While Fabian Cancellara's exploits dominated the headlines in E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke, the race was full of untold stories, daring battles, chases and do-or-die racing. Skil-Shimano, a team rated as underdogs before the race, lived up to its billing; despite its highest place finisher coming home in 25th however, its riders were present throughout the action.
These five videos show Skil's day in E3 from behind the scenes as Cyclingnews joined them for the day.
The team bus
After last night's team meeting Koen de Kort came into the race as one of Skil's protected riders. His job was to join an early escape and survive long enough for the main contenders to catch him on the climbs. Unfortunately de Kort missed the day's main break, which forced him onto the back foot just as Cancellara, Haussler and the other leaders tore the race apart.
Here de Kort takes us through his pre-race rituals and lays out his hopes for the day. Despite missing the early break he was still in the thick of the action later in the race.
The water carrier
With no race radios the car convoy was at times hectic, to say the least. Each car was allowed to move up to the bunch, which depending on your pre-given race position, could take anything up to two minutes to complete. Skil-Shimano were placed sixth from the front so when Cheng called for the car it was quickly on the scene.
The Chinese rider worked tirelessly for his teammates and here, in this video, he comes back to the car and picks up several bottles for his men in the bunch. Cheng did this several times during the race but was eventually dropped and later abandoned once the race split on the climbs. The next we say of him was back on the bus after the finish.
The race begins to slip away from Skil
With the race over 100km old the climbs are coming thick and fast. A group including Stuart O'Grady and Heinrich Haussler has just escaped up the road and Skil has been caught out. With riders dropping like flies team director Rudi Kemna calls Ronan van Zandbeek back to the team car. He takes some bottles but what's most important is the advice Kemna gives him.
Unlike Quick Step, Lotto and Leopard, Skil lacks the depth to control affairs so Rudi asks all his riders to watch their positions and move to the front. With a group up the road Skil has to hope things come back together so that they can counter. The race is in the balance.
De Backer to the rescue
With the race seemingly over for Skil Bert de Backer manages to sneak away from the field with a small group. They're still behind the leaders but that all changes when Fabian Cancellara attacks from the peloton and bridges up to de Backer's group. From there the Swiss rider pushes the paces and tows de Backer and the others to within 50 meters of the leaders.
In this video Kemna explains how he sees the race unfolding. Things are looking up for Skil at last. "The racing starts now," Kemna tells us.
Blown away by Cancellara
Cancellara did indeed bridge up to the leaders with the de Backer group but the pace proved too high and de Backer was quickly distanced. He was forced to sit up and was caught by the remnants of the main field, which included de Kort. With less than 20km to go de Kort made a do or die attack but was reeled in. The bunch sprinted in, with de Backer finishing highest, in 25th place.
In this final video de Backer talks about his race, his attack and Cancellara, as well as his next race.
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