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.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky||5:15:00|
|2||Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Etixx - Quick-Step||0:00:25|
|3||Matteo Trentin (Ita) Etixx - Quick-Step||0:00:38|
|4||Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team Katusha||Row 3 - Cell 2|
|5||Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Team LottoNL-Jumbo||Row 4 - Cell 2|
|6||Matti Breschel (Den) Tinkoff-Saxo||Row 5 - Cell 2|
|7||Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Lotto Soudal||Row 6 - Cell 2|
|8||Jack Bauer (NZl) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team||Row 7 - Cell 2|
|9||Jens Keukeleire (Bel) Orica GreenEdge||Row 8 - Cell 2|
|10||Daniel Oss (Ita) BMC Racing Team||Row 9 - Cell 2|
|11||Borut Bozic (Slo) Astana Pro Team||Row 10 - Cell 2|
|12||Björn Leukemans (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert||Row 11 - Cell 2|
|13||Luke Rowe (GBr) Team Sky||Row 12 - Cell 2|
|14||Niki Terpstra (Ned) Etixx - Quick-Step||Row 13 - Cell 2|
|15||Marco Marcato (Ita) Wanty - Groupe Gobert||Row 14 - Cell 2|
|16||Yoann Offredo (Fra) FDJ.fr||Row 15 - Cell 2|
|17||Vincent Jerome (Fra) Team Europcar||Row 16 - Cell 2|
|18||Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal||Row 17 - Cell 2|
|19||Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) MTN - Qhubeka||Row 18 - Cell 2|
|20||Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) IAM Cycling||Row 19 - Cell 2|
|21||Yves Lampaert (Bel) Etixx - Quick-Step||Row 20 - Cell 2|
|22||Marcus Burghardt (Ger) BMC Racing Team||Row 21 - Cell 2|
|23||Oscar Gatto (Ita) Androni Giocattoli||Row 22 - Cell 2|
|24||Dylan Van Baarle (Ned) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team||Row 23 - Cell 2|
|25||John Degenkolb (Ger) Team Giant-Alpecin||Row 24 - Cell 2|
|26||Ian Stannard (GBr) Team Sky||0:00:46|
|27||Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) Etixx - Quick-Step||0:00:47|
|28||Alexander Kolobnev (Rus) Team Katusha||0:00:57|
|29||Zico Waeytens (Bel) Team Giant-Alpecin||Row 28 - Cell 2|
|30||Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff-Saxo||0:01:14|
|31||Bram Tankink (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo||0:01:17|
|32||Jean-Pierre Drucker (Lux) BMC Racing Team||0:01:26|
|33||Luca Paolini (Ita) Team Katusha||0:02:14|
|34||Michael Morkov (Den) Tinkoff-Saxo||0:03:21|
|35||Yannick Martinez (Fra) Team Europcar||Row 34 - Cell 2|
|36||Tom Van Asbroeck (Bel) Team LottoNL-Jumbo||Row 35 - Cell 2|
|37||Johnny Hoogerland (Ned) Team Roompot||Row 36 - Cell 2|
|38||Manuele Mori (Ita) Lampre-Merida||Row 37 - Cell 2|
|39||Angelo Tulik (Fra) Team Europcar||Row 38 - Cell 2|
|40||Mickael Delage (Fra) FDJ.fr||Row 39 - Cell 2|
|41||Amaury Capiot (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise||Row 40 - Cell 2|
|42||Grégory Rast (Swi) Trek Factory Racing||Row 41 - Cell 2|
|43||Frederik Backaert (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert||Row 42 - Cell 2|
|44||Giovanni Bernaudeau (Fra) Team Europcar||Row 43 - Cell 2|
|45||Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) MTN - Qhubeka||Row 44 - Cell 2|
|46||Hugo Houle (Can) AG2R La Mondiale||Row 45 - Cell 2|
|47||Mirko Selvaggi (Ita) Wanty - Groupe Gobert||Row 46 - Cell 2|
|48||Hayden Roulston (NZl) Trek Factory Racing||Row 47 - Cell 2|
|49||Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Bel) Etixx - Quick-Step||Row 48 - Cell 2|
|50||Alan Marangoni (Ita) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team||Row 49 - Cell 2|
|51||Alexandre Pichot (Fra) Team Europcar||Row 50 - Cell 2|
|52||Markel Irizar (Spa) Trek Factory Racing||Row 51 - Cell 2|
|53||Julien Vermote (Bel) Etixx - Quick-Step||Row 52 - Cell 2|
|54||Ramon Sinkeldam (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin||Row 53 - Cell 2|
|55||Laurens De Vreese (Bel) Astana Pro Team||Row 54 - Cell 2|
|56||Michael Schär (Swi) BMC Racing Team||Row 55 - Cell 2|
|57||Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (RSA) MTN - Qhubeka||Row 56 - Cell 2|
|58||Koen De Kort (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin||Row 57 - Cell 2|
|59||Antoine Duchesne (Can) Team Europcar||Row 58 - Cell 2|
|60||Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana Pro Team||Row 59 - Cell 2|
|61||Dmitriy Gruzdev (Kaz) Astana Pro Team||Row 60 - Cell 2|
|62||Stijn Devolder (Bel) Trek Factory Racing||Row 61 - Cell 2|
|63||Matthieu Ladagnous (Fra) FDJ.fr||Row 62 - Cell 2|
|64||Tyler Farrar (USA) MTN - Qhubeka||Row 63 - Cell 2|
|65||Pieter Jacobs (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise||Row 64 - Cell 2|
|66||Mitchell Docker (Aus) Orica GreenEdge||Row 65 - Cell 2|
|67||Sean De Bie (Bel) Lotto Soudal||Row 66 - Cell 2|
|68||Marcel Sieberg (Ger) Lotto Soudal||Row 67 - Cell 2|
|69||Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana Pro Team||Row 68 - Cell 2|
|70||Manuel Quinziato (Ita) BMC Racing Team||Row 69 - Cell 2|
|71||Luke Durbridge (Aus) Orica GreenEdge||Row 70 - Cell 2|
|72||Silvan Dillier (Swi) BMC Racing Team||Row 71 - Cell 2|
|73||Simone Antonini (Ita) Wanty - Groupe Gobert||Row 72 - Cell 2|
|74||Mathew Hayman (Aus) Orica GreenEdge||Row 73 - Cell 2|
|75||Maarten Wynants (Bel) Team LottoNL-Jumbo||Row 74 - Cell 2|
|76||Johan Van Summeren (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale||Row 75 - Cell 2|
|77||Salvatore Puccio (Ita) Team Sky||Row 76 - Cell 2|
|78||Wesley Kreder (Ned) Team Roompot||Row 77 - Cell 2|
|79||Damien Gaudin (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||Row 78 - Cell 2|
|80||Gert Steegmans (Bel) Trek Factory Racing||Row 79 - Cell 2|
|81||Jelle Wallays (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise||Row 80 - Cell 2|
|82||John Gadret (Fra) Movistar Team||Row 81 - Cell 2|
|83||Gorka Izagirre (Spa) Movistar Team||Row 82 - Cell 2|
|84||Heinrich Haussler (Aus) IAM Cycling||Row 83 - Cell 2|
|85||Maciej Bodnar (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo||Row 84 - Cell 2|
|86||Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Team Sky||Row 85 - Cell 2|
|87||Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Trek Factory Racing||0:03:31|
|88||Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team||0:06:44|
|89||Gijs Van Hoecke (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise||0:11:33|
|90||Dries Devenyns (Bel) IAM Cycling||Row 89 - Cell 2|
|91||Pavel Brutt (Rus) Tinkoff-Saxo||Row 90 - Cell 2|
|92||Sven Erik Bystrøm (Nor) Team Katusha||Row 91 - Cell 2|
|93||Thomas Leezer (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo||Row 92 - Cell 2|
|94||Marco Bandiera (Ita) Androni Giocattoli||Row 93 - Cell 2|
|95||Matteo Tosatto (Ita) Tinkoff-Saxo||Row 94 - Cell 2|
|96||Nikolay Trusov (Rus) Tinkoff-Saxo||Row 95 - Cell 2|
|97||Viacheslav Kuznetsov (Rus) Team Katusha||0:11:59|
|98||Jesse Sergent (NZl) Trek Factory Racing|