The 2022 edition of E3 Saxo Bank Classic 2022 is underway, with the riders happy to race in the warm, sunny spring conditions, with a lack of wind likely to create a fast, tactical race, without the risk of echelons. Click here to follow the Cyclingnews live coverage of all the action.
The E3 Saxo Bank Classic is a vital Tour of Flanders test race, with the the route heading into the heart of the Flemish Ardennes just like next Sunday’s 'De Ronde', with 17 climbs and a total distance of 203.9 kilometres on the menu.
The riders rolled out of Harelbeke, and after a mostly flat opening 80km the route is up and down all the way to the finish, twisting and turning on the labyrinth of narrow roads and cobbles.
Wout van Aert is back in action and leads a powerful Jumbo-Visma Classics squad. Reigning champion Kasper Asgreen leads QuickStep-AlphaVinyl as they try to restore their as the team to beat, while Milan-San Remo winner Matej Mohorič leads Bahrain Victorious – without his now-famous dropper seatpost.
Cyclingnews is on the ground at E3 Saxo Bank Classic, with Patrick Fletcher and Barry Ryan speaking to riders before the start and then providing exclusive post-race news, interviews and analysis. Here's what the big names at the race had to say at the start.
Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma)
"I'm super happy to be here with such a strong squad, especially with all the sickness going around in the peloton. I think we managed to come through that well to this point. It's a big advantage for us.
"Our only goal is to try and win this race by doing the best possible with the team. We want to do a big result.
"I think Mohorič, Asgreen and then Trek with Stuyven and Pedersen are really strong guys. I would also watch Kragh Andersen, Sénéchal and Laporte.
"Taaienberg is the key point today. On the narrow roads after it the race explodes completely."
Matej Mohoric (Bahrain Victorious)
"My condition is pretty good and I'm confident that I have a good team around me so we'll try and fight for the win.
"I think today is overall harder than a San Remo because San Remo has a hard final which is very intense but the race overall is easier. There's plenty of opportunities to empty the legs before the final."
Kasper Asgreen (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl)
"It's a really tough race and the course is pretty intense. It can be a tough day, I think.
"I think it's possible but it will be difficult. It's always difficult racing here in Flanders. Last year I had a good run but it's no guarantee for this year. I hope I have the same legs as 2021."
Sep Vanmarcke (Israel-Premier Tech)
"I've had little of a worry-free spring. The advantage is that I've learned to deal with it and I always make the best of it. There is a quiet hope that still burns to make something of the spring, and sometimes I succeed.
"There is only one virus that I haven't had yet – COVID-19. My condition is definitely not what it should be. It sucks, but I'm glad I can be here today. Flanders will certainly come too early; the only chance I have to get on top form is Roubaix. Today and Sunday I want to see how it goes. We can progress from there." (Sporza)
Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segfredo)
"Just put three out of five starts by my name. The decisive moment could come at any moment in the intense hilly zone mid-race. That's the beauty of E3.
"Mads Pedersen and I are on the same level. I hope we are in the final together. We haven't been able to do that yet. My health is fine and should not give me a problem today." (VTM)
Tiesj Benoot (Jumbo-Visma)
"I'm at the start with doubts, even more than before Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
"We are racing for the win – it doesn't matter with whom. Of course, Van Aert has the greatest chance but it's not that we can only win with one rider. We know other teams will be looking at us.
"The question for me is what [three weeks of no racing] has asked of my body. We're going to see that today. But I can definitely get better." (Sporza)
Michael Valgren (EF Education-EasyPost)
"I feel ok, I have a good team and the form is good. Now some luck and maybe we can grab a good result. This race is on my bucket list."
Greg Van Avermaet (AG2R Citroën)
"This is a fair race – if you're not good here then you're out of luck. It would be very satisfying to ride the final again. It's always one of the most beautiful races of the year. It's the mini Tour of Flanders, so I always love coming back here." (Sporza)
Victor Campenaerts (Lotto Soudal)
"This is a tricky race anyway but with good legs you can definitely get to the final and I think I have them." (Het Nieuwsblad)
Oliver Naesen (AG2R Citroën)
"Of course you can't erase a week of illness. But I've worked towards this period and my condition cannot be gone. I'm feeling good." (Het Laatste Nieuws)
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