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Live coverage

E3 Harelbeke 2014


Hello and welcome to the Cyclingnews live coverage of the E3 Harelbeke one-day Classic in Belgium. The 212km race sees all the best Classics riders in action on the same roads that will host next week's Tour of Flanders.

The riders have signed on and are about to roll out from the start and begin to race.

The sun was shining in Harelbeke for the start, with Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) wearing number 1 after his victory last year.  

The riders will tackle a total of 17 climbs or bergs during the 211km race.

Tom Boonen leads the list of former winners, with five victories: four between 2004 and 2007 and another in 2012. Fabian Cancellara has won three times in 2010, 2011 ad 2013.

Omega Pharma-Quick Step team manager Patrick Lefevere has tweeted that the temperature at the start is 16C. 

The race is underway and the first attacks have begun.

We've also had the first crash, with Tim Declercq (Topsport Vlaanderen) and Vladimir Goesev (Katusha) going down.

Cyclingnews reporters Barry Ryan and Sadhbh O'Shea are in Harelbeke and will have exclusive interviews and news.

The first berg of the day, the Katteberg, comes after 33km of racing.

207km remaining from 213km

Peter Sagan (Cannondale) is racing in Belgium for the first time this season. After a disappointing Milan-San Remo, he is looking for success on the roads of Flanders. 

Milan-San Remo winner Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) is not riding E3 Harelbeke. However his is in Belgium and visited his fan club in Wervik  for a quick beer. He is no-doubt targeting Sunday's Gent-Wevelgem.

The race has been underway for 30 minutes but no breakaway has managed to escape the grip of the peloton for now.

Belgian champion Stijn Devolder (Trek Factory Racing) rode aggressively but crashed hard in Dwars door Vlaanderen on Wednesday. He went down together with Nikolai Trusov (Tinkoff-Saxo) who collided with a car.

The crowds at the finish in Harelbeke will be able to watch the race on a big screen but they will also be entertained by a sprinting competition between riders not in action in the race.

Riders will show their speed and power over  970m course along the finish of the race. Danny van Poppel is riding for Trek Factory Racing. Chris Sutton is riding for Team Sky.

Ian Stannard (Team Sky) was shouldered away by eventual winner Nikki Tersptra (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step) in the fighting for the gutter at the foot of the Patersberg in Dwars door Vlaanderen on Wednesday.

Belgian TV Sporza captured the moment Fabian Cancellara gave Tom Boonen a moving hug on the sign-on podium. Boonen's partner Lore suffered a miscarriage last week and Boonen missed Milan-San Remo to stay at home.

180km remaining from 213km

The riders are on the famous cobbles of the Haaghoek now, with a break of five riders going clear.

The five are: Maxime Daniel (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Jerome Cousin (Europcar), Sénéchal (Cofidis), Jay Thomson (MTN-Qhubeka) and Laurens De Vreese (Wanty Groupe Gobert).

Marc Madiot ( was unimpressed that his sprinter Nacer Bouhanni vented his frustration about not being selected by the team for Milano-Sanremo.

The peloton topped has taken the Leberg climb, with the pace steady.  The gap is still 1:20.

Peter Sagan spoke to Sporza briefly before the start but he was not impressed to be asked about Milan-San Remo.

The gap for the five breakaway riders has reached 2:20.

One of the top favourites for the win today is Sep Vanmarcke (Belkin).

E3 Harelbeke is part of this weekend's double whammy of Flemish races.

Cyclingnews was on the start line in Harelbeke and captured this great gallery of images that includes Tom Boonen, Fabian Cancellara, Sylvian Chavanel and Alejandro Valverde.

The fast start to the race sparked an average of 46.100 km/h for the first hour.

145km remaining from 213km

143km remaining from 213km

There is plenty of other racing across Europe today and we will have full coverage of the action from the Volta a Catalunya in spain and the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali in Italy.

Team Sky dominated the opening split stages on day one at the Coppi e Bartali, with Ben Swift winning the morning road stage and then Swift, Cataldo, Kiryienka and Kennaugh winning the afternoon time trial. 

Tejay van Garderen (BMC) beat his Tour de France rivals Alberto Contador and Chris Froome on the queen stage at the Volta a Catalunya on Thursday.

While the race is deep in the Flemish hills, the crowd at the finish is enjoying a beer, some Belgian frites and the sprinting competition between riders not in action in the E3Harelbeke race.

Four riders race off in heats, sprinting to the line after a 970m loop.

Alexander Kristoff was a late entrant for Katusha and won his heat. Chris Sutton (Team Sky) also won a heat, beating Danny van Poppel (Trek Factory Racing) 

Also through to the next round is Frederique Robert.

Back in the real race, the five breakaways still have a 6:30 lead. However the racing is about to get very serious with the start of the 15 bergs that will shake up the race.

The race will soon hit the La Houppe climb. It is 3440m long and climbs 3.3%.

A crash has caused panic in the peloton. 

Several went down and were delayed, including Oscar Gatto (Cannondale).

It's no surprise to see Laurens De Vreese (Wanty) in the breakaway today. The 25-year-old is often on the attack. So far he's taken a second place in a stage of Etoile de Bessèges but is still seeking his first professional victory.

It's also no surprise to see the MTN-Qhubeka team represented in the escape. Jay Thomson is looking to overcome a illness- and injury-plagued 2013 season.

Both Thomson and Jerome Cousin competed in Milan-San Remo last weekend, and are probably happy that the weather is quite a bit nicer up in Belgium after the freezing cold rain of Italy.

96km remaining from 213km

Oh dear, IAM Cycling puts the brakes on the chasing because of a crash in the peloton. Ian Stannard (Sky) has hit the deck and is in a great deal of pain.

Stannard is back up and riding, with two teammates at his service to help him chase back on.

The peloton is slowed by the Berg Stene, a 1560m climb that averages 7.3%.

Stannard is now back in the team cars, he'll surely get back into the peloton without a problem. Songezo Jim is back at the MTN-Qhubeka team car.

92km remaining from 213km

The Eikenberg has a bit of a paved shoulder for the riders to hop off of the cobbles onto. The UCI has instituted a rule to keep riders from creating dangerous situations by diving off the road onto side paths, but this won't violate the rules.

Katusha has now taken up the chase, with Russian champion Vladimir Isaychev at the helm. The gap is now down to 3:42 and the surge has popped Danny Summerhill (UHC) off the back.

87km remaining from 213km

85km remaining from 213km

It is such a beautiful spring day in Belgium - it seems that the world has turned upside down when you compare this lovely day with the icy cold of Spain, where snow fell on the riders in Volta a Catalunya yesterday.

83km remaining from 213km

The break is on the Taaienberg, De Vreese setting the pace. Back in the peloton there is yet another crash, this one in a left turn that involved Jens Debusschere (Lotto) and John Murphy (UHC). Belkin's Tom Leezer has a puncture.

Yet another crash. This time Maarten Wynants (Belkin) crossed wheels with a teammate and went down hard.

Luca Paolini (Katusha) is now leading the peloton, upping the speed and lining everyone out.

We have a split in the peloton. But will it stick?

A group of 30 riders is being chased by a second group of 20.

Niki Terpstra is at the back of the now combined group.

75km remaining from 213km

Terpstra has stopped for a mechanical problem.

After the attacks, there is a slight pause before the riders face the Knokteberg.

Damien Gaudin (Ag2r-La Mondiale) attacks hard and is trying to escape the peloton.

The riders are diving down to the centre of Ronse. That can only man they will soon begin yet another climb.

Team Sky duo Eisel and Knees are controlling the attacks that try to go clear.

Sagan has been forced to stop for a bike change. This could be costly but he quickly gets going again.

Fortunately he has several teammates with him to help in the chase.

Sep Vanmarcke (Belkin) has also been delayed and has two teammates to help him get back on.

They're moving up through the cars in a moment of chaos.

67km remaining from 213km

Cancellara spoke briefly before the start of the race.

For now Cancellara is staying well protected on the wheels. We can expect him and Boonen to show their hand later in the race.

65km remaining from 213km

Someone holding a banner saying: 'Tornado Tom Frits' means we can only be in Flanders.

Thor Hushovd (BMC) was at the back of the peloton and has quit the race, opting to turn left as the peloton turned right. Perhaps today was just a training ride for Sunday's Gent-Wevelgem.

60km remaining from 213km

Alexey Tsatevich (Katusha) has suffered a mechanical, coming to a complete stop as the race accelerates away.

A rear flat for Greg van Avermaert. That could been a major blow for his chances, even if he gets a wheel from a teammate.

Steel van Hoof (Garmin-Sharp) has also been forced to stop. Van Avermert is back on the peloton but now needs to move up quickly. The race is about to hit the 1km long Rotelenberg climb.

The peloton is also on the Rotelenberg with the big teams firmly in charge.

The peloton is one long line of riders as it twists through the Flemish lanes. There is at least 20 seconds between the front and back of the peloton.

54km remaining from 213km

The riders top the Kortekeer climb with just over 50km to go. There is a pause in hostilities; soon the riders face the decisive climbs of the Kapelberg, Paterberg sand Oude Kwaremonte. 

Cancellara has dropped back to his team car to talk tactics. He seems relaxed but the race is about to explode.

Cancellara moves back into the peloton and grabs one last piece of solid food.

Another wheel change for Vanmarcke. It does not seem to be his day.

However a Belkin team quickly drops back to pace him to the peloton.

Movistar and Giant-Shimano are also driving the pace on the front to protect and set up Valverde and Degenkolb.


Several riders have gone hard, including Kreder of Garmin-Sharp. It seems to have been a high-speed touch of wheels.

Two Topsport Vlaanderen riders were also involved and are in pain. Their race is over.

43km remaining from 213km

Another crash!

This one has split the peloton and caused the team mechanics to dash up the road to service their riders.

A group of 15/20 riders is slightly clear. Boonen and Thomas are in there.

Other groups are spread down the road in hot pursuit.

40km remaining from 213km

He's chasing alone and trying to power past several groups.

Upfront they're not waiting for Cancellara. Eisel is leading the peloton for Team Sky.

Cancellara is making a huge effort to close the gap and drag some chasers back up to the front.  

Here comes the Paterberg and so it is probably too late for Cancellara to get back on.

Vanmarcke leads the front group up the Paterberg. Thomas is there too, as in Terpstra.

The riders are lined out in the gutter but Cancellara is moving up on the cobbles.

Boonen is back with Boonen and so it seems Terpstra is again team leader for OPQS.

The race is on at the front. Sagan is also up there in a group of ten or so rides. But here comes Cancellara.

Cancellara has dragged the chasers up to the front group in an incredible show of force and fitness.

The Oude Kwaremonte is next. Get ready for an attack.

Thomas now hits the front as the climb begins to hurt. Gaps are opening in the front group.

Thomas has dragged Terpstra and Degenkolb clear but Sagan is about to get across to them. It is carnage behind. 

And now Sagan attacks!

With Boonen, Cancellara, Stybar and Devolder just behind the attacks by Thomas and Sagan, with the break caught in the middle of it all.

Cancellara is leading the chase behind. The gaps are not huge but this is a huge moment in the race. 

30km remaining from 213km

The long descent is a pursuit match with Trek chasing hard to get Cancellara back into contention.

Cancellara has let Devolder go away alone, forcing the other riders in the chase group to go after him and do some of the work.

Sagan, Terpstra, Thomas and the remains of the break are in the front group. Do they have the power to stay away? The gap is just 15 seconds.

It's tine for climb 16/17, the Karnemelkbeek. It's 1.5km long and will surely decide the fate of the Cancellara chase group.

Devolder is still leading the chase. But up front Sagan accelerates again. 

Thomas goes with him, Terpstra is there too plus his OPQS teammate Vandenbergh. 

But behind Cancellara refuses to give up hope and digs deep, forcing everyone else fight to get on his wheel.

Degenkolb is stuck in no-mans land but is about to be caught by the Cancellara group.

The front four are 20 seconds ahead.

The two OPQS riders are working with Sagan and Thomas.

Behind Stybar is forced to stop for a bike change just before a key section of pave.

Stijn Vandenbergh (Omega Pharma - Quick-Step) is pounding away on the front and switches to the footpath. Behind Cancellara leads the chase and is also on a path to avoid the cobbles. Nobody seems to care about the new UCI rule.

Sagan has called for neutral service. Was he asking for a drink? He grabs a bottle from the OPQS team carer anyway.

15km remaining from 213km

Behind Giant-Shimano is helping Trek with the chase but the gap is growing. 

And so Cancellara decides to go in pursuit on his own!

Paolini (Katusha), Vanmarcke and Stybar get on his wheel.

The speed is so high that De Vreese messed up his line and ended up in the trees.

10km remaining from 213km

Upfront the tactical games seem to have begun. Terpstra touches his radio as if under orders not to work anymore.

Terpstra will have to take on Sagan in a sprint finish.

The slight headwind on the road back to Harelbeke is also a factor.

Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp) is also in the Cancellara group.

8km remaining from 213km

On a slight rise Terpstra attacks and gets a gap but Sagan closes him down and the four remain together.

The OPQS riders are taking turns to attack. Sagan does not reply to Vandenbergh, letting Thomas chase him down.

Sagan and Thomas seem to have shared the chasing just as he OPQS riders have shared the attacks.

What a race! What a finish!

3km remaining from 213km

The four are looking at each other but need not worry about the chasers. They are now a minute behind with three kilometres to go. 

Vandenbergh will surely sacrifice his chances to help Terpstra.

1km remaining from 213km

Sagan is forced to ride on the front but the four are moving across the road.

Vandenbergh goes for it, now Thomas.

But Sagan responds with power and leads out the sprint to win. 

The Cannondale rider showed who was the strongest there. 

Behind Sep Vanmarcke (Belkin) crosses he line ahead of the chasers, with Farrar winning the group sprint. 

Tersptra finished second, with Thomas third and Vandenbergh fourth.

After starting his sprint, Sagan had the time and confidence to look round and celebrate victory by waving his arms in a sign of relief and happiness.

Wow! What a race. If today's action is a sign of what is to come, it's going to be a great spring.

Omega Pharma-QuickStep clearly has the strength to boss the racing but Sagan showed he knows how to win under pressure even when he is out numbered.

Team Sky also showed their strength with Boasson Hagen and Eisel up there in he action in support of Thomas.

Thanks for joining us for the Cyclingnews live coverage of E3 Harelbeke.

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