The wildcards for the 2014 edition of E3 Harelbeke have been announced, with MTN-Qhubeka and UnitedHealthcare among the seven teams invited to Belgium’s first WorldTour race of the season, which takes place on March 28.
MTN-Qhubeka and UnitedHealthcare are joined by Belgian squads Wanty-Groupe Gobert and Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise, as well as IAM Cycling, Cofidis and Androni-Venezuela.
MTN-Qhubeka will be hoping that the invitation to E3 Harelbeke is a sign of things to come for the remainder of the spring. The South African team claimed a surprise victory at last year’s Milan-San Remo through Gerald Ciolek, but had not been invited to the WorldTour events on the cobbles in the weeks that followed.
IAM Cycling’s invitation comes as no surprise considering the presence of Heinrich Haussler and new signing Sylvain Chavanel in its roster, while Androni-Venezuela’s hopes were doubtless helped by the signings of Johnny Hoogerland, Kenny van Hummel and Marco Bandiera from the now-defunct Vacansoleil-DCM.
E3 Harelbeke once again takes place on a Friday in 2014, while Gent-Wevelgem follows two days later on March 30. Last season, Fabian Cancellara soloed to victory in Harelbeke ahead of Peter Sagan, a result that repeated itself at the Tour of Flanders a week later.
The two final climbs of the Tour of Flanders, the Kwaremont and Paterberg, both feature in the closing 36 kilometres of E3 Harelbeke, albeit in reverse order. The final of the race’s 15 climbs remains the Tiegemberg, which comes 17 kilometres from the finish in Harelbeke.
The wildcard invitations for the Giro d'Italia, Milan-San Remo, Tirreno-Adriatico and Tour of Lombardy are expected to be announced by RCS Sport on Thursday or Friday.
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