Terpstra wins E3 Harelbeke

Quick-Step Floors goes all in and comes up aces with Gilbert taking second

Niki Terpstra became the first Dutchman to win E3 Harelbeke since Steven de Jongh in 2003, after a dominant performance by the Quick-Step Floors team. Terpstra soloed to the line after initially getting away on the Taaienberg with teammate Yves Lampaert with more than 70 kilometres remaining.

Philippe Gilbert made it a 1-2 for the Quick-Step team, with defending champion Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) rounding out the podium. World champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) had another difficult E3 Harelbeke, crashing in the early stages, getting dropped in the final 40 kilometres and finishing over three minutes down.

Quick-Step took the race by the scruff of the neck with more than half the race still to run after a crash held up a large portion of the peloton, including several of the pre-race favourites. The drive, which was assisted by Lotto Soudal, cut chunks out of the advantage of the day's breakaway. With the remaining leaders within toughing distance, Terpstra and Lampaert attacked on the Taaienberg.

With Gilbert and Zdenek Stybar to run interference behind, the Quick-Step pairing built an advantage that the chasers struggled to shut down. As the race hit the penultimate helling, the Karnemelkbeekstraat, it looked like it might be about to fall apart for the Belgian team as Lampaert began to struggle. Terpstra seemed unsure of carrying on alone and held back to wait for his ailing teammate as Gilbert attacked behind.

Lampaert got back on, but Gilbert was stuck in no-man's land and eventually sat up and waited. Lampaert's resurgence didn't last long and it was eventually left to Terpstra to try and bring it home for the Belgian outfit. The group behind - with Van Avermaet and two teammates, Sep Vanmarcke (EF Education First-Drapac), Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott) and Oliver Naesen (AG2R La Mondiale) among others – cut the gap to Terpstra to 12 seconds with three kilometres remaining.

However, they ruined any chance of catching the flying Dutchman by playing cat-and-mouse games, appearing to be racing for second place rather than the victory. Their repeated attacks and lulls slowed the chase and allowed Terpstra to build his lead to 19 seconds, even with a slowdown to celebrate his second win of the Classics.

How it unfolded

It was a cold and blustery start to the day in Harelbeke, but mercifully there was no rain for the peloton. Though the Classics began at the end of February, the 206.1km course with 15 climbs would be the first big litmus test for the Classics riders ahead of next week's Tour of Flanders.

A little after midday, the riders rolled out of town with attacks coming immediately after the flag dropped at kilometre zero. Eventually, a group of eight riders pushed clear and quickly built up a lead of six minutes. Truls Korsaeth (Astana), Nelson Oliveira (Movistar), Simone Consonni (UAE Team Emirates), Lukas Spengler (WB Aqua Protect), Damien Gaudin (Direct Energie), Pim Ligthart (Roompot), Jeremy Lecroq (Vital Concept), and Kevin Van Melsen (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) were the lucky eight.

Their lead went up as far as seven minutes when a closed level crossing delayed the peloton. However, a combined effort from Lotto Soudal and Quick-Step quickly brought it back down to a more manageable 5:45.

Peter Sagan's 2017 E3 Harelbeke was hampered by a crash, and he had a sense of déjà vu early on as he hit the deck in a multi-rider pile up. Fortunately, he was up and running a lot quicker than he was 12 months ago and was soon back into the peloton. Aside from Sagan's incident, the opening half of the race was a fairly straightforward affair, but that changed with 108 kilometres to go.

Just as the race approached the halfway point, a crash near the front of the peloton on a narrow road shaped the second part of the race. The peloton had filled out the whole road so when one rider went down it caused a ripple effect through the bunch that saw about a quarter of the field go down. Of those who didn't go down, most were caught behind the crash with nowhere to go.

Several of the main contenders, including Naesen (AG2R La Mondiale), Arnaud Demare (FDJ), Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) and Vanmarcke (EF Education First-Drapac), were involved in the incident and left scrambling to get back on the road. Quick-Step had been right on the front and made it through intact.

Quick-Step Floors' to lose

As news came through as to who had lost out in the crash, Quick-Step saw the opportunity to rule them out of contention altogether. With the help of fellow Belgians Lotto Soudal, the drastically reduced peloton put the hammer down. The effect was immediate as Tim Declercq and Iljo Keisse took a minute out of the leaders' advantage in five kilometres. With just under 90km to go, the gap was less than two minutes, while the second peloton was over a minute further back.

With the first chasing group bearing down on them, the leading group of eight began to break into pieces. Gaudin and Ligthart emerged from the ashes of the breakaway and sailed off up the road, delaying the inevitable catch. Behind, Astana were doing their best to bring the race back together, but every time they got closer a surge up front increased the gap again.

With 71km to go, the Taaienberg is often the point were the first major selections begin to take place and Quick-Step used it to break the race further. Former Paris-Roubaix winner Terpstra attacked along with teammate Lampaert, and the pair quickly gained a significant advantage. It wasn't long before the blue duo had caught and dispatched Gaudin and Ligthart.

An elite chase began to form behind with Van Avermaet, Sagan, Zdenek Stybar (Quick-Step Floors), Tiesj Benoot (Lotto Soudal) and Gilbert. With so many Quick-Step riders in the chasing group, Van Avermaet decided to strike out alone, but he was eventually joined by Benoot and Gilbert. Behind, Daniel Oss did a big turn for his team leader, Sagan, but it came to nothing when Sagan was dropped on the Oude Kwaremont.

Lampaert had been working hard, and as he and Terpstra hit the Karnemelkbeekstraat with 31 kilometres remaining, the 26-year-old began to struggle. He was quickly dropped by the stronger Terpstra, who glanced over his shoulder unsure whether to leave his teammate in the pain cave.

The call must have come over the radio, and he eased up to allow Lampaert to regain touch just as Gilbert launched his own attack from behind. It gave them an opportunity to have three riders out front but significantly reduced the gap to the chasers behind. In the end, Gilbert wasn't able to get across and Lampaert was dropped again with 24 kilometres to go.

It was a long way to go solo and Terpstra's advantage was tenuous as the group behind grew when Naesen, Vanmarcke and several others caught the chasing group of Van Avermaet. With three kilometres remaining and the gap falling to little more than 10 seconds, it looked like Quick-Step Floors had got it terribly wrong. However, discord in the chasing group proved just enough to see him across the line 19 seconds clear of his teammate Gilbert, who won the sprint for second place.

Full Results

#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Niki Terpstra (Ned) Quick-Step Floors5:03:34 
2Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Quick-Step Floors0:00:20 
3Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team  
4Oliver Naesen (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale  
5Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal  
6Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo  
7Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale  
8Gianni Moscon (Ita) Team Sky  
9Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Quick-Step Floors  
10Stefan Küng (Swi) BMC Racing Team  
11Matteo Trentin (Ita) Mitchelton-Scott  
12Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) BMC Racing Team0:00:27 
13Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb0:02:52 
14Michael Valgren (Den) Astana Pro Team  
15Frederik Backaert (Bel) Wanty-Groupe Gobert  
16Florian Senechal (Fra) Quick-Step Floors0:02:57 
17Yves Lampaert (Bel) Quick-Step Floors0:03:00 
18Luka Mezgec (Slo) Mitchelton-Scott0:03:19 
19Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Bahrain-Merida  
20Jean-Pierre Drucker (Lux) BMC Racing Team  
21John Degenkolb (Ger) Trek-Segafredo  
22Viacheslav Kuznetsov (Rus) Katusha-Alpecin  
23Luke Durbridge (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott  
24Edvald Boasson Hagen (Norway) Dimension Data  
25Søren Kragh Andersen (Den) Team Sunweb  
26Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe0:03:23 
27Tony Martin (Ger) Katusha-Alpecin0:03:27 
28Justin Jules (Fra) WB Aqua Protect Veranclassic0:07:03 
29Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Direct Energie  
30Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale  
31Pim Ligthart (Ned) Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij  
32Nelson Oliveira (Por) Movistar Team  
33Koen de Kort (Ned) Trek-Segafredo  
34Magnus Cort (Den) Astana Pro Team  
35Tony Gallopin (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale0:08:09 
36Dries Van Gestel (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise  
37Marcel Sieberg (Ger) Lotto Soudal  
38Mike Teunissen (Ned) Team Sunweb  
39Francisco Ventoso (Spa) BMC Racing Team  
40Alexander Kristoff (Nor) UAE Team Emirates  
41Michael Schär (Swi) BMC Racing Team  
42Piet Allegaert (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise  
43Owain Doull (GBr) Team Sky  
44Damien Gaudin (Fra) Direct Energie  
45Michal Golas (Pol) Team Sky  
46Huub Duijn (Ned) Veranda's Willems Crelan  
47Mathew Hayman (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott  
48Jack Bauer (NZl) Mitchelton-Scott  
49Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Merida  
50Brian van Goethem (Ned) Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij0:11:15 
51Dylan van Baarle (Ned) Team Sky  
52Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Bel) Wanty-Groupe Gobert  
53Julien Duval (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale0:14:05 
54Nils Politt (Ger) Katusha-Alpecin  
55Tim Declercq (Bel) Quick-Step Floors  
56Arnaud Demare (Fra) Groupama-FDJ  
57Thomas Sprengers (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise  
58Olivier Le Gac (Fra) Groupama-FDJ  
59Jorge Arcas (Spa) Movistar Team  
60Sjoerd van Ginneken (Ned) Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij  
61Kevin Van Melsen (Bel) Wanty-Groupe Gobert  
62Michal Kolár (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe  
63Christoph Pfingsten (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe  
64Ivan Garcia (Spa) Bahrain-Merida  
65Jonas Rickaert (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise  
66Sven Erik Bystrøm (Nor) UAE Team Emirates  
67Alexandre Pichot (Fra) Direct Energie  
68Tanguy Turgis (Fra) Vital Concept Club  
69Patrick Müller (Swi) Vital Concept Club  
70Stijn Devolder (Bel) Veranda's Willems Crelan  
71Hector Carretero (Spa) Movistar Team  
72Alex Kirsch (Lux) WB Aqua Protect Veranclassic  
73Ryan Mullen (Irl) Trek-Segafredo  
74Dion Smith (NZl) Wanty-Groupe Gobert  
75Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Wanty-Groupe Gobert  
76Adrien Petit (Fra) Direct Energie  
77Julien Vermote (Bel) Dimension Data  
78Nikolas Maes (Bel) Lotto Soudal  
79Hugo Houle (Can) Astana Pro Team  
80Gijs Van Hoecke (Bel) LottoNL-Jumbo  
81Moreno Hofland (Ned) Lotto Soudal  
82Martijn Budding (Ned) Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij  
83Carlos Barbero (Spa) Movistar Team  
84Lukasz Wisniowski (Pol) Team Sky  
85Andrey Amador (CRc) Movistar Team  
86Mikel Landa (Spa) Movistar Team  
87Borut Bozic (Slo) Bahrain-Merida  
88Jos van Emden (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo  
89Marco Marcato (Ita) UAE Team Emirates  
90Timo Roosen (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo  
91Amund Grøndahl Jansen (Nor) LottoNL-Jumbo  
92Truls Korsaeth (Nor) Astana Pro Team  
93Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale0:14:10 
94Sacha Modolo (Ita) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale  
95Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana Pro Team  
DNFAime De Gendt (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise  
DNFLaurens De Vreese (Bel) Astana Pro Team  
DNFOliviero Troia (Ita) UAE Team Emirates  
DNFBen Swift (GBr) UAE Team Emirates  
DNFMaxime Farazijn (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise  
DNFAlex Edmondson (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott  
DNFTom Scully (NZl) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale  
DNFOscar Gatto (Ita) Astana Pro Team  
DNFFilippo Ganna (Ita) UAE Team Emirates  
DNFLawrence Naesen (Bel) Lotto Soudal  
DNFSimone Consonni (Ita) UAE Team Emirates  
DNFTaylor Phinney (USA) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale  
DNFKevin Deltombe (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise  
DNFLennard Hofstede (Ned) Team Sunweb  
DNFRobert Wagner (Ger) LottoNL-Jumbo  
DNFMaarten Wynants (Bel) LottoNL-Jumbo  
DNFKristoffer Halvorsen (Nor) Team Sky  
DNFChristian Knees (Ger) Team Sky  
DNFRick Zabel (Ger) Katusha-Alpecin  
DNFDavid Per (Slo) Bahrain-Merida  
DNFLuka Pibernik (Slo) Bahrain-Merida  
DNFMitchell Docker (Aus) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale  
DNFRoy Curvers (Ned) Team Sunweb  
DNFKiel Reijnen (USA) Trek-Segafredo  
DNFBaptiste Planckaert (Bel) Katusha-Alpecin  
DNFTom Stamsnijder (Ned) Team Sunweb  
DNFJosé Gonçalves (Por) Katusha-Alpecin  
DNFMarco Haller (Aut) Katusha-Alpecin  
DNFFrederik Frison (Bel) Lotto Soudal  
DNFMads Pedersen (Den) Trek-Segafredo  
DNFGregory Rast (Swi) Trek-Segafredo  
DNFTom Van Asbroeck (Bel) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale  
DNFPhil Bauhaus (Ger) Team Sunweb  
DNFThomas Leezer (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo  
DNFJasper De Buyst (Bel) Lotto Soudal  
DNFMichael Hepburn (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott  
DNFJan Willem van Schip (Ned) Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij  
DNFWouter Wippert (Ned) Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij  
DNFBryan Coquard (Fra) Vital Concept Club  
DNFAdrien Garel (Fra) Vital Concept Club  
DNFJulien Morice (Fra) Vital Concept Club  
DNFJohan Le Bon (Fra) Vital Concept Club  
DNFJérémy Lecroq (Fra) Vital Concept Club  
DNFFloris Gerts (Ned) Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij  
DNFRudy Barbier (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
DNFAngelo Tulik (Fra) Direct Energie  
DNFJay Thomson (RSA) Dimension Data  
DNFRyan Gibbons (RSA) Dimension Data  
DNFNicolas Dougall (RSA) Dimension Data  
DNFDaniel Oss (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe  
DNFNico Denz (Ger) AG2R La Mondiale  
DNFGediminas Bagdonas (Ltu) AG2R La Mondiale  
DNFPascal Ackermann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe  
DNFMichael Schwarzmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe  
DNFRüdiger Selig (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe  
DNFIljo Keisse (Bel) Quick-Step Floors  
DNFJulien Stassen (Bel) WB Aqua Protect Veranclassic  
DNFSimon Antonini (Ita) Wanty-Groupe Gobert  
DNFYohann Gene (Fra) Direct Energie  
DNFMarc Sarreau (Fra) Groupama-FDJ  
DNFJasha Sütterlin (Ger) Movistar Team  
DNFDries De Bondt (Bel) Veranda's Willems Crelan  
DNFSean De Bie (Bel) Veranda's Willems Crelan  
DNFRamon Sinkeldam (Ned) Groupama-FDJ  
DNFAidis Kruopis (Ltu) Veranda's Willems Crelan  
DNFStijn Steels (Bel) Veranda's Willems Crelan  
DNFBenjamin King (USA) Dimension Data  
DNFJimmy Duquennoy (Bel) WB Aqua Protect Veranclassic  
DNFYoann Offredo (Fra) Wanty-Groupe Gobert  
DNFIgnatas Konovalovas (Ltu) Groupama-FDJ  
DNFChristophe Masson (Fra) WB Aqua Protect Veranclassic  
DNFLukas Spengler (Swi) WB Aqua Protect Veranclassic  
DNFKenny Dehaes (Bel) WB Aqua Protect Veranclassic  
DNFRomain Cardis (Fra) Direct Energie  
DNFJacopo Guarnieri (Ita) Groupama-FDJ  
DNFAlberto Bettiol (Ita) BMC Racing Team  
DNFMickael Delage (Fra) Groupama-FDJ  
DNFKristijan Koren (Slo) Bahrain-Merida  
DNFElias Van Breussegem (Bel) Veranda's Willems Crelan  

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