Welcome to live coverage of E3 Harelbeke
The cobbles continue. We're only a short while away from the start of E3 Harelbeke. You can take a look at the full start list here
Peter Sagan is the defending champion at E3 Harelbeke, beating Niki Terpstra and Geraint Thomas in a sprint for the line. He's looking for a repeat performance today.
The riders are off through the neutralised section. We've got at least one non-starter in Filippo Pozzato after the Italian developed a fever last night.
We've put together a list of riders that we think will perform today and at Sunday's Gent-Wevelgem. View our top 10 riders to watch video here and don't forget to subscribe so you don't miss any of our up and coming classics videos.
You've seen our top 10 riders to watch, who are you picks today? Let us know on twitter using with @Cyclingnewsfeed or @SadhbhOS
There are 17 hellingen for the riders to tackle today. Here is a look at what lies ahead of the riders this Friday.
You can read our preview of the race here.
@AndrewHarvey10 Fri, 27th Mar 2015 11:19:06
@r4ryandean Fri, 27th Mar 2015 11:26:04
We picked Geraint Thomas as one of our ones to watch today. The Welshman finished third here last year and put on a strong performance in the finale of Milan-San Remo last Sunday. He told Cyclingnews' Dan Benson yesterday that he was in his best form.
We have six men off the front. They are: Sean De Bie (Lotto-Soudal), Dries Devenyns (IAM Cycling), Sébastien Turgot (AG2R-La Mondiale), Kristian Sbaragli (MTN-Qhubeka), Andrea Dal Col (Southeast) and Sjoerd van Ginneken (Team Roompot).
@sazkarate Fri, 27th Mar 2015 11:32:04
The six escapees have some two minutes on the peloton as they pass through Melden.
191km remaining from 218km
After 27 kilometres, the gap has gone up to three minutes for the six escapees.
Fabian Cancellara is another of the former winners racing today. He's won the race three times in the past and will be looking to get back onto the top step this Friday. It's a format that has delivered him to success in the past.
@cyclingpronet Fri, 27th Mar 2015 11:50:14
Dries Devenyns is the most experienced on the cobbles of the six escapees. The Belgian was part of the QuickStep team for some time. He moved to Giant-Shimano last season, working as a road captain for John Degenkolb, before switching to IAM Cycling for this season.
@Smiles_End Fri, 27th Mar 2015 11:56:39
@MatMitchell30 Fri, 27th Mar 2015 11:50:09
Ian Stannard will be riding in a supporting role today, for Geraint Thomas. Stannard, who is focussing on Paris-Roubaix, thinks that Team Sky are on the brink of their first monument victory.
A crash for Cancellara
Boom, Langeveld and Degenkolb also involved in the crash with Cancellara. No news on the condition of the riders, we'll let you know as soon as we find out.
It's the second crash in a week for Boom, who came down on a corner during Wednesday's Dwars door Vlaanderen. Fortunately for the Dutchman, he avoided any serious injury.
LottoNL-Jumbo and Sky now leading the bunch following that crash. While Turgot and Sbaragli are distanced from the break.
172km remaining from 218km
The gaps to the six leaders grows ever so slightly to 3:38
Following that crash, Trek report that Cancellara is back on his bike but in pain. Bonifazio, Langeveld and Wagner didn't continue though and are on their way to hospital.
Some good news in that Cancellara, Degenkolb and Boom are all back the peloton after that crash.
Cobbled races are almost always a bit of a bunfight as the riders try to get into prime position on the cobbles. Let's hope that crash was the worst we'll see today.
There was plenty of action at the start today, including Peter Sagan being awarded his weight in beer (let's hope he's saved it for later). Check out our start line gallery here.
The escapees' advantage now stands at 4:50 over the peloton after 58 kilometres of racing.
More news of abandons coming through, Lotto-Soudal have lost both Gert Dockx to a back injury and Vergard Breen to an elbow injury. Dockx was one of the men in the break at Dwars door Vlaanderen earlier in the week.
Cancellara is the next man to abandon after that crash. He was seen shaking his wrist following the incident and has decided to climb off.
Pictures of the crash show riders scattered all over the road. Looks like it happened on a narrow stretch of cobbles with some riders being thrown into the ditches on either side of the road.
Movistar confirm that Andrey Amador and Imanol Erviti have been tranferred to hospital but do not have any serious injuries. Rumours also coming through that Boom has abandond, but they have not been confirmed.
As the peloton losing riders like nobody's business, the gaps to the escapees grows to 8:45, with LottoNL leading the pace of the bunch.
Here is the latest news on the abandon of Fabian Cancellara, we'll bring you any updates as we get them.
Nine minutes the advantage now for the six escapees
Zdenek Stybar knows what it's like to have your hopes dashed by a crash, he fell out of contention of Milan-San Remo on the descent of the Poggio. He's one of a number of potential winners for Etixx-QuickStep today.
“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.”
Another crash and this time it is Thomas Voeckler. The Frenchman has reportedly abandoned.
As the peloton pass through the feed zone the gap has ballooned to nearly 10 minutes. They've taken an absolute battering today.
Trek Factory Racing DS Dirk Demol has told Belgian television that Fabian Cancellara will miss Gent-Wevelgem this weekend. Not ideal preparation for his Tour of Flanders defence.
Daniel Oss could be an outside bet for today. The Italian was in good condition at Milan-San Remo and is looking for more at the 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," he said.
Cancellara reportedly said as he climbed into the team car that his spring campaign is over, and he may be forced to miss Flanders and Roubaix. Let's home his condition improves in the coming days.
115km remaining from 218km
The gap still hovering around 9-10 minutes for the six escapees as we pass the 100 kilometres ridden mark, still a long way to go though.
If Fabain Cancellara were to miss Flanders and Roubaix it would change the whole complexion of the two Monuments. With Tom Boonen also set to miss the races after his nasty fall earlier this month, we could see a new winner of both of these events.
Without this pair we have only three of the former winners from the two races: Niki Terpstra (2014 Paris-Roubaix), Johan Vansummeren (2011 Paris-ROubaix) and Stijn Devolder (2008/09 Tour of Flanders).
As the leaders hit the fifth climb of the day the Boigneberg, the peloton have finally sprung into action. The TInkoff-Saxo lead group have brought the gap down to 6:20.
@tomboonen1 Fri, 27th Mar 2015 13:51:30
The last tweet from Boonen says that he's still suffering with pain in his shoulder but managed to ride 100 kilometres, now he's watching E3 Harelbeke with pain in his heart.
A touch more information on Cancellara's abandon. Trek’s director sportif Dirk Demol was interviewed by Sporza during the race. Demol said Cancellara was definitely out for Gent-Wevelgem and his participation for Ronde van Vlaanderen was in doubt too.
“There was a massive crash on the Haaghoek. He severely hurt his lower back, his left wrist and hand. Did he say his spring classics were over? No, Cancellara was able to get in the car. We can forget about Sunday [Gent-Wevelgem]. I’m also worried about the next races. He’s a fighter. If he can then he will race.”
Out front, Kristian Sbaragli has put some distance between himself and his fellow escapees.
In the peloton there is a bit of a traffic jam on the Boigneberg. Nairo Quintana gives an impatient clap of his hands and a fan dutifully responds with a clap of his own, much to the amusment of the Colombian.
A mechanical problem for Edvald Boasson Hagen. The Norwegian looks to be coming into form with a top 10 at Milan San Remo last Sunday.
Lars Boom is off the back of the peloton and in the cars. He was involved in the crash that ended Fabian Cancellara's race.
Geraint Thomas is Team Sky's leader today but, as directeur sportif Servais Knaven told Cyclingnews, the team are keeping 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.”
Denis Vanandert seems to have gone down on a corner. He is attended to by a couple of medical officials but it isn't long before he climbs back on his bike and trying to adjust his handlebars.
We're past the halfway mark and the gap to our leaders stands at 5:37. The peloton appeared to have eased off a little though.
BMC and Giant-Alpecin on the front of the group and pushing the pace again. A few riders can't hack it and have dropped off the back. Team Sky rider Andy Fenn is hanging on for dear life.
Dries Devenyns leading the escapees up the Taaienberg but their gap has reduced to just 5:08 now.
A crash right near the front of the group takes out several FDJ riders, while one Sky rider is forced to leap from his bike to avoid being landed on and ends up in a ditch.
There are splits happening as Daniel Oss has a dig off the front.
Oss has taken Trentin and Breschel with them. They catch Dal Col, who was in the break earlier.
The pace is too hard for Quintana who can be seen hanging off the back of the main group. This is his second race ont he cobbles after Dwars door Vlaandern. He enjoyed his pavé debut so much that he said that he'd like to try Paris-Roubaix one day.
Benoot powers across to join the other chasers. He put in a great performance at Dwars this week.
The peloton have split into a number of groups on the road, Katusha and Sky at the front of the first 'peloton.'
The efforts of Katusha bring the four chasers back into the fold as an Astana rider takes a flyer off the front.
Lots of attacks flying off the front and as Grivko is caught Dillier takes a turn.
79km remaining from 218km
The upping of the pace has reduced the number in the peloton to around 50 while the gap to the leaders is now only 3:50 with 79km to go.
Cancellara may be out today but we did get a chance to catch up with him earlier in the season and he talked us through his Trek Domane. You can watch the video here.
Dillier and Grivko are back with the peloton once again. Sky are doing much of the work in the peloton at the moment, with Viviani leading proceedings.
This race has had a high attrition rate this far and we've still got 75 kilometres to go. Katusha confirm that Jacopo Guarnieri is the latest to abandon. He's one of Alexander Kristoff's main lead-out men.
The next climb for the peloton is the Knokteberg the 1.5km climb averages 5.3% but kicks up to over 13%.
The advantage of the leaders continues to drop and is now just 3 minutes. The big favourites, minus Cancellara, are still in the bunch.
More attacks from the peloton and Laurens de Vreese and Kristjan Koren jumps off the front.
De Vreese is spending his first year in the WorldTour after signing with Astana at the end of last season.
Nairo Quintana has obviously had his fill of the pavé. He watches the bunch go by from the side of the road as he waits for the team car to give him a lift back to the hotel.
De Vreese's move didn't work but Astana have gone on the attack again with Grivko and he has Gaudin and Offredo with him.
66km remaining from 218km
The chasing group are still 2:15 behind the escapees, the peloton are keeping them at close quarters.
Cancellara on his way to get a check over. He looks like he's in quite a bit of pain, seems to be his back and thumb that has taken the brunt of the fall.
Belgian press speculating that Cancellara may be suffering from a 'minor spinal fracture' we are confirming that with the team however, and will bring you more news when we know.
61km remaining from 218km
Our leading group has now been reduced to just four. Van Ginneken is no longer with the leaders.
Confirmation coming through that Cancellara has suffered two fractures in his back and will be out for the remainder of the spring.
56km remaining from 218km
Tinkoff-Saxo on the front of the peltoon as they bring back yet another failed move off the feont.
It appears that Van Ginneken is now with the front group while Turgot has lost touch. Behind, Stijn Devolder is taking with Dirk Demol, the Trek team will be hastily redrawing their race plans.
53km remaining from 218km
Kristijan Koren is closing in on the leaders now, he is only 1:16 behind the four escapees.
@TrekFactory Fri, 27th Mar 2015 15:06:15
Sybar looming near the front of the group. What can he do today? The Czech rider has been in great shape this sprint and he'll be rareing to go after losing out last Sunday.
Sybar looming near the front of the group. What can he do today? The Czech rider has been in great shape this sprint and he'll be raring to go after losing out last Sunday.
The latest on the Fabian Cancellara crash and his injuries. Without himself and Boonen we are likely to see a new winner of De Ronde this year.
46km remaining from 218km
Van Ginneken is the next rider to be blown out of the escape group, we are now down to three with a 1:14 advantage on the ever decreasing peloton.
Koren is now back with the peloton as Etixx-QuickSterp take up the front. They're really driving the pace now and it's all strung out. Rick Zabel looks in trouble at the back.
The Paterberg is next up for the escapees and Devenyns looks like the most comfortable of the remaining three. As the gap drops below a minute, the Belgian creates some distance between himself and the other two.
42km remaining from 218km
Sep Vanmarcke attacks on the Paterberg but he gives it too much and ends up riding over the embankment on the side of the road. He stays on his bike but he loses places in the peloton.
It's Oss on the front of the peloton heading up the Paterberg, creating more gaps in the main group.
40km remaining from 218km
The Peterberg has been quickly despatched and the peloton has broken up on the descent. Van Avermaet, Stybar, Vanmarcke, Oss, Sagan and Degenkolb in the group. Paolini too and he looks over his shoulder for Kristoff but he isn't there.
Sbaragli caught as Van Avermaet and Vandenberg attack off the front.
It is now Devenyns out front on his own as De Bie gets caught. He's got 27 seconds on the bunch which is quickly tracking him down.
The chasing group has grown as the Oude Kwaremont. Thomas in there and it looks like Kristoff has made it back too.
38km remaining from 218km
THomas has a dig on the Oude Kwaremont and takes Stybar with him. They have a small gap on the top of the climb as Sagan sets off in chase.
Sagan now with Stybar and Thomas and they have Devenyns in their sights.
The three chasers have caught Devenyns, who almost goes off the road on a corner. Vanmarcke leading the chase behind. He flicks his elbow for someone to come through and help but it's Vandenbergh behind him and he's not going to help with Stybar up front.
35km remaining from 218km
Less than 10 seconds for our three leaders as BMC mount the chase with Van Avermaet and Oss.
33km remaining from 218km
Around 20 riders in the chasing group, which includes Vanmarcke, Van Avermaet, Oss, Kristoff, Terpstra, Boasson Hagen and Degenkolb.
The number of riders in the chasing group grows but so does the advantage of out leading trio, they now have 23 seconds over the second group on the road. They're now on the Karnemelkbeekstraat
31km remaining from 218km
BMC have got serious numbers in this chasing group with Oss, Burghardt, Drucker and Van Avermaet. They'll be kicking themselves if they let this Sagan group go.
Offredo has another go off the front, he's got a couple of bike lengths on the BMC-led peloton.
As we near the finish of E3, today's stage of the Volta a Catalunya has just ended with Alejandro Valverde winning solo, ahead of Rigoberto Uran
Offredo back in the group as Stybar, Sagan and Thomas extend their lead to 30 seconds.
This break looks an awful lot like the winning move last year with just another QuickStep rider missing to give us our full compliment from 2014. Sagan won on that day with Thomas finishing third, it's hard not to imagine that it will finish much the same this year if they stay together.
26km remaining from 218km
Sep Vanmarcke getting some words of advice from the team car, tactics won't mean a thing though if they can't bring these four back.
Front wheel change for Bjorne Leukemans after he suffers a puncture. It's a relatively speedy change and he's on his way. Almost that instand Devenyns himself suffers a puncture.
The chasing group don't seem to be able to make any headway on this gap, it's still over 30 seconds with 24km to go. Still plenty of road to bring them back however.
22km remaining from 218km
The final climb of the day the Tiegemberg is just three kilometres away for the leaders and their advantage has grown to 40 seconds. Four BMC riders on the front of the chasing group.
Shoe problems for Sep Vanmarcke. It looks like it's his cleat after his little off-road excursion on the Paterberg.
20km remaining from 218km
The leaders continue to pull away from the chasing group and Alexander Kolobnev has taken up the pace setting. The gap is currently 43 seconds.
Kolobnev's stint on the front is brief and BMC are back on the front. The gap is finally coming down as the three leaders are about to hit the final climb.
Stannard looks to be in trouble now, he's off the back of the main group.
18km remaining from 218km
After his shoe problems, Vanmarcke leads the peloton on this short descent with Van Avermaet. The gap now down to 21 seconds.
News from Catalunya is that Richie Porte is the new leader after taking the leader's jersey from Bert De Clercq.
A good effort from Stannard and he manages to make it back onto the peloton. A relief for the Sky rider.
Van Avermaet crashes
Greg Van Avermaet on his back on the side of the road after coming down on the inside of a corner. He's up and walking but he needs a new front wheel.
Looks like Van Avermaet plans to walk to the finish. He's walking along the side of the road as he waits for his team. A replay shows that he was catapulted over his handlebars.
14km remaining from 218km
Van Avermaet's accident has slowed down the chase and the three leaders have been granted a 52 second advantage. Luca Paolini now takes up the chase.
12km remaining from 218km
The pace of the chasing group and really slowed and the three out front now have a minute. Katusha doing the pulling on the front.
The three out front all look fairly comfortable, as they take equal turns on the front. Is a minute enough for them with 10 kilometres to go?
8km remaining from 218km
The gap is coming down but it's coming down slowly. This could be a close call for this leading trio. They've got 47 seconds
Kolobnev pulls off the front of this chasing group, his face showing the pain in his legs.
Offredo goes once again, the FDJ rider is determined to get something.
6km remaining from 218km
There are now five riders off the front of the casing group. Benoot and Offredo are part of that group.
Some indecision in the chase as Katusha tried to make some other team do the work and the gap has grown once again to 42 seconds. With only 5 kilometres to go they cannot affort to mess around.
The leaders must be thinking about the victory. Peter Sagan is surely the favourite but the other two will be determined to get rid of him before the finish.
Thomas is the first to strike with 4.3km to go
Thomas gets the gap and Stybar chasing. Sagan doesn't look like he has the enegry left.
3km remaining from 218km
Thomas is holding the gap with 3.5km to go. Brief sightings of Stybar behind but he's not making ground on Thomas.
Thomas has 10 seconds on Stybar with 2.7 to go.
Sagan is 18 seconds behind Thomas now.
1km remaining from 218km
Thomas attacked at San Remo but it didn't work but it looks like he's got this one as the gap goes up to 15 seconds over Stybar
Flamme rouge and Thomas has a significant advantage
Stybar goes under the flamme rouge now, he's not going to catch Thomas
Geraint Thomas wins E3 Harelbeke
Thomas looked over his shoulder as he neared the line but couldn't see Stybar. A strong victory from the Welshman.
Stybar crosses the line in second
Sagan is brought back by the group and spat out. It looks like Kristoff has won the sprint for third.
A forlorn Sagan crosses the line well over a minute behind Thomas. That's a lot of time to lose in less than 4km
Geraint Thomas says he imagined he was in Ed Clancy's wheel (as if doing the team pursuit on the track) as he drove to the line today. He also had this to say at the finish.
"These six weeks from Paris-Nice and Paris-Roubaix were the big hit for me. Paris-Nice was really disappointing, I was close last week and to get the win now is really great."
Confirmation that is was actually Trentin who took the third spot with Kristoff finishing in third.
Here is the top 10 from today's E3 Harelbeke
1 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky
2 Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Etixx - Quick-Step
3 Matteo Trentin (Ita) Etixx - Quick-Step
4 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team Katusha
5 Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Team LottoNL-Jumbo
6 Matti Breschel (Den) Tinkoff-Saxo
7 Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Lotto Soudal
8 Jack Bauer (NZl) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team
9 Jens Keukeleire (Bel) Orica GreenEdge
10 Daniel Oss (Ita) BMC Racing Team
They often describe E3 as a mini-Flanders and Geraint Thomas certainly put his name forward for the big event next week.
Peter Sagan looked completely empty at the finish. Is his form fading or did he bonk at the finish? He'll be hoping it is the latter of the two.
The big news today, aside from Thomas' victory, is that Fabian Cancellara's spring is over after suffering two fractured vertebrae
Lotto-Soudal confirm that Vergard Breen ended up with two fractures in his elbow after getting caught up in the same crash as Cancellara.
That's it from us today. Stick with Cyclingnews for full results, report and gallery and all the reaction from the race. And remember we'll have live coverage of Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday.
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