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Start gallery: E3 Harelbeke

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Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) at E3 Harelbeke.

Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) at E3 Harelbeke.
(Image credit: Cyclingnews)
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Nairo Quintana (Movistar) is in Belgium to sample the cobbles.

Nairo Quintana (Movistar) is in Belgium to sample the cobbles.
(Image credit: Cyclingnews)
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Matteo Trentin (Etixx-QuickStep) before E3 Harelbeke.

Matteo Trentin (Etixx-QuickStep) before E3 Harelbeke.
(Image credit: Cyclingnews)
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Niki Terpstra (Etixx-QuickStep) ahead of E3 Harelbeke.

Niki Terpstra (Etixx-QuickStep) ahead of E3 Harelbeke.
(Image credit: Cyclingnews)
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Peter Sagan and Tinkoff-Saxo line up at E3 Harelbeke.

Peter Sagan and Tinkoff-Saxo line up at E3 Harelbeke.
(Image credit: Cyclingnews)
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Stijn Vandenbergh (Etixx-QuickStep).

Stijn Vandenbergh (Etixx-QuickStep).
(Image credit: Cyclingnews)
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Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-QuickStep).

Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-QuickStep).
(Image credit: Cyclingnews)
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The peloton lines up for E3 Harelbeke.

The peloton lines up for E3 Harelbeke.
(Image credit: Cyclingnews)
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Fabian Cancellara at E3 Harelbeke.

Fabian Cancellara at E3 Harelbeke.
(Image credit: Cyclingnews)
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Fabian Cancellara rides to the start at E3 Harelbeke.

Fabian Cancellara rides to the start at E3 Harelbeke.
(Image credit: Cyclingnews)
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Stijn Vandenbergh's crib sheet for E3 Harelbeke.

Stijn Vandenbergh's crib sheet for E3 Harelbeke.
(Image credit: Cyclingnews)
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Stijn Devolder lines up at E3 Harelbeke despite a heavy fall at Dwars door Vlaanderen.

Stijn Devolder lines up at E3 Harelbeke despite a heavy fall at Dwars door Vlaanderen.
(Image credit: Cyclingnews)
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Tom Leezer (LottoNL-Jumbo).

Tom Leezer (LottoNL-Jumbo).
(Image credit: Cyclingnews)
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Geraint Thomas (Team Sky).

Geraint Thomas (Team Sky).
(Image credit: Cyclingnews)
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Andy Fenn and Elia Viviani line up for Team Sky at E3 Harelbeke.

Andy Fenn and Elia Viviani line up for Team Sky at E3 Harelbeke.
(Image credit: Cyclingnews)
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Local hero: Sep Vanmarcke is a popular figure in Flanders.

Local hero: Sep Vanmarcke is a popular figure in Flanders.
(Image credit: Cyclingnews)
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Sep Vanmarcke (LottoNL-Jumbo) reports for duty at E3 Harelbeke.

Sep Vanmarcke (LottoNL-Jumbo) reports for duty at E3 Harelbeke.
(Image credit: Cyclingnews)
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Adam Blythe is back in the WorldTour with Orica-GreenEdge

Adam Blythe is back in the WorldTour with Orica-GreenEdge
(Image credit: Cyclingnews)
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Yaroslav Popovych is still here.

Yaroslav Popovych is still here.
(Image credit: Cyclingnews)
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Fabian Cancellara begins his Belgian campaign.

Fabian Cancellara begins his Belgian campaign.
(Image credit: Cyclingnews)

No Tour of Flanders dress rehearsal carries quite the same weight as E3 Harelbeke. The first WorldTour race of the year on the cobbles, it is also the first time that all of the principal contenders for De Ronde face off against one another in competitive action.

Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory) has already won this race three times – in 2010, 2011 and 2013 – and on two of those occasions, victory was the precursor for a Tour of Flanders win a week later. The Swiss was among the final riders to line up at the start on Friday.

“There are a lot of options today, especially with the changes in the parcours and the new final," Cancellara said, pointing out that there is a slightly longer but more complicated run-in from the last climb of the Tiegemberg to the finish in Harelbeke.

As per tradition, the previous year’s winner was feted on the signing on podium, with Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) awarded his weight in beer in recognition of his efforts last year. Other contenders on show include Niki Terpstra, Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-QuickStep), Sep Vanmarcke (LottoNL-Jumbo), Geraint Thomas (Sky) and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), while Nairo Quintana (Movistar) is also on hand for a further sample of the cobbles ahead of the pavé stage at this year’s Tour de France.