Van Avermaet wins E3 Harelbeke

Gilbert out-gunned, Naesen takes final podium spot

Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) hung his placard on the top rung of the rack of Tour of Flanders contenders, taking out his second victory of the season in the E3 Harelbeke

The Belgian out-sprinted his former teammate Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors), with fellow escapee Oliver Naesen (AG2R La Mondiale) taking the final podium spot.

"I was happy how I felt. I didn't feel so good on Wednesday but I'm happy things are not so bad," Van Avermaet said after fighting a cold earlier in the week.

Van Avermaet played down suggestions that riders who win E3 are the overwhelming favourites for the Tour of Flanders.

"I don't know. I was never so good here, I was never on the podium and I was always good in Flanders. It's just nice to win a Classic in Flanders and I think E3 is one of the nicest ones. It gives a lot of confidence for Flanders. I'm just happy to have two nice victories in my pocket and hopefully the third will come next week."

The winning trio formed out of a six man group that bridged to the early breakaway, distancing themselves from the rest on the Oude Kwaremont and then cooperating until the finish line was in sight. Gilbert, stuck on the front, kept looking back waiting for one of his rivals to open up the sprint. Naesen finally lost patience and jumped, but it was too soon and Van Avermaet surged past with the form expected of an Olympic champion.

Gilbert made it close, but no cigar as Van Avermaet took the win by a quarter wheel.

“In the sprint, Naesen surprised me when he opened his sprint and I hesitated for a second," Gilbert said. "That, and the headwind, made it really hard to get back in the front. It’s a pity, because I was there and could have won, but that’s racing. I’m looking at the bright side of things, which is that my form is good and I’ve rediscovered those sensations that make me feel at ease on the cobbles.

"In these races, you have to work hard to get into the best position and to keep it. I really like this. I found again my fighting spirit and this makes me happy. I’m back!"

Meanwhile, Naesen's third place was the biggest result of his career. "When I attacked on the Oude Kwaremont, I saw that they were both able to follow. I knew that we would be fast enough to stay away," he said. "We rode all the way, to the last kilometre where things became tactical. I tried to surprise them, but I knew I was not the best. I finished in my place. I believed I could win, but there were just 20 meters too many."

How it unfolded

The countdown to the Tour of Flanders continued with the E3 Harelbeke, which departed under sunny skies for 206.1km of mayhem.

The opening kilometers were marked by a series of crashes, some inconsequential, but some not - Tony Gallopin (Lotto Soudal) abandoned after a nasty crash left him howling in pain and clutching his left knee.

It wasn't until the second hour that a breakaway could go clear, and when they finally did they quickly opened up a lead of just under five minutes.

Alexis Gougeard (AG2R La Mondiale), Laurens De Vreese (Astana), David Per (Bahrain-Merida), Gijs van Hoecke (LottoNl-Jumbo), Taco van der Hoorn (Roompot), and Christophe Masson (WB Veranclassic) were the lucky ones to make the move.

Dries de Bondt (Veranda's Willems) chased solo for a long time before finally joining up with Tom Van Aesbroeck (Cannondale-Drapac) and Mickael Delage (FDJ) in no-man's land, but were dangling precariously in front of the peloton as they reached the midpoint of the hellingen region.

Olivier Le Gac (FDJ) attacked from the peloton with 75km to go, but his move didn't last long, as Tom Boonen (Quick-Step Floors) stretched his legs on Taaienberg. The acceleration halved the advantage of the leaders, bringing it to just 1:26.

Boonen's attack was closely marked by BMC's Daniel Oss, and soon after a counter-attack came from Gilbert, who was joined by Van Avermaet, Naesen and Lukas Postlberger (Bora-hansgrohe). They caught the Van Aesbroeck group with 66km to go on the Boindeberg.

Sep Vanmarcke then bridged across with Luke Durbridge (Orica-Scott), his efforts helped by Van Aesbroeck, who was then dropped on the Eikenberg, along with Delage and de Bondt.

Behind, Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) tried to go across several times, but was heavily marked. The sextet caught the leaders with 59km to go making 12 up front, with a precarious 48 seconds on the field.

Behind, Sagan tried again to go across, but each time he was reeled back in, and finally with 42km to go was taken down in a crash. Although he quickly bounced up and remounted, repeated issues with his bike meant his race was over.

Soon, all of the early escapees were ridden off the wheels of the lead group, pushed by Gilbert. Only De Vreese was left, making it seven riders with 1:10 at 38km to go.

Naesen pushed the pace on the Oude Kwaremont and put Vanmarcke, Durbridge, Postlberger and De Vreese out the back, and found himself in the company of the two Classics giants, Gilbert and Van Avermaet.

Durbridge and Postlberger, and further back De Vreese and Vanmarcke, valiantly continued to chase the lead trio, but could not make up ground. Meanwhile, Trek-Segafredo desperately tried to get a group working to go across, but were thwarted by the Quick-Step team.

Their efforts reeled in De Vreese and Vanmarcke on the Karnemelkbeekstraat with 30km to go, but Durbridge and Pöstlberger kept going, but it became increasingly clear they were racing for fourth place.

Delage still looked comfortable as the leaders hit the Varentstraat with 23km to go, holding a lead of 1:52 on the chasing bunch. But that all changed on the Tiegemberg with 20km to go when the AG2R rider was gapped by Gilbert's pace. But he rallied and chased back on the descent.

The trio worked well together with the climbs behind them, coming into the final 3km with almost two minutes on the chasers.

Into the final kilometer, Gilbert started looking back to watch Van Avermaet in second, with Naesen tacked on, patiently waiting. Gilbert took it into the finish like a trackie, looking back all the time, waiting for the first attack, which came from Naesen.

Full Results

#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team4:48:17 
2Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Quick-Step Floors  
3Oliver Naesen (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale  
4Luke Durbridge (Aus) Orica-Scott0:00:40 
5Lukas Pöstlberger (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe0:00:41 
6Michael Valgren Andersen (Den) Astana Pro Team0:00:52 
7Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Merida  
8Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick-Step Floors  
9Dylan Van Baarle (Ned) Cannondale-Drapac  
10Alberto Bettiol (Ita) Cannondale-Drapac  
11Fabio Felline (Ita) Trek-Segafredo  
12Jens Keukeleire (Bel) Orica-Scott  
13John Degenkolb (Ger) Trek-Segafredo  
14Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal  
15Luke Rowe (GBr) Team Sky  
16Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) Cannondale-Drapac  
17Laurens De Vreese (Bel) Astana Pro Team  
18Ignatas Konovalovas (Ltu) FDJ  
19Niki Terpstra (Ned) Quick-Step Floors  
20Daniel Oss (Ita) BMC Racing Team  
21Tony Martin (Ger) Katusha-Alpecin  
22Matteo Trentin (Ita) Quick-Step Floors0:00:57 
23Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Cannondale-Drapac0:01:53 
24Magnus Cort Nielsen (Den) Orica-Scott0:02:12 
25Borut Bozic (Slo) Bahrain-Merida  
26Sacha Modolo (Ita) UAE Team Emirates  
27Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha-Alpecin  
28Ramon Sinkeldam (Ned) Team Sunweb  
29Olivier Le Gac (Fra) FDJ  
30Scott Thwaites (GBr) Dimension Data  
31Jasper De Buyst (Bel) Lotto Soudal  
32Iljo Keisse (Bel) Quick-Step Floors  
33Luka Pibernik (Slo) Bahrain-Merida  
34Frederik Backaert (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert  
35Koen De Kort (Ned) Trek-Segafredo  
36Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert  
37Mathew Hayman (Aus) Orica-Scott  
38Taco Van Der Hoorn (Ned) Roompot - Nederlandse Loterij  
39Carlos Barbero (Spa) Movistar Team  
40Loïc Vliegen (Bel) BMC Racing Team  
41Jasha Sütterlin (Ger) Movistar Team  
42Bryan Coquard (Fra) Direct Energie  
43Gijs Van Hoecke (Bel) Team LottNl-Jumbo  
44Stijn Devolder (Bel) Veranda's Willems Crelan  
45Bram Tankink (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo  
46Jos Van Emden (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo  
47Jean-Pierre Drucker (Lux) BMC Racing Team  
48Jelle Wallays (Bel) Lotto Soudal  
49Huub Duijn (Ned) Veranda's Willems Crelan  
50Thomas Sprengers (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise  
51Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana Pro Team  
52Kevyn Ista (Bel) WB Veranclassic Aqua Protect  
53Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Quick-Step Floors0:02:16 
54Lukasz Wisniowski (Pol) Team Sky  
55Silvan Dillier (Swi) BMC Racing Team  
56Ian Stannard (GBr) Team Sky  
57Ivan Garcia (Spa) Bahrain-Merida  
58Christopher Juul Jensen (Den) Orica-Scott  
59Thomas Scully (NZl) Cannondale-Drapac  
60Antoine Duchesne (Can) Direct Energie  
61Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Direct Energie  
62Gianni Moscon (Ita) Team Sky0:02:20 
63Vegard Stake Laengen (Nor) UAE Team Emirates  
64Marco Marcato (Ita) UAE Team Emirates0:02:29 
65Tyler Farrar (USA) Dimension Data0:02:43 
66Hugo Houle (Can) AG2R La Mondiale0:06:15 
67Aleksei Tcatevich (Rus) Gazprom – Rusvelo  
68Dmitriy Gruzdev (Kaz) Astana Pro Team  
69Reto Hollenstein (Swi) Katusha-Alpecin  
70Nils Politt (Ger) Katusha-Alpecin  
71Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale  
72Michael Morkov (Den) Katusha-Alpecin  
73Martin Elmiger (Swi) BMC Racing Team  
74Eliot Lietaer (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise  
75Søren Kragh Andersen (Den) Team Sunweb  
76Tom Van Asbroeck (Bel) Cannondale-Drapac  
77Mickael Delage (Fra) FDJ  
78Alexis Gougeard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
79Kristijan Koren (Slo) Cannondale-Drapac  
80Marcus Burghardt (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe  
81Bert De Backer (Bel) Team Sunweb0:08:36 
82Elmar Reinders (Ned) Roompot - Nederlandse Loterij  
83Twan Castelijns (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo  
84Floris Gerts (Ned) BMC Racing Team  
85Matthieu Ladagnous (Fra) FDJ  
86Jorge Arcas Peña (Spa) Movistar Team  
87Kenneth Van Rooy (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise  
88Moreno Hofland (Ned) Lotto Soudal  
89Romain Cardis (Fra) Direct Energie  
90Mads Pedersen (Den) Trek-Segafredo  
91Sjoerd Van Ginneken (Ned) Roompot - Nederlandse Loterij  
92Julien Vermote (Bel) Quick-Step Floors  
93Julien Duval (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
94Nuno Bico (Por) Movistar Team  
95Manuel Quinziato (Ita) BMC Racing Team  
96Lars Boom (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo  
97Simone Consonni (Ita) UAE Team Emirates  
98Kris Boeckmans (Bel) Lotto Soudal0:08:39 
99Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Dimension Data0:10:45 
100Sven Erik Bystrøm (Nor) Katusha-Alpecin  
101Erik Baska (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe  
102Maciej Bodnar (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe  
103Sander Cordeel (Bel) Veranda's Willems Crelan  
104Alexander Porsev (Rus) Gazprom – Rusvelo  
105Igor Boev (Rus) Gazprom – Rusvelo  
106Julien Morice (Fra) Direct Energie  
107Nans Peters (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
108Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe  
109Alexandre Pichot (Fra) Direct Energie  
110Remy Mertz (Bel) Lotto Soudal  
111Pavel Brutt (Rus) Gazprom – Rusvelo  
112Aime De Gendt (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise  
DNFJuraj Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe  
DNFChristian Knees (Ger) Team Sky  
DNFOwain Doull (GBr) Team Sky  
DNFNico Denz (Ger) AG2R La Mondiale  
DNFSalvatore Puccio (Ita) Team Sky  
DNFGediminas Bagdonas (Ltu) AG2R La Mondiale  
DNFMatti Breschel (Den) Astana Pro Team  
DNFOscar Gatto (Ita) Astana Pro Team  
DNFAndrey Grivko (Ukr) Astana Pro Team  
DNFChristoph Pfingsten (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe  
DNFTruls Korsaeth (Nor) Astana Pro Team  
DNFTony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto Soudal  
DNFNiccolo Bonifazio (Ita) Bahrain-Merida  
DNFNikolas Maes (Bel) Lotto Soudal  
DNFDavid Per (Slo) Bahrain-Merida  
DNFIon Insausti (Spa) Bahrain-Merida  
DNFAleksejs Saramotins (Lat) Bora-Hansgrohe  
DNFDanny Van Poppel (Ned) Team Sky  
DNFJack Bauer (NZl) Quick-Step Floors  
DNFChun Kai Feng (Tpe) Bahrain-Merida  
DNFBenjamin Declercq (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise  
DNFPieter Vanspeybrouck (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert  
DNFElias Van Breussegem (Bel) Veranda's Willems Crelan  
DNFOtto Vergaerde (Bel) Veranda's Willems Crelan  
DNFStef Van Zummeren (Bel) Veranda's Willems Crelan  
DNFGaetan Bille (Bel) Veranda's Willems Crelan  
DNFDries De Bondt (Bel) Veranda's Willems Crelan  
DNFAlex Kirsch (Lux) WB Veranclassic Aqua Protect  
DNFDries Van Gestel (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise  
DNFChristophe Masson (Fra) WB Veranclassic Aqua Protect  
DNFPiet Allegaert (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise  
DNFAndrea Guardini (Ita) UAE Team Emirates  
DNFFederico Zurlo (Ita) UAE Team Emirates  
DNFOliviero Troia (Ita) UAE Team Emirates  
DNFMarko Kump (Slo) UAE Team Emirates  
DNFBernhard Eisel (Aut) Dimension Data  
DNFPreben Van Hecke (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise  
DNFIvan Savitskiy (Rus) Gazprom – Rusvelo  
DNFPim Ligthart (Ned) Roompot - Nederlandse Loterij  
DNFCoen Vermeltfoort (Ned) Roompot - Nederlandse Loterij  
DNFBrian Van Goethem (Ned) Roompot - Nederlandse Loterij  
DNFBerden De Vries (Ned) Roompot - Nederlandse Loterij  
DNFJesper Asselman (Ned) Roompot - Nederlandse Loterij  
DNFRoman Maikin (Rus) Gazprom – Rusvelo  
DNFLudwig De Winter (Bel) WB Veranclassic Aqua Protect  
DNFAndrei Solomennikov (Rus) Gazprom – Rusvelo  
DNFKevin Van Melsen (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert  
DNFAdrien Petit (Fra) Direct Energie  
DNFRyan Anderson (Can) Direct Energie  
DNFJimmy Duquennoy (Bel) WB Veranclassic Aqua Protect  
DNFJulien Stassen (Bel) WB Veranclassic Aqua Protect  
DNFLudovic Robeet (Bel) WB Veranclassic Aqua Protect  
DNFLawrence Naesen (Bel) WB Veranclassic Aqua Protect  
DNFNikolay Trusov (Rus) Gazprom – Rusvelo  
DNFAntonio Pedrero (Spa) Movistar Team  
DNFJérôme Baugnies (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert  
DNFMark Renshaw (Aus) Dimension Data  
DNFYoucef Reguigui (Alg) Dimension Data  
DNFNick Dougall (RSA) Dimension Data  
DNFLuka Mezgec (Slo) Orica-Scott  
DNFRoger Kluge (Ger) Orica-Scott  
DNFMarco Haller (Aut) Katusha-Alpecin  
DNFDayer Quintana (Col) Movistar Team  
DNFJenthe Biermans (Bel) Katusha-Alpecin  
DNFHéctor Carretero (Spa) Movistar Team  
DNFCarlos Betancur (Col) Movistar Team  
DNFMarc Sarreau (Fra) FDJ  
DNFLorenzo Manzin (Fra) FDJ  
DNFJacopo Guarnieri (Ita) FDJ  
DNFMarc Fournier (Fra) FDJ  
DNFMitch Docker (Aus) Orica-Scott  
DNFAlbert Timmer (Ned) Team Sunweb  
DNFSimone Antonini (Ita) Wanty - Groupe Gobert  
DNFYoann Offredo (Fra) Wanty - Groupe Gobert  
DNFWesley Kreder (Ned) Wanty - Groupe Gobert  
DNFMarco Coledan (Ita) Trek-Segafredo  
DNFFumiyuki Beppu (Jpn) Trek-Segafredo  
DNFGregory Rast (Swi) Trek-Segafredo  
DNFJay Robert Thomson (RSA) Dimension Data  
DNFZico Waeytens (Bel) Team Sunweb  
DNFRyan Mullen (Irl) Cannondale-Drapac  
DNFMike Teunissen (Ned) Team Sunweb  
DNFTom Stamsnijder (Ned) Team Sunweb  
DNFRoy Curvers (Ned) Team Sunweb  
DNFMaarten Wynants (Bel) Team LottoNl-Jumbo  
DNFRobert Wagner (Ger) Team LottoNl-Jumbo  
DNFThomas Leezer (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo  
DNFJasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo  

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