Thomas solos away from Stybar to win E3 Harelbeke

Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) won E3 Harelbeke on Friday after attacking fellow leaders Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-QuickStep) and Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) with four kilometres to go and soloing across the line of the Belgian cobbled classic. Stybar held on for second, while Sagan faded in the end and was passed by the chasing peloton. Matteo Trentin (Etixx-Quickstep) won the sprint for the final podium place.

The trio escaped from the field on the Oude Kwaremont with 41km left to race, and despite a concerted chase from BMC behind, they worked well together to stay clear. An attack was inevitable in the finale, but Thomas said he chose to go earlier than might have been expected to preempt the hostilities. The three-time world champion and dual Olympic gold medalist in the team pursuit couldn't have picked a better distance to suit his abilities.

“It was hard out there. The three of us worked well together and I wasn’t sure if they were bluffing a bit near the end – panting and pulling faces – but fortunately they weren’t, and it was great for me.

"I imagined I was following Ed Clancy's wheel," Thomas joked of his Olympic track teammate. "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."

How it unfolded

Due to road works in Harelbeke the start area moved out of the city centre to the Forestier football stadium outside the centre. The most notable name to miss out at the start was Filippo Pozzato (Lampre-Merida), due to a fever and viral gastrointestinal problems. On the start podium Peter Sagan (Cannondale-Garmin) was awarded his weight in beer because of his win from last year.

Before hitting the first climbs six riders created a breakaway group. After 15 kilometres Sjoerd van Ginneken (Roompot Oranje), Sean De Bie (Lotto-Soudal), Dries Devenyns (IAM), Sébastien Turgot (AG2R), Kristian Sbaragli (MTN-Qhubeka) and Andrea Dal Col (Southeast) featured in front.

A massive crash was caused by an errant water bottle on the cobbles of the Haaghoek after 40km, taking down Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing), Sebastian Langeveld (Cannondale-Garmin), and Robert Wagner (Lotto.NL-Jumbo) among many others. Although Lars Boom (Astana) and John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) were down but quickly got back on their bikes.

The gap started coming down as the peloton was increasing its speed over the climbs mid-way through the race. Dal Col was dropped from the lead group, leaving only five riders in front. At the Taaienberg, the eighth climb of the day, the gap was down to five minutes. Daniel Oss (BMC), Matteo Trentin (Etixx-QuickStep) and Matti Breschel led the peloton over the cobbles and created a small gap. Tiejs Benoot (Lotto-Soudal) solely closed the gap to the three leaders but a few kilometres later Katusha brought the peloton back on the four leaders. The Taaienberg didn’t result in a selection up front but several riders were distanced for good, including Grand Tour specialist Nairo Quintana (Movistar), who then dropped out of the race.

During the next 30 kilometres the peloton rolled in grouped formation over the climbs. The gap from the five breakaway riders slowly dropped back from four minutes to two minutes. At the Kapelberg the gap came down to a minute with only Devenyns, De Bie and Sbaragli surviving in front. The speed in the peloton put a huge amount of riders in trouble while heading to the two important climbs Paterberg and the Oude Kwaremont.

In front Devenyns left his last companions behind. In the peloton Sep Vanmarcke (Lotto NL-Jumbo) flew up the cobbles at high speed but he slipped away and had to drop back a few spots behind Daniel Oss, Sylvain Chavanel (IAM) and Peter Sagan. Nine riders briefly distanced the rest of the peloton, featuring Vanmarcke, Oss, Sagan, Chavanel, Degenkolb, Stybar, Paolini, Vandenbergh and Van Avermaet. There was no co-operation and a group of about 30 riders approached the Oude Kwaremont with Devenyns leading by only half a minute.

Marcus Burghardt (BMC) led the peloton over the first part of the Oude Kwaremont. The big guns finally fired when Geraint Thomas took over from Burghardt with Stybar marking his wheel. Burghardt was unable to follow with Sagan and the rest of the peloton behind the German rider. Sagan waited until halfway up the Kwaremont- to overtake Burghardt and bridge up to Stybar and Thomas. Devenyns was caught by the three classics specialists and was dropped after missing the final corner just before exiting the cobbles.

A few seconds later Vanmarcke led the peloton over the cobbles but the trio was gone. On the wide roads to Ronse the trio worked well together and created a gap of 15 seconds on a group of about twenty riders that included Degenkolb, Kristoff, Breschel, Van Avermaet, Oss, Chavanel, Stannard, Boasson Hagen and Vanmarcke who had a shoe problem.

Once the gap was up to 25 seconds BMC worked hard to close the it, having four riders in the main group. The gap briefly dropped back to 15 seconds before going back up to 45 seconds at the foot of the final climb, the Tiegemberg. A few more riders were dropped front the main group due to the pace set by BMC on the Tiegemberg with Ian Stannard being the biggest victim. The gap was down to 25 seconds.

On the small roads over the Tiegemberg Greg Van Avermaet misjudged a corner and went over the handlebars, crashing hard on his back. Paolini took over from BMC but the gap was back up to fifty seconds due to the crash from Van Avermaet.

Sagan, Stybar and Thomas worked well together, but it was the Sky rider who broke the peace first, choosing to put in his attack with full gusto with 4km left to go, into the wind, surprising the other two. Stybar kept up a valiant chase but could not close down the gap, although he was able to hold off the sprinting peloton, which Sagan was unable to do.

Full Results

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#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky5:15:00
2Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Etixx - Quick-Step0:00:25
3Matteo Trentin (Ita) Etixx - Quick-Step0:00:38
4Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team KatushaRow 3 - Cell 2
5Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Team LottoNL-JumboRow 4 - Cell 2
6Matti Breschel (Den) Tinkoff-SaxoRow 5 - Cell 2
7Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Lotto SoudalRow 6 - Cell 2
8Jack Bauer (NZl) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling TeamRow 7 - Cell 2
9Jens Keukeleire (Bel) Orica GreenEdgeRow 8 - Cell 2
10Daniel Oss (Ita) BMC Racing TeamRow 9 - Cell 2
11Borut Bozic (Slo) Astana Pro TeamRow 10 - Cell 2
12Björn Leukemans (Bel) Wanty - Groupe GobertRow 11 - Cell 2
13Luke Rowe (GBr) Team SkyRow 12 - Cell 2
14Niki Terpstra (Ned) Etixx - Quick-StepRow 13 - Cell 2
15Marco Marcato (Ita) Wanty - Groupe GobertRow 14 - Cell 2
16Yoann Offredo (Fra) FDJ.frRow 15 - Cell 2
17Vincent Jerome (Fra) Team EuropcarRow 16 - Cell 2
18Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto SoudalRow 17 - Cell 2
19Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) MTN - QhubekaRow 18 - Cell 2
20Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) IAM CyclingRow 19 - Cell 2
21Yves Lampaert (Bel) Etixx - Quick-StepRow 20 - Cell 2
22Marcus Burghardt (Ger) BMC Racing TeamRow 21 - Cell 2
23Oscar Gatto (Ita) Androni GiocattoliRow 22 - Cell 2
24Dylan Van Baarle (Ned) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling TeamRow 23 - Cell 2
25John Degenkolb (Ger) Team Giant-AlpecinRow 24 - Cell 2
26Ian Stannard (GBr) Team Sky0:00:46
27Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) Etixx - Quick-Step0:00:47
28Alexander Kolobnev (Rus) Team Katusha0:00:57
29Zico Waeytens (Bel) Team Giant-AlpecinRow 28 - Cell 2
30Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff-Saxo0:01:14
31Bram Tankink (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo0:01:17
32Jean-Pierre Drucker (Lux) BMC Racing Team0:01:26
33Luca Paolini (Ita) Team Katusha0:02:14
34Michael Morkov (Den) Tinkoff-Saxo0:03:21
35Yannick Martinez (Fra) Team EuropcarRow 34 - Cell 2
36Tom Van Asbroeck (Bel) Team LottoNL-JumboRow 35 - Cell 2
37Johnny Hoogerland (Ned) Team RoompotRow 36 - Cell 2
38Manuele Mori (Ita) Lampre-MeridaRow 37 - Cell 2
39Angelo Tulik (Fra) Team EuropcarRow 38 - Cell 2
40Mickael Delage (Fra) FDJ.frRow 39 - Cell 2
41Amaury Capiot (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - BaloiseRow 40 - Cell 2
42Grégory Rast (Swi) Trek Factory RacingRow 41 - Cell 2
43Frederik Backaert (Bel) Wanty - Groupe GobertRow 42 - Cell 2
44Giovanni Bernaudeau (Fra) Team EuropcarRow 43 - Cell 2
45Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) MTN - QhubekaRow 44 - Cell 2
46Hugo Houle (Can) AG2R La MondialeRow 45 - Cell 2
47Mirko Selvaggi (Ita) Wanty - Groupe GobertRow 46 - Cell 2
48Hayden Roulston (NZl) Trek Factory RacingRow 47 - Cell 2
49Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Bel) Etixx - Quick-StepRow 48 - Cell 2
50Alan Marangoni (Ita) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling TeamRow 49 - Cell 2
51Alexandre Pichot (Fra) Team EuropcarRow 50 - Cell 2
52Markel Irizar (Spa) Trek Factory RacingRow 51 - Cell 2
53Julien Vermote (Bel) Etixx - Quick-StepRow 52 - Cell 2
54Ramon Sinkeldam (Ned) Team Giant-AlpecinRow 53 - Cell 2
55Laurens De Vreese (Bel) Astana Pro TeamRow 54 - Cell 2
56Michael Schär (Swi) BMC Racing TeamRow 55 - Cell 2
57Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (RSA) MTN - QhubekaRow 56 - Cell 2
58Koen De Kort (Ned) Team Giant-AlpecinRow 57 - Cell 2
59Antoine Duchesne (Can) Team EuropcarRow 58 - Cell 2
60Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana Pro TeamRow 59 - Cell 2
61Dmitriy Gruzdev (Kaz) Astana Pro TeamRow 60 - Cell 2
62Stijn Devolder (Bel) Trek Factory RacingRow 61 - Cell 2
63Matthieu Ladagnous (Fra) FDJ.frRow 62 - Cell 2
64Tyler Farrar (USA) MTN - QhubekaRow 63 - Cell 2
65Pieter Jacobs (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - BaloiseRow 64 - Cell 2
66Mitchell Docker (Aus) Orica GreenEdgeRow 65 - Cell 2
67Sean De Bie (Bel) Lotto SoudalRow 66 - Cell 2
68Marcel Sieberg (Ger) Lotto SoudalRow 67 - Cell 2
69Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana Pro TeamRow 68 - Cell 2
70Manuel Quinziato (Ita) BMC Racing TeamRow 69 - Cell 2
71Luke Durbridge (Aus) Orica GreenEdgeRow 70 - Cell 2
72Silvan Dillier (Swi) BMC Racing TeamRow 71 - Cell 2
73Simone Antonini (Ita) Wanty - Groupe GobertRow 72 - Cell 2
74Mathew Hayman (Aus) Orica GreenEdgeRow 73 - Cell 2
75Maarten Wynants (Bel) Team LottoNL-JumboRow 74 - Cell 2
76Johan Van Summeren (Bel) AG2R La MondialeRow 75 - Cell 2
77Salvatore Puccio (Ita) Team SkyRow 76 - Cell 2
78Wesley Kreder (Ned) Team RoompotRow 77 - Cell 2
79Damien Gaudin (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 78 - Cell 2
80Gert Steegmans (Bel) Trek Factory RacingRow 79 - Cell 2
81Jelle Wallays (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - BaloiseRow 80 - Cell 2
82John Gadret (Fra) Movistar TeamRow 81 - Cell 2
83Gorka Izagirre (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 82 - Cell 2
84Heinrich Haussler (Aus) IAM CyclingRow 83 - Cell 2
85Maciej Bodnar (Pol) Tinkoff-SaxoRow 84 - Cell 2
86Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Team SkyRow 85 - Cell 2
87Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Trek Factory Racing0:03:31
88Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team0:06:44
89Gijs Van Hoecke (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise0:11:33
90Dries Devenyns (Bel) IAM CyclingRow 89 - Cell 2
91Pavel Brutt (Rus) Tinkoff-SaxoRow 90 - Cell 2
92Sven Erik Bystrøm (Nor) Team KatushaRow 91 - Cell 2
93Thomas Leezer (Ned) Team LottoNL-JumboRow 92 - Cell 2
94Marco Bandiera (Ita) Androni GiocattoliRow 93 - Cell 2
95Matteo Tosatto (Ita) Tinkoff-SaxoRow 94 - Cell 2
96Nikolay Trusov (Rus) Tinkoff-SaxoRow 95 - Cell 2
97Viacheslav Kuznetsov (Rus) Team Katusha0:11:59
98Jesse Sergent (NZl) Trek Factory Racing