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Belgian Classics get rolling with E3 Prijs

By Gregor Brown

The Belgians know their cobbled classics have truly started in full force with the E3 Prijs and Brabantse Pijl weekend. The 208-kilometre E3 Prijs will be a key indicator of the form of the favourites for the Ronde van Vlaanderen, which occurs only one week later.

The 52nd GP Harelbeke (as it is sometimes called) may not stack up to the distance of De Ronde, but its climbs offer an interesting appetiser for the main event in Flanders. Three riders in recent years have gone on to win the Ronde van Vlaanderen after taking victory in the E3 Prijs: Johan Museeuw (1998), Peter Van Petegem (1999) and Tom Boonen (2005 and 2006).

Even if you don't pull off a Ronde, the E3 is a worthy win in its own right. Past winners include Rik Van Looy, Roger De Vlaeminck, Jan Raas, Phil Anderson and Mario Cipollini. Norwegian Kurt-Asle Arvesen won the race last year to add to a palmarès that includes stages in the Giro d'Italia. He went on to win stage 11 of the 2008 Tour de France in Foix.

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