another attack in the final 10 kilometres was the foundation of Lampaert’s race-winning attack. He then backed it up by sprinting to second place ahead of Astana’s Alexey Lutsenko.
Although he showed some strong mid-week form, Lampaert did not earn selection for E3 Harelbeke, but he’ll be holding out hope for a start at Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday. As well as Gilbert and Boonen, Quick-Step Floors will also have options in Zdenek Stybar and Niki Terpstra, who were also in action at Dwars door Vlaanderen. Matteo Trentin gives the team a card to play if it is a larger group that comes to the line, while Iljo Keisse, Jack Bauer and Julian Vermote provide the firepower in the engine room.
Quick-Step Floors for E3 Harelbeke: Jack Bauer, Tom Boonen, Philippe Gilbert, Iljo Keisse, Zdenek Stybar, Niki Terpstra, Matteo Trentin, Julien Vermote.
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