Van Avermaet wins E3 Harelbeke

Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) hung his placard on the top rung of the rack of Tour of Flanders contenders, taking out his second victory of the season in the E3 Harelbeke

The Belgian out-sprinted his former teammate Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors), with fellow escapee Oliver Naesen (AG2R La Mondiale) taking the final podium spot.

"I was happy how I felt. I didn't feel so good on Wednesday but I'm happy things are not so bad," Van Avermaet said after fighting a cold earlier in the week.

Van Avermaet played down suggestions that riders who win E3 are the overwhelming favourites for the Tour of Flanders.

"I don't know. I was never so good here, I was never on the podium and I was always good in Flanders. It's just nice to win a Classic in Flanders and I think E3 is one of the nicest ones. It gives a lot of confidence for Flanders. I'm just happy to have two nice victories in my pocket and hopefully the third will come next week."

The winning trio formed out of a six man group that bridged to the early breakaway, distancing themselves from the rest on the Oude Kwaremont and then cooperating until the finish line was in sight. Gilbert, stuck on the front, kept looking back waiting for one of his rivals to open up the sprint. Naesen finally lost patience and jumped, but it was too soon and Van Avermaet surged past with the form expected of an Olympic champion.

Gilbert made it close, but no cigar as Van Avermaet took the win by a quarter wheel.

“In the sprint, Naesen surprised me when he opened his sprint and I hesitated for a second," Gilbert said. "That, and the headwind, made it really hard to get back in the front. It’s a pity, because I was there and could have won, but that’s racing. I’m looking at the bright side of things, which is that my form is good and I’ve rediscovered those sensations that make me feel at ease on the cobbles.

"In these races, you have to work hard to get into the best position and to keep it. I really like this. I found again my fighting spirit and this makes me happy. I’m back!"

Meanwhile, Naesen's third place was the biggest result of his career. "When I attacked on the Oude Kwaremont, I saw that they were both able to follow. I knew that we would be fast enough to stay away," he said. "We rode all the way, to the last kilometre where things became tactical. I tried to surprise them, but I knew I was not the best. I finished in my place. I believed I could win, but there were just 20 meters too many."

How it unfolded

The countdown to the Tour of Flanders continued with the E3 Harelbeke, which departed under sunny skies for 206.1km of mayhem.

The opening kilometers were marked by a series of crashes, some inconsequential, but some not - Tony Gallopin (Lotto Soudal) abandoned after a nasty crash left him howling in pain and clutching his left knee.

It wasn't until the second hour that a breakaway could go clear, and when they finally did they quickly opened up a lead of just under five minutes.

Alexis Gougeard (AG2R La Mondiale), Laurens De Vreese (Astana), David Per (Bahrain-Merida), Gijs van Hoecke (LottoNl-Jumbo), Taco van der Hoorn (Roompot), and Christophe Masson (WB Veranclassic) were the lucky ones to make the move.

Dries de Bondt (Veranda's Willems) chased solo for a long time before finally joining up with Tom Van Aesbroeck (Cannondale-Drapac) and Mickael Delage (FDJ) in no-man's land, but were dangling precariously in front of the peloton as they reached the midpoint of the hellingen region.

Olivier Le Gac (FDJ) attacked from the peloton with 75km to go, but his move didn't last long, as Tom Boonen (Quick-Step Floors) stretched his legs on Taaienberg. The acceleration halved the advantage of the leaders, bringing it to just 1:26.

Boonen's attack was closely marked by BMC's Daniel Oss, and soon after a counter-attack came from Gilbert, who was joined by Van Avermaet, Naesen and Lukas Postlberger (Bora-hansgrohe). They caught the Van Aesbroeck group with 66km to go on the Boindeberg.

Sep Vanmarcke then bridged across with Luke Durbridge (Orica-Scott), his efforts helped by Van Aesbroeck, who was then dropped on the Eikenberg, along with Delage and de Bondt.

Behind, Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) tried to go across several times, but was heavily marked. The sextet caught the leaders with 59km to go making 12 up front, with a precarious 48 seconds on the field.

Behind, Sagan tried again to go across, but each time he was reeled back in, and finally with 42km to go was taken down in a crash. Although he quickly bounced up and remounted, repeated issues with his bike meant his race was over.

Soon, all of the early escapees were ridden off the wheels of the lead group, pushed by Gilbert. Only De Vreese was left, making it seven riders with 1:10 at 38km to go.

Naesen pushed the pace on the Oude Kwaremont and put Vanmarcke, Durbridge, Postlberger and De Vreese out the back, and found himself in the company of the two Classics giants, Gilbert and Van Avermaet.

Durbridge and Postlberger, and further back De Vreese and Vanmarcke, valiantly continued to chase the lead trio, but could not make up ground. Meanwhile, Trek-Segafredo desperately tried to get a group working to go across, but were thwarted by the Quick-Step team.

Their efforts reeled in De Vreese and Vanmarcke on the Karnemelkbeekstraat with 30km to go, but Durbridge and Pöstlberger kept going, but it became increasingly clear they were racing for fourth place.

Delage still looked comfortable as the leaders hit the Varentstraat with 23km to go, holding a lead of 1:52 on the chasing bunch. But that all changed on the Tiegemberg with 20km to go when the AG2R rider was gapped by Gilbert's pace. But he rallied and chased back on the descent.

The trio worked well together with the climbs behind them, coming into the final 3km with almost two minutes on the chasers.

Into the final kilometer, Gilbert started looking back to watch Van Avermaet in second, with Naesen tacked on, patiently waiting. Gilbert took it into the finish like a trackie, looking back all the time, waiting for the first attack, which came from Naesen.

Full Results

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#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team4:48:17
2Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Quick-Step Floors
3Oliver Naesen (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale
4Luke Durbridge (Aus) Orica-Scott0:00:40
5Lukas Pöstlberger (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe0:00:41
6Michael Valgren Andersen (Den) Astana Pro Team0:00:52
7Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
8Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick-Step Floors
9Dylan Van Baarle (Ned) Cannondale-Drapac
10Alberto Bettiol (Ita) Cannondale-Drapac
11Fabio Felline (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
12Jens Keukeleire (Bel) Orica-Scott
13John Degenkolb (Ger) Trek-Segafredo
14Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal
15Luke Rowe (GBr) Team Sky
16Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) Cannondale-Drapac
17Laurens De Vreese (Bel) Astana Pro Team
18Ignatas Konovalovas (Ltu) FDJ
19Niki Terpstra (Ned) Quick-Step Floors
20Daniel Oss (Ita) BMC Racing Team
21Tony Martin (Ger) Katusha-Alpecin
22Matteo Trentin (Ita) Quick-Step Floors0:00:57
23Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Cannondale-Drapac0:01:53
24Magnus Cort Nielsen (Den) Orica-Scott0:02:12
25Borut Bozic (Slo) Bahrain-Merida
26Sacha Modolo (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
27Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha-Alpecin
28Ramon Sinkeldam (Ned) Team Sunweb
29Olivier Le Gac (Fra) FDJ
30Scott Thwaites (GBr) Dimension Data
31Jasper De Buyst (Bel) Lotto Soudal
32Iljo Keisse (Bel) Quick-Step Floors
33Luka Pibernik (Slo) Bahrain-Merida
34Frederik Backaert (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert
35Koen De Kort (Ned) Trek-Segafredo
36Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert
37Mathew Hayman (Aus) Orica-Scott
38Taco Van Der Hoorn (Ned) Roompot - Nederlandse Loterij
39Carlos Barbero (Spa) Movistar Team
40Loïc Vliegen (Bel) BMC Racing Team
41Jasha Sütterlin (Ger) Movistar Team
42Bryan Coquard (Fra) Direct Energie
43Gijs Van Hoecke (Bel) Team LottNl-Jumbo
44Stijn Devolder (Bel) Veranda's Willems Crelan
45Bram Tankink (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo
46Jos Van Emden (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo
47Jean-Pierre Drucker (Lux) BMC Racing Team
48Jelle Wallays (Bel) Lotto Soudal
49Huub Duijn (Ned) Veranda's Willems Crelan
50Thomas Sprengers (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise
51Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana Pro Team
52Kevyn Ista (Bel) WB Veranclassic Aqua Protect
53Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Quick-Step Floors0:02:16
54Lukasz Wisniowski (Pol) Team Sky
55Silvan Dillier (Swi) BMC Racing Team
56Ian Stannard (GBr) Team Sky
57Ivan Garcia (Spa) Bahrain-Merida
58Christopher Juul Jensen (Den) Orica-Scott
59Thomas Scully (NZl) Cannondale-Drapac
60Antoine Duchesne (Can) Direct Energie
61Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Direct Energie
62Gianni Moscon (Ita) Team Sky0:02:20
63Vegard Stake Laengen (Nor) UAE Team Emirates
64Marco Marcato (Ita) UAE Team Emirates0:02:29
65Tyler Farrar (USA) Dimension Data0:02:43
66Hugo Houle (Can) AG2R La Mondiale0:06:15
67Aleksei Tcatevich (Rus) Gazprom – Rusvelo
68Dmitriy Gruzdev (Kaz) Astana Pro Team
69Reto Hollenstein (Swi) Katusha-Alpecin
70Nils Politt (Ger) Katusha-Alpecin
71Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale
72Michael Morkov (Den) Katusha-Alpecin
73Martin Elmiger (Swi) BMC Racing Team
74Eliot Lietaer (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise
75Søren Kragh Andersen (Den) Team Sunweb
76Tom Van Asbroeck (Bel) Cannondale-Drapac
77Mickael Delage (Fra) FDJ
78Alexis Gougeard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
79Kristijan Koren (Slo) Cannondale-Drapac
80Marcus Burghardt (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
81Bert De Backer (Bel) Team Sunweb0:08:36
82Elmar Reinders (Ned) Roompot - Nederlandse Loterij
83Twan Castelijns (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo
84Floris Gerts (Ned) BMC Racing Team
85Matthieu Ladagnous (Fra) FDJ
86Jorge Arcas Peña (Spa) Movistar Team
87Kenneth Van Rooy (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise
88Moreno Hofland (Ned) Lotto Soudal
89Romain Cardis (Fra) Direct Energie
90Mads Pedersen (Den) Trek-Segafredo
91Sjoerd Van Ginneken (Ned) Roompot - Nederlandse Loterij
92Julien Vermote (Bel) Quick-Step Floors
93Julien Duval (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
94Nuno Bico (Por) Movistar Team
95Manuel Quinziato (Ita) BMC Racing Team
96Lars Boom (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo
97Simone Consonni (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
98Kris Boeckmans (Bel) Lotto Soudal0:08:39
99Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Dimension Data0:10:45
100Sven Erik Bystrøm (Nor) Katusha-Alpecin
101Erik Baska (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
102Maciej Bodnar (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe
103Sander Cordeel (Bel) Veranda's Willems Crelan
104Alexander Porsev (Rus) Gazprom – Rusvelo
105Igor Boev (Rus) Gazprom – Rusvelo
106Julien Morice (Fra) Direct Energie
107Nans Peters (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
108Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
109Alexandre Pichot (Fra) Direct Energie
110Remy Mertz (Bel) Lotto Soudal
111Pavel Brutt (Rus) Gazprom – Rusvelo
112Aime De Gendt (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise
DNFJuraj Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
DNFChristian Knees (Ger) Team Sky
DNFOwain Doull (GBr) Team Sky
DNFNico Denz (Ger) AG2R La Mondiale
DNFSalvatore Puccio (Ita) Team Sky
DNFGediminas Bagdonas (Ltu) AG2R La Mondiale
DNFMatti Breschel (Den) Astana Pro Team
DNFOscar Gatto (Ita) Astana Pro Team
DNFAndrey Grivko (Ukr) Astana Pro Team
DNFChristoph Pfingsten (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
DNFTruls Korsaeth (Nor) Astana Pro Team
DNFTony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto Soudal
DNFNiccolo Bonifazio (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
DNFNikolas Maes (Bel) Lotto Soudal
DNFDavid Per (Slo) Bahrain-Merida
DNFIon Insausti (Spa) Bahrain-Merida
DNFAleksejs Saramotins (Lat) Bora-Hansgrohe
DNFDanny Van Poppel (Ned) Team Sky
DNFJack Bauer (NZl) Quick-Step Floors
DNFChun Kai Feng (Tpe) Bahrain-Merida
DNFBenjamin Declercq (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise
DNFPieter Vanspeybrouck (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert
DNFElias Van Breussegem (Bel) Veranda's Willems Crelan
DNFOtto Vergaerde (Bel) Veranda's Willems Crelan
DNFStef Van Zummeren (Bel) Veranda's Willems Crelan
DNFGaetan Bille (Bel) Veranda's Willems Crelan
DNFDries De Bondt (Bel) Veranda's Willems Crelan
DNFAlex Kirsch (Lux) WB Veranclassic Aqua Protect
DNFDries Van Gestel (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise
DNFChristophe Masson (Fra) WB Veranclassic Aqua Protect
DNFPiet Allegaert (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise
DNFAndrea Guardini (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
DNFFederico Zurlo (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
DNFOliviero Troia (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
DNFMarko Kump (Slo) UAE Team Emirates
DNFBernhard Eisel (Aut) Dimension Data
DNFPreben Van Hecke (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen - Baloise
DNFIvan Savitskiy (Rus) Gazprom – Rusvelo
DNFPim Ligthart (Ned) Roompot - Nederlandse Loterij
DNFCoen Vermeltfoort (Ned) Roompot - Nederlandse Loterij
DNFBrian Van Goethem (Ned) Roompot - Nederlandse Loterij
DNFBerden De Vries (Ned) Roompot - Nederlandse Loterij
DNFJesper Asselman (Ned) Roompot - Nederlandse Loterij
DNFRoman Maikin (Rus) Gazprom – Rusvelo
DNFLudwig De Winter (Bel) WB Veranclassic Aqua Protect
DNFAndrei Solomennikov (Rus) Gazprom – Rusvelo
DNFKevin Van Melsen (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert
DNFAdrien Petit (Fra) Direct Energie
DNFRyan Anderson (Can) Direct Energie
DNFJimmy Duquennoy (Bel) WB Veranclassic Aqua Protect
DNFJulien Stassen (Bel) WB Veranclassic Aqua Protect
DNFLudovic Robeet (Bel) WB Veranclassic Aqua Protect
DNFLawrence Naesen (Bel) WB Veranclassic Aqua Protect
DNFNikolay Trusov (Rus) Gazprom – Rusvelo
DNFAntonio Pedrero (Spa) Movistar Team
DNFJérôme Baugnies (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert
DNFMark Renshaw (Aus) Dimension Data
DNFYoucef Reguigui (Alg) Dimension Data
DNFNick Dougall (RSA) Dimension Data
DNFLuka Mezgec (Slo) Orica-Scott
DNFRoger Kluge (Ger) Orica-Scott
DNFMarco Haller (Aut) Katusha-Alpecin
DNFDayer Quintana (Col) Movistar Team
DNFJenthe Biermans (Bel) Katusha-Alpecin
DNFHéctor Carretero (Spa) Movistar Team
DNFCarlos Betancur (Col) Movistar Team
DNFMarc Sarreau (Fra) FDJ
DNFLorenzo Manzin (Fra) FDJ
DNFJacopo Guarnieri (Ita) FDJ
DNFMarc Fournier (Fra) FDJ
DNFMitch Docker (Aus) Orica-Scott
DNFAlbert Timmer (Ned) Team Sunweb
DNFSimone Antonini (Ita) Wanty - Groupe Gobert
DNFYoann Offredo (Fra) Wanty - Groupe Gobert
DNFWesley Kreder (Ned) Wanty - Groupe Gobert
DNFMarco Coledan (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
DNFFumiyuki Beppu (Jpn) Trek-Segafredo
DNFGregory Rast (Swi) Trek-Segafredo
DNFJay Robert Thomson (RSA) Dimension Data
DNFZico Waeytens (Bel) Team Sunweb
DNFRyan Mullen (Irl) Cannondale-Drapac
DNFMike Teunissen (Ned) Team Sunweb
DNFTom Stamsnijder (Ned) Team Sunweb
DNFRoy Curvers (Ned) Team Sunweb
DNFMaarten Wynants (Bel) Team LottoNl-Jumbo
DNFRobert Wagner (Ger) Team LottoNl-Jumbo
DNFThomas Leezer (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo
DNFJasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo

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