In recent years, men’s races have increasingly seen the benefit in holding a concurrent women's event. Most of the major Classics now hold a women's race, including the Tour of Flanders, Gent-Wevelgem and the Ardennes races, and it looks like E3 Harelbeke may be about to join their ranks. Lotta Lepistö (Cervelo Bigla) won the women's Dwars door Vlaanderen race on Wednesday, hours before the finish of the men's race.
Race organiser Marc Claerhout told Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad that there could be a women's E3 Harelbeke as soon as next season. "If we go for it, the first edition will be organized in 2018," he said.
E3 Harelbeke is one of the last of the major one-day spring races not to feature a women's event alongside the men's - Scheldeprijs and Paris-Roubaix are the other two. E3 Harelbeke, known as a mini-Tour of Flanders, has been held since 1958 and Friday’s race will be the 60th edition. On several occasions, the winner of the race has gone on to take the title a week later at the Tour of Flanders.
Local rider and reigning Belgian time trial champion Ann-Sophie Duyck (Drops) reportedly urged the organisers to make the jump and host a women’s race.
"A lot of spring Classics now have a contest for women. The only course that is missing is the E3, a 'home race' for me,” she told Het Nieuwsblad.
There is still debate as to whether the race would be held on the same day as the men's race, as has become de rigueur, or whether it would take place the day before when the juniors race. Duyck has clear ideas about when she would like the race to happen.
"The media attention is much greater if it is on the same day as the men are allowed to ride," she said. "Our sponsors are committed to attention and the happier the sponsors, the more money you receive and the better it is for women's cycling. If the women are racing on another day as the race for the men, that effect is much smaller."