While a smattering of riders and teams have opted to forgo the E3-Prijs to focus their energies on Sunday’s Gent-Wevelgem, there was still no shortage of big names on show in Harelbeke.
World champion Thor Hushovd has high hopes for the cobbled classics this season, and he was looking to lay down a significant marker at the E3-Prijs. With Heinrich Haussler alongside him, Garmin-Cervélo should have a significant say in matters here.
Stijn Devolder (Vacansoleil-DCM), Nuyens, Thomas Voeckler (Europcar), Leif Hoste (Katusha), Yoann Offredo (FDJ) and Lars Boom (Rabobank) will also be up there and in contention. Quick Step has opted to rest Tom Boonen ahead of Gent-Wevelgem but the Belgian team has Niki Terpstra and Gerald Ciolek in their squad.
The man to beat will be last year’s winner Fabian Cancellara (Leopard Trek). In what will be his final outing before the Tour of Flanders, we can expect fireworks from the Swiss star as he tests his form. It’s not by chance that all of the start line bookies have him quoted as odds on favourite, as the peloton set out in mild and still conditions.