The T-Mobile Team is sending its classics specialists into action at Saturday's E3-Prijs in Harelbeke, with last year's runner-up Andreas Klier spearheading the eight-man roster. Klier and Tom Boonen escaped with with 55 to go last year and were unable to be caught by a four man group that contained Peter Van Petegem, Nico Mattan, Erik Dekker, David Kopp, and Klier's teammate Steffen Wesemann.
"The race is a perfect warm-up and form-tester for the tough spring classics in Belgium," said T-Mobile Team sporting director Valerio Piva.
Klier, who showed at Milan-Sanremo that he is in good shape, lives and trains in Belgium so he will be able to count on a certain amount of 'local knowledge' Saturday: "The race practically passes by his front door, so he is particularly motivated for this one," added Piva.
Sergey Ivanov is another T-Mobile rider who has left his mark on Harelbeke in the past; the Belgian-based Russian won the event in 2000, and he will be aiming for a high placing again this year. Meanwhile, 2003 runner-up Steffen Wesemann, hopes that come Saturday he will be fully recovered from the cold that forced him to abandon Milan-Sanremo at the base of the Cipressa. "I am felling better again, even if I am still not at 100 percent," said Wesemann.
Rounding out the magenta roster at the E3-Prijs are Lorenzo Bernucci, Marcus Burghardt, Bas Giling, André Greipel und Stephan Schreck.
The semi-classic (UCI 1.HC), which starts and finishes in the West Flemish town of Harelbeke, takes the riders over 209 km through the Flemish Ardennes and features 12 of the famous Flemish bergs that will be used in the Tour of Flanders, with the last climb coming at 16 km to go.
"The many cobbled passages take their toll," said Piva from experience. "You need patience and a bit of luck. If you suffer a mechanical at a critical moment, you've lost your place at the front."