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Kasper Asgreen completed an impressive and dominant tactical team effort from Deceuninck-Quickstep, winning the E3 Saxo Bank Classic ahead of an elite chasing group, led home by his teammate Florian Sénéchal ahead of Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) after an earlier 57km effort.
Asgreen attacked first on the Taaienberg and then again with 70km to go on the Boigneberg before snapping the elastic. His Deceuninck-Quickstep teammates then marked all the attempts to chase until with 12.3km to go he was caught by a group of Classics titans: Van der Poel, Greg van Avermaet and Oliver Naesen (AG2R Citroën) and Dylan Van Baarle (Ineos Grenadiers) in addition to defending champion Zdenek Stybar and Sénéchal.
In an aggressive race, Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) lost contact on the Tiegemberg. Then with Deceuninck-Quickstep dominating the numbers, Asgreen attacked first. Van der Poel was on the front and opted not to chase, as did Naesen. That was enough for Asgreen to open a gap and his Deceuninck-Quickstep loyally defended his attack all the way to the finish.
"I knew after the effort I did today that I wasn't going to have any chance in the last kilometre, so I had to get away and arrive alone if I wanted to win the race. It was all or nothing at that point," Asgreen explained, tired but happy.
|Pos.||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Kasper Asgreen (Den) Deceuninck-QuickStep||4:42:37|
|2||Florian Senechal (Fra) Deceuninck-QuickStep||0:32:00|
|3||Mathieu van der Poel (Ned) Alpecin-Fenix|
|4||Oliver Naesen (Bel) AG2R Citroën Team|
|5||Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Deceuninck-QuickStep|
|6||Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) AG2R Citroën Team|
|7||Dylan van Baarle (Ned) Ineos Grenadiers|
|8||Markus Hoelgaard (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team||0:01:28|
|9||Gianni Vermeersch (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix||0:01:30|
|10||Marco Haller (Aut) Bahrain Victorious|
The E3 Saxo Bank Classic (formerly the E3 BinckBank Classic, E3 Harelbeke and more) is key in the build-up to the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, but is also a prestigious race in his own right and arguably the toughest cobbled Classic outside of the two Monuments.
It's known as a 'mini Flanders', taking in several of the same bergs as the race including the Katteberg, Kanarieberg, Taaienberg, and Paterberg. A 203.9-kilometre course featuring over a dozen hills and almost as many cobbled sectors ensures a hard race, with solo riders or small groups crossing the line first every year since Tom Boonen's bunch sprint victory in 2012.
In 2019, Zdenek Štybar (Deceuninck-QuickStep) was the strongest man on the day, beating 2017 winner Greg Van Avermaet to the line from a select group including Wout van Aert and Alberto Bettiol.
E3 Saxo Bank Classic 202126 March 2021 | Harelbeke | WorldTour
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