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Gallery: On the startline at E3 Harelbeke

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2011 race winner Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Trek)

2011 race winner Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Trek)
(Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Team Saxo Bank's armada of Specialized bikes

Team Saxo Bank's armada of Specialized bikes
(Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) starts despite crashing out of Dwars door Vlaanderen

Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) starts despite crashing out of Dwars door Vlaanderen
(Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Greg Van Avermaet (Team BMC)

Greg Van Avermaet (Team BMC)
(Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp) is back after his Milan-San Remo crash

Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp) is back after his Milan-San Remo crash
(Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Sep Vanmarcke (Blanco) talks to the Belgian press

Sep Vanmarcke (Blanco) talks to the Belgian press
(Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Niki Terpstra (Omega-Pharma QuickStep)

Niki Terpstra (Omega-Pharma QuickStep)
(Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Stijn Devolder (RadioShack-Leopard)

Stijn Devolder (RadioShack-Leopard)
(Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Maxim Iglinskiy (Astana)

Maxim Iglinskiy (Astana)
(Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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2011 race winner Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Trek)

2011 race winner Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Trek)
(Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Taylor Phinney (Team BMC)

Taylor Phinney (Team BMC)
(Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Ian Stannard (Team Sky)

Ian Stannard (Team Sky)
(Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Bernhard Eisel (Sky Procycling) was third in 2012

Bernhard Eisel (Sky Procycling) was third in 2012
(Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Garmin-Sharp's spare bikes

Garmin-Sharp's spare bikes
(Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Allan Peiper and Mark Renshaw catch up

Allan Peiper and Mark Renshaw catch up
(Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Jens Mouris has his bike looked at before the start of E3 Harelbeke

Jens Mouris has his bike looked at before the start of E3 Harelbeke
(Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma Quick Step)

Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma Quick Step)
(Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Filippo Pozzato (Lampre-Merida)

Filippo Pozzato (Lampre-Merida)
(Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Mathew Hayman (Team Sky) is in high form

Mathew Hayman (Team Sky) is in high form
(Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Peter Sagan (Cannondale) is the hot favourite

Peter Sagan (Cannondale) is the hot favourite
(Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Martijn Maaskant (Garmin-Sharp)

Martijn Maaskant (Garmin-Sharp)
(Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Philippe Gilbert (BMC) adjusts his back brake

Philippe Gilbert (BMC) adjusts his back brake
(Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Belgian national champion Tom Boonen

Belgian national champion Tom Boonen
(Image credit: Daniel Simms)

After a rain-effected Dwars door Vlaanderen, Belgium’s cold snap continued into Friday as the Classics stars gathered for the Tour of Flanders dress rehearsal, E3 Harelbeke.

The 211 kilometre race which starts and finish in the sleepy town of Harelbeke on the outskirts of Kortrijk provides riders such as Fabian Cancellara, Tom Boonen and Peter Sagan with the chance to fine-tune their form ahead of next week’s monument, with much of today’s course featuring in next week’s race.

Fifteen bergs feature in E3, the first of which is the Leberg at 56km. However from kilometre 120 until the final 20 kilometres, the race is peppered with some of Belgium’s toughest cobbled terrain: from the Taaienberg to the Kwaremont and Kapelberg, E3 serves as a direct form guide for Flanders, and as a WorldTour in its own right, it provides competitive racing throughout.

So while the snow and rain have finally abated – temperatures rose to a blistering 4 degrees at the start - riders edged towards the startline with a little less reluctance than they did at Milan-San Remo and Dwars door Vlaanderen.