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On the start line at the E3-prijs Vlaanderen

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Stijn Devolder (Vacansoleil-DCM) is always a popular figure in Flanders.

Stijn Devolder (Vacansoleil-DCM) is always a popular figure in Flanders.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Dutch champion Niki Terpstra (Quick Step) makes his way through the crowds.

Dutch champion Niki Terpstra (Quick Step) makes his way through the crowds.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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After the riders leave Harelbeke, the fans find something to pass the time until they return for the finish.

After the riders leave Harelbeke, the fans find something to pass the time until they return for the finish.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Rob Ruijgh (Vacansoleil-DCM) signs an autograph.

Rob Ruijgh (Vacansoleil-DCM) signs an autograph.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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It took riders quite some time to negotiate the path from team bus to the start line.

It took riders quite some time to negotiate the path from team bus to the start line.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Leif Hoste (Katusha) mingles with the fans before the start.

Leif Hoste (Katusha) mingles with the fans before the start.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Heinrich Haussler and Garmin-Cervelo need a result in Harelbeke.

Heinrich Haussler and Garmin-Cervelo need a result in Harelbeke.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Fabian Cancellara (Leopard Trek) is fancied to take the win.

Fabian Cancellara (Leopard Trek) is fancied to take the win.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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World champion Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo) rides to the start.

World champion Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo) rides to the start.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Lampre-ISD get ready for the off.

Lampre-ISD get ready for the off.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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The riders had to pass through throngs of fans to get to the line.

The riders had to pass through throngs of fans to get to the line.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Niko Eeckhout brings a wealth of experience to An Post-Sean Kelly.

Niko Eeckhout brings a wealth of experience to An Post-Sean Kelly.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Sean Kelly is always much sought after at the classics.

Sean Kelly is always much sought after at the classics.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Sean Kelly explains how he sees the E3 Prijs unfolding.

Sean Kelly explains how he sees the E3 Prijs unfolding.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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World champion Thor Hushovd's Cervelo.

World champion Thor Hushovd's Cervelo.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Rabobank had the route details and a motivational message taped to their top tubes.

Rabobank had the route details and a motivational message taped to their top tubes.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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A family affair for David Boucher (Omega Pharma-Lotto).

A family affair for David Boucher (Omega Pharma-Lotto).
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Martin Reimer and Skil-Shimano are looking to make an impact at Harelbeke.

Martin Reimer and Skil-Shimano are looking to make an impact at Harelbeke.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Thomas Voeckler's patriotic Colnago.

Thomas Voeckler's patriotic Colnago.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Bram Tankink and Rabobank are looking to continuing their early season form.

Bram Tankink and Rabobank are looking to continuing their early season form.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Checking the form. Fabian Cancellara is favourite to win in Harelbeke.

Checking the form. Fabian Cancellara is favourite to win in Harelbeke.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)

After Nick Nuyens (Saxo Bank-SunGard) took the spoils in Waregem at the end of Dwars Door Vlaanderen mid-week, the classics men moved on the Harelbeke on Saturday for the E3-Prijs Vlaanderen.

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.