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Start line notes from E3 Harelbeke

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Fabian Cancellara begins his Belgian campaign.

Fabian Cancellara begins his Belgian campaign. (Image credit: Cyclingnews)
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Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) couldn't make in onto the podium in Milan-San Remo

Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) couldn't make in onto the podium in Milan-San Remo (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-QuickStep).

Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-QuickStep). (Image credit: Cyclingnews)
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Luke Rowe (Team Sky) puts the hammer down

Luke Rowe (Team Sky) puts the hammer down (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Daniel Oss (BMC Racing)

Daniel Oss (BMC Racing) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Stybar points to Etixx’s strength in numbers

Strade Bianche winner Zdeněk Štybar (Etixx-QuickStep) returns to racing at E3 Harelbeke after crashing in Milan-San Remo last weekend. The Czech national road champion will ride alongside team leader Niki Terptra but the former cyclo-cross rider believes the team has strength in depth with potential winners throughout the squad.

“I hope the form is good after Milan-San Remo. I had two crashes and I felt a little bit stiff afterwards but now I’m back to normal,” he told Cyclingnews after signing on at the start.

“As a team we’re really strong and we have a few options. I’ll try and do my best but as a team we come into the races trying to win. I think me and Niki will bounce off each other as leaders but we have a strong team so it doesn’t matter who it is that goes for victory.”

Cancellara looks to lay down a marker

Three-time winner Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) may have finished inside the top ten at Milan-San Remo but last year’s Tour of Flanders winner will give a truer reflection of his form in E3 Harelbeke, where he has laid down markers of intent in the past.

However Cancellara earmarked Milan-San Remo winner John Degenkolb as a rider who also needed to take responsibility in the race.

“It’s going to be tough and hard race. It’s an important race for me as it’s a test, a standing point to see how good everyone is. But now it’s not just my time to do turns on the race so guys like John Degenklob have to work because they have responsibility too.”

The parcours has seen a few modifications from last year with two additional climbs added and a longer run-in to a different finish on the outskirts of Harelbeke. Typically the race is winning break is formed on the Paterberg or Kwaremont but Cancellara added that with more teams arriving with stronger teams, tactics would play a greater part in the outcome.

“It’s a crucially important race but there are more kilometres from there to the finish this year so there’s a long way to go. Everyone is looking at the weather and there’s a lot of headwind heading to the final. It’s a calculation so it’s not just about the strongest and it’s more and more tactical.”

Oss crosses fingers for good luck

Daniel Oss (BMC Racing) impressed in Milan-San Remo with an impressive attack alongside Geraint Thomas (Team Sky)on the Cipressa. The pair were eventually caught on the Poggio but the Italian will try and hold his form all the way until the end of the cobbled classics.

“I’m in really good shape and the team is strong as well. Today there’s some really tactical points in the race so the plan is to stay attentive as much as possible. There could be crashes and splits and then the race should come down to the Paterberg and Kwaremont. Of course luck is a huge part for any cyclist and the sun is out and I always prefer that.”

Rowe’s improvement down to last year’s Vuelta

With a grand tour in his legs from last year’s Vuelta a España, Luke Rowe has capitalised on his new-found form with a string of performances this season. The British rider has moved up the pecking order at Team Sky as a result and starts E3 Harelbeke has a potential card to play in the final.

Although the team will centre around Geraint Thomas as their main focal point, Servais Knaven hinted that the squad would also keep their options open.

“The only concerns we have at the moment are for Puccio and Stannard after their crashes in Milan-San Remo. We’ll wait and see because they missed a bit of training but they’re looking good and they’re motivated. We have one protected rider in Thomas but we’ll keep things open a bit because Luke Rowe is riding well and we’ll see how Stannard goes,” he told Cyclingnews.

“As for Luke, I’m not surprised with his form at all. He’s always been a good bike rider and we saw from his first Tour of Flanders that he’s made for these sort of races. He just needed time to get better and he made a big step last year by finishing the Vuelta. That gave him some great shape over the winter and he’s really stepped up. His level has really impressed me.”

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Daniel Benson

 Daniel Benson is the Editor in Chief at both and Based in the UK, he has worked within cycling for almost 15 years, and he joined the Cyclingnews team in 2008 as the site's first UK-based Managing Editor. In that time, he has reported on over a dozen editions of the Tour de France, several World Championships, the Tour Down Under, Spring Classics, and the London 2012 Olympic Games. With the help of the excellent editorial team, he runs the coverage on Cyclingnews and has interviewed leading figures in the sport including UCI Presidents and Tour de France winners.