Belgian week: Women's Tour of Flanders: Six of the best
Welcome! We've got more Classics action for you today with E3 Harelbeke. In just over 10 minutes, the riders will set off from Harelbeke for today's 206km cobbled feast. It's a tad chilly out there so the riders are well wrapped up against the elements.
E3 is also known as a mini Flanders and the winner of De Ronde often comes out of the top 10 here. So, today will be an important marker for the big Classics riders and this is what they've got ahead of them.
The last few riders are rolling to the start line and in just a few moments we'll have action.
Of course, all the big Classics hitters are in Harelbeke this afternoon. There are a few interlopers, though. Mikel Landa is one such rider. The Spaniard is here to have a look at the cobbles ahead of the Tour de France in July.
He had this to say at the start: "We have this stage at the Tour de France and I think that it’s good to see them to know how to take the best way. I am here to learn and I will try to enjoy the day as much as possible."
The riders are making their way through the neutral zone. The racing will be on imminently.
The flag has dropped and the attacks are coming already. A Veranda's Willems Crelan rider and a Roompot rider have jumped off the front.
Greg Van Avermaet is the defending champion here after his superb Classics campaign last year. He was given a chocolate bike on the sign-on podium ahead of the race. I hope he doesn't eat it all at once. Of course, he's looking to win again today and he's got a strong team behind him to do so.
1 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel)
2 Jurgen Roelandts (Bel)
3 Francisco Ventoso (Spa)
4 Jean-Pierre Drucker (Lux)
5 Michael Schär (Swi)
6 Alberto Bettiol (Ita)
7 Stefan Kung (Swi)
An early crash for Dimension Data's Ryan Gibbons. The sprinter is quickly back up, though, and back on his way.
Peter Sagan had a difficult E3 Harelbeke last year. He crashed and was left without any team support with the team vehicles sent down a deviation with 47km to go. He'll be hoping for better look today and a chance to test his legs.
"It’s a little bit windy, it’s going to be nervous for the start," he said.
Can the tailwind in the finale can favour attackers?: "Yes, If you’re in the front… if you are in the back it doesn’t matter.
"For sure I’m here to do something. We’ll see. What do I expect? Do my best, like always. First of all I have to try again a Belgian race. It’s important to try and get some confidence before Flanders."
The attacking has been relentless from the start. We have eight riders with a 30-second advantage on the peloton at the moment.
Tiesj Benoot comes into this race will a lot of confidence after claiming his first professional victory. And what a victory it was. The Belgian soloed away from all of his rivals to claim the Strade Bianche title. Today, the conditions are a little better and he's expecting a good fight for the title.
""It was super good two weeks ago. I have no hesitation about that but I hope that the legs are still good. I feel good in training," he told Cyclingnews.
"I think it will be a nervous race with the wind and it’s cold but not too cold. I think that a lot of guys really want to race here so it will be nice."
No details yet on who has made it into this front group. However, their lead has extended to 1:20 over the pack behind. It's far from decisive but it seems that this could be the day's breakaway.
And here we have it. The eight leaders are: Truls Korsaeth (Astana), Nelson Oliveira (Movistar), Simone Consonni (UAE Team Emirates), Lukas Spengler (WB Aqua Protect), Damien Gaudin (Direct Energie), Pim Ligthart (Roompot), Jeremy Lecroq (Vital Concept), Kevin Van Melsen (Wanty-Groupe Gobert).
In honour of the Classics, we have been holding a Belgian week on Cyclingnews. We've had an array of features, which you can find here. The latest installment takes a look at the rising star of Wout Van Aert. The Belgian is a triple world champion in the cyclo-cross discipline and has had a brilliant Classics season so far. He's not racing today, but we can expect him at the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. Read our feature here.
The latest time check for the eight riders at the head of affairs is three minutes.
Sep Vanmarcke, also known for his kids books, had a decent start to the Classics with third at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. He's never been on the podium at E3 Harelbeke, with his best performance fourth in 2011. Here he is at the start.
As the leaders hit the first climb of the day the Wolvenberg, they have six minutes of an advantage over the peloton behind.
Quick-Step reporting a crash in the bunch, which has taken down world champ Peter Sagan.
Fortunately for Sagan, he has been able to remount and get back into the bunch. Better to get the bad luck out of the way now.
While riders are technically unable to sign for a new team until August, the groundwork is already being laid out with agents sending out their list of available riders to teams. Many of the Classics contenders are on this list. Daniel Benson has taken an in depth look at how the transfer season could pan out. Read the full story here.
Winner of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Michael Valgren (Astana) arrived at the sign-on in ebullient form, responding in the affirmative when asked by speaker Michel Wuyts if he could continue his run by winning in Harelbeke. “Yeah, and the Ronde too,” Valgren said. “Well, that’s what I’ll try to do. I’m not racing for fun. This is a tough sport and I want to show people I’m a tough guy.”
@Cyclingnewsfeed Fri, 23rd Mar 2018 12:20:03
It has been a fairly zippy 43kph average over the first hour, considering the weather. Lotto Soudal is pulling on the front of the peloton and has brought the gap down a touch to 5:45.
Oliver Naesen was a full-time van driver four years ago. Last year, he did battle with Greg Van Avermaet and Philippe Gilbert to finish third a E3 Harelbeke. As part of our Belgian week, we spoke to the Belgian champion about his rise towards the top and his hopes for this year's Classics campaign. Read the fascinating feature here.
The gap is down to 5:30 as Lotto Soudal continue to set the pace. They're obviously very confident in Benoot's form following Strade Bianche earlier this month. he has a decent team behind him, but there is no doubt that he is the big leader today.
41 Tiesj Benoot (Bel)
42 Moreno Hofland (Ned)
43 Nikolas Maes (Bel)
44 Jasper De Buyst (Bel)
45 Frederik Frison (Bel)
46 Lawrence Naesen (Bel)
47 Marcel Sieberg (Ger)
The peloton has split into two groups across the Paddestraat. It's a minor gap with around 15 seconds separating the two.
Sitting behind Lotto Soudal is a large group of Quick-Step Floors riders. They have, as ever, an enviable line-up. The question is, if they will be able to convert that into a result. Whatever happens, they have plenty of options.
31 Philippe Gilbert (Bel)
32 Tim Declercq (Bel)
33 Yves Lampaert (Bel)
34 Iljo Keisse (Bel)
35 Florian Sénéchal (Fra)
36 Zdenek Stybar (Cze)
37 Niki Terpstra (Ned)
The two groups in the peloton have come back together after that brief separation. The gap remains at 5:45.
Arnaud Demare finished on the podium at Milan-San Remo last weekend. He also took a stage victory on the opening day of Paris-Nice before abandoning ahead of the penultimate stage. He doesn't see himself among the top favourites but says that he's full of confidence.
"Greg Van Avermaet and Peter Sagan will be the favourites, and if they go, it’s up to the rest of us to follow," he said at the start. "There’s a lot of wind so there should be a lot of movement and attacking. We’ll see how things play out in the finale but it’s rare that it plays out in a sprint here, at least for the victory. I’ve taken a lot of confidence from Paris-Nice and Milan-San Remo. So far it’s all going well, so we’ll see how it goes from here."
After the opening climb of the Wolvenberg, there is a long stretch of flat, occasionally cobbled, roads before the next climb of La Houppe. All is calm for now as the gap to the escapees remains steady.
Michael Matthews is making his debut at E3 Harelbeke today as he extends his Classics repertoire. It's impressive that he's even here after he fractured his shoulder in a crash at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Today is very much a learning curve for Matthews but he could be a wildcard if he can hang on.
151 Michael Matthews (Aus)
152 Phil Bauhaus (Ger)
153 Roy Curvers (Ned)
154 Lennard Hofstede (Ned)
155 Søren Kragh Andersen (Den)
156 Tom Stamsnijder (Ned)
157 Mike Teunissen (Ned)
The race is halted briefly at a level crossing for a passing train. Organisers do their best to avoid these occurrences but it is hard to rule them out completely. It costs them about a minute and the gap is up to almost 7 minutes.
A crash in the leading group as Consonni goes down. It was a bit of inattention on his behalf that caused it. He's back up and there is time for him to rejoin.
@Cyclingnewsfeed Fri, 23rd Mar 2018 13:12:04
Matteo Trentin has been in good form so far this season, despite an early-season injury. After many years with Quick-Step Floors, he's racing with Mitchelton-Scott this season and is one of their main contenders.
"The condition is there, so let’s see. The rib is fine. I’m ready to race," he said at the start. "The wind isn’t a big deal, it’s the same everyone, we all have to deal with it.
"I don’t know what kind of race to expect. We saw also in the Opening Weekend that there wasn’t one rider about the others, but of course three weeks have passed so we’ll see what the new equilibrium of the race is. There isn’t one favourite, there’s bunch of 10 or 15 guys who can be the favourite. After today we’ll have a clearer idea of the next races also."
After going up to over seven minutes following the stoppage for the level crossing, the leaders' advantage has dropped to six minutes.
Consonni is back with the leaders after his earlier tumble.
I told you about that chocolate bike that Van Avermaet got earlier on. Here it is in all its splendour.
The riders are now onto the second climb of the day La Houppe. It's 3.4km with an average of 3.3 per cent.
Quick-Step Floors is doing a shift on the front. Mitchelton-Scott also has Alex Edmondson up there helping to set the pace.
Luke Durbridge will be an important rider for Mitchelton-Scott today. He was in action on Wednesday at De Panne and he's hoping for something good today.
"I attacked on the Kemmelberg at De Panne but Quick-Step were riding to shut the race down for Viviani so there wasn’t anything to do. I had a great race here last year and I’m hoping to do better this time."
Oh dear! There has been a big crash in the bunch and there are a lot of riders down. People scrambling for bikes all over the place. Hard to say how serious the injuries are for some with so much going on.
A few riders were thrown into the field adjacent to the road due to the force of the incident. Thankfully, there were no major obstructions on the side of the road.
EF Education First reporting that Sep Vanmarcke was one of the fallers. Let's hope it isn't too serious.
105km remaining from 206km
Tim Declercq is really putting in a big effort on the front of the bunch. The gap is coming down bit by bit and currently stands at 5:23.
Sep Vanmarcke was caught up in the crash and he's part of a small group trying to chase back on as Quick-Step Floors string out the bunch. It looks like Landa may well have been involved in that too and Edmondson.
100km remaining from 206km
Arnaud Demare was also one of those that got caught up and he's racing hard to get back on. Quick-Step Floors have decide to try and keep them off the back and are really hammering it along. They've shut the gap down to 4:14 in the last five kilometres.
As we get a few more replays of that incident, we can see that Bryan Coquard was involved in it. It looks like his bike broke as a result. Marco Haller was also down on the side of the road.
Astana is leading the second peloton in chase of this Quick-Step led group. Michael Matthews, Oliver Neasen and Vanmarcke are all in this second group.
The gap between the two pelotons is around 1:15 while Quick-Step has brought the leaders' advantage down to 2:42 after that push in pace.
Lotto Soudal is helping with this push in pace. And we get a brief sighting of Sagan hovering in the background.
91km remaining from 206km
There is no letting up of the pace in the first peloton and the gap is going out right now. At the moment, 1:30 is the gap between the two groups and it's continuing to grow.
Under two minutes now for the chasers as Declercq and Keisse continue to put the hammer down. This crash really has blown the race apart.
Astana continues to pull the second peloton along. They are reversing the time loss but it's going to be very hard to take this back. Even if they do pull it back, there will be some very tired legs out there.
87km remaining from 206km
Quick-Step Floors continues to drive the pace in the peloton, which is lined out behind as the gap to the second group is sitting at just under a minute.
The gap to the leaders is holding rather steady at 1:41.
Meanwhile, Gaudin and Ligthart are alone at the front.
85km remaining from 206km
Onto the Hotondberg, Gaudin is emulating former Direct Energie rider Thomas Voeckler, tongue wagging with the effort of trying to hold off this Quick-Step Floors-led bunch. 1:48 for the leaders.
83km remaining from 206km
The rest of the breakaway is 20 seconds behind our duo, who broke up the lead group while the cameras were focussed on the chaos in the peloton.
EF-Drapac are now chasing with Astana in the second peloton, but they can't seem to close that one-minute gap. It's a team time trial!
78km remaining from 206km
Gaudin and Ligthart are heading up the Kortekeer, a narrow but nicely paved climb, they are losing ground on the Quick-Step chase, however.
1:14 to the first group, 2:20 to the second peloton. We're still not sure what happened to the rest of the original breakaway, we assume they're in no man's land still.
75km remaining from 206km
The chasers from the breakaway are 30 seconds behind the leaders, nearly in sight of the first peloton as they line out the group on a narrow, sinuous road through farmlands. The excitement startles some horses, who bolt away from the road.
75km remaining from 206km
Now the first peloton has the remnants of the breakaway in its clutches. The gap to the duo ahead is down to 46 seconds and falling fast.
The gap to the second peloton is still hanging at exactly a minute, by GPS estimates.
74km remaining from 206km
Oliveira continues to lead the peloton through a few turns.
Now onto the cobbled ascent of the Taaienberg - Tom Boonen's favorite proving ground.
Senechal, Terpstra and Lampaert lead the bunch behind on the Taaienberg - Stybar is back there, too. No attacks yet.
The peloton is splitting under the pressure of Quick-Step - Matthews is losing groud. It's mayhem!
Benoot, Van Avermaet are still there.
Behind, the Aqua Blue Sport car has stopped on the climb and has blocked the second peloton's chase.
71km remaining from 206km
Lampaert and Terpstra have detached from the front of the peloton, 22 seconds behind the two ahead. It's really heating up now!
The Quick-Step duo are motoring toward the leaders, but Daniel Oss is chasing hard behind.
70km remaining from 206km
Sagan, Gilbert and Benoot are chasing behind the leaders, but of course Gilbert is getting a free ride.
Meanwhile, Terpstra and Lampaert have met up with the former leaders.
A group has come up to the Sagan trio - it has Oss, Van Avermaet, Colbrelli, a Drapac rider and a few more.
The rain is coming down again, as the Sagan group is in echelon formation. Matthews is in a group just behind, also in echelon. Then a third chasing group led by Knees?
67km remaining from 206km
The leading quartet have 35 seconds on the second group. Sylvain Chavanel appears to be having a renaissance - he's in the group just behind Sagan's.
The leaders are on the Boigneberg, Lampaert gritting his teeth on the front.
The cream is really rising to the top now - Sagan, Benoot, Van Avermaet, Gilbert and Stybar are distancing the rest of the chase.
66km remaining from 206km
The effort behind has closed the gap to the leading four to just 16 seconds - still in wide-open farmland.
A trio of riders including Oss are chasing to get back to the Sagan group - but Sagan has opened a gap with Gilbert!
The roads are so narrow, twisty and tight that we can't get a gap to the groups. It's 23 seconds to a third group, presumably Chavanel's.
64km remaining from 206km
Meanwhile, his teammate Gaudin is really suffering after being in the breakaway all day - he's fighting hard to hold the wheel of Terpstra as Lampaert is killing himself on the front.
Group three is actually Van Avermaet's - 21 seconds now, as Sagan closes in on the leaders with Gilbert - 8".
But what is Sagan thinking? He'll be up against three Quick-Step riders! That's confidence.
Sagan is closing the gap by himself, of course, as Gilbert won't work. He takes a moment for a snack as group three makes contact behind. The gap is now 16" as the leaders hit the Eikenberg. Immediately, Ligthart is dropped.
The Sporza announcers call him "Ligt-halt".
Sagan has not quite let the chasers make contact, he accelerates again, not wanting Stybar and Van Avermaet to deal with, too.
Sagan passes the completely spent Ligthart, but now Benoot reels in that trio.
61km remaining from 206km
Gaudin is dropped leaving two Quick-Steps out front and two in the chasing group behind.
There is yet another Quick-Step rider in a trio chasing at 37 seconds, just ten behind Sagan's group. Terpstra and Lampaert are trading pulls smoothly, powering through the arms-width roads through the grassy verges.
The Oss-Durbridge-Senechal group has made contact with the Sagan group - now we have nine chasers but 42 seconds to make up on the duo ahead.
Sagan now has a teammate, but he's stuck in that group with three Quick-Steps, who of course will have nothing to do with the chasing.
It now is down to the others to work, but who wants to drag more Quick-Step riders to the lead? It's a tactical conundrum... who will ride?
57km remaining from 206km
As the leaders hit the Stationsberg they continue to hold 42 seconds on the Sagan group, with Lampaert and Terpstra working evenly, cheeks red from the effort. Who's chasing? Oss.
Kudos to Van Avermaet, he takes a pull on the cobbled section.
Oss is done - he worked hard to get up to that group and has run out of gas. He's dropped with Ligthart.
Gaudin is also dangling at the back, getting distanced with Durbridge as van Avermaet demonstrates his skills on wet cobbles.
56km remaining from 206km
Van Avermaet gets a gap - Gilbert and Benoot fighting to get across.
The rest of the group has come up to Benoot, as behind, Oss chases back onto their smaller group.
Oss is such a fighter! But behind them, there is a huge group of riders stretched out on the pavé who are now closing in on the Sagan group.
54km remaining from 206km
Onto the N60 highway, the duo ahead now have less of an advantage. 38 seconds to Van Avermaet, 55 seconds to Sagan's group, but the peloton behind is reforming on the wide, smooth highway.
Gilbert attacks the third group.
Sagan looks behind, Oss is gone. He gets some help from Benoot, however.
Tepstra and Lampaert are back into the farm roads on the Elsstraat, out of sight of Van Avermaet who is about to be caught by Gilbert.
52km remaining from 206km
Benoot and Gilbert are about to make contact with Van Avermaet - that was quite an effort!
Gilbert takes a moment to stand and stretch his legs as they make the catch. He doesn't have to do a lick of work.
51km remaining from 206km
In Melden, the chasing trio are not having much luck closing down the gap to the leaders - 56 seconds now for Terpstra and Lampaert, while the Sagan group has regained Oss and are at 1:12.
49km remaining from 206km
After all that mayhem, it's hard to believe there are still 49km left to race! Oss is in for the long haul, however, at the front of the chase pulling faces.
In the mist, the dreary Belgian greyness, the motorbike headlights shine on the Sagan group. But they can't cut through the murky 40-second gap to the chasing trio, who are vanishing in the distance.
Meanwhile, the peloton behind Sagan's group has swelled to about 25 riders.
There's a bit of a lull in the action as the riders go stead-state to prepare for the Paterberg, which comes at 41km to go.
But first, the Kapelberg, a shallow, short paved climb.
45km remaining from 206km
The Sagan group has been caught by that large chasing bunch.
Yes, this large group has caught Sagan's group, but the five remaining riders still have to cover the Paterberg and Oude Kwaremont over the next 15km. That will hurt them, but also shatter this peloton.
It's Sagan's only chance - to come away with some fresher companions after those climbs who can possibly close down the 1:41 to the two leaders. Van Avermaet's trio is still holding at 54 seconds to the two leaders.
Over in Spain, the Volta a Catalunya stage was won by Jarlinson Pantano (Trek-Segafredo), while Alejandro Valverde continues as race leader. You can get results, report and photos here.
42km remaining from 206km
Terpstra has tucked his glasses into the back of his jersey neck, while Lampaert keeps his on - they're on the smoother gutter going up the Paterberg, fans patting them on the bottom.
Lampaert is being dropped by his Dutch teammate.
41km remaining from 206km
Vanmarcke is looking strong at the head of the group behind the chasing trio, who are on the Paterberg now, too.
Vanmarcke leads the peloton at the base of the Paterberg as the leaders head over the top.
Tom Steels gives some encouragement and gels to the leaders - Lampaert got back up to Terpstra after the Paterberg and has gotten back to work.
40km remaining from 206km
Michael Matthews (Sunweb) is continuing to make an impressive comeback from his fractured shoulder - he's in the group with Vanmarcke.
Van Avermaet and Benoot continue to do all the work in the chasing trio, and they're not making time on the two ahead - 50 seconds now for Lampaert and Terpstra. The peloton is closing in on the chasers - only 30 seconds and change now.
39km remaining from 206km
The Oude Kwaremont is next - it starts out relatively tame but kicks up to 11%.
Sagan has lost contact with the peloton after the Paterberg - he's leading group 4 now, as Stybar is up ahead a bit in a larger bunch with Matthews.
38km remaining from 206km
Ouch! The Oude Kwaremont and its cobbles near the top are really biting down now on the two leaders.
37km remaining from 206km
The crowds are huge on this climb, as the chasing trio thread their way through the enthusiastic Belgians.
37km remaining from 206km
Once again, Terpstra opens a gap on Lampaert but he fights his way back. The leaders still have 41 seconds as they power to the top of the Oude Kwaremont, with the bunch behind at a minute from the leaders.
Stuyven is in that group, Naesen, Stybar, two BMC riders, possibly Durbridge. Matthews has to close the gap to them. Sagan's group behind is not in the picture.
35km remaining from 206km
Onto the N36, wide-open, buttery smooth tarmac, Lampaert is in his time trial position continuing to power down the road.
On the long, straight, two-lane road, the chasing trio can see the motorbikes behind the leaders, but they should pay more attention to the Naesen group whoa re closing in - just 15 seconds now.
32km remaining from 206km
As the time gaps come down, the race could turn yet again before the finish.
Terpstra and Lampaert do not seem convinced of their ability to stay away and so the Quick-Step Floors team cars up to them yet again, with Tom Steels giving encouragement.
The G3 chasers are within touching distance of the Gilbert, Benoot and van Avermaet trio.
On a short steep climb, Lampaert loses Tersptra's wheel.
Gilbert decides its is time to attack and jumps on the same steep section of road.
He seems stronger than Benoot and Van Avermaet after sitting and quickly opens a gap.
There are 3 Quick Step riders at the head of the race but it is unclear if they are strong enough to stay away and win.
The crowds are huge back on the main road as Gilbert tries to power across the gap to Terpstra and Lampaert.
27km remaining from 206km
Behind the chasers in the small group includes Gianni Moscon (Team Sky), Sep Vanmarcke (EF).
They have caught Gilbert, Van Avermaet and Benoot now.
Lampaert and Terpstra are just 35 seconds ahead.
Also in the chase group is Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott), Oliver Naesen (AG2R), Jasper Stuyven (Trek) and others.
24km remaining from 206km
On a cobbled section Terpstra powers clear of Lampaert.
The Dutchman is solo now.
He won Le Samyn with a solo attack but this is very different race, with some major rivals just behind him.
Trentin ups the pace behind but it is Stefan Kung (BMC) who leads the chase.
He opens a slight gap with Stybar on his wheel.
Moscon goes across the gap but will it stick?
Perhaps it will. The other riders seem tired and fan across the road.
21km remaining from 206km
The wind is a key factor on an exposed section of road.
The chase group finds the strength to peg back the Moscon/Kung/Stybar trio.
Kung seems to be working for Van Avermaet. But anything could happen in the final 20km.
Terpstra still leads by 40 seconds and will use his track and time trial skills to pace his effort.
They face just the Tiegemberg before a flat, fast run-in to the finish.
18km remaining from 206km
Benoot calls on the other riders to do some turns but he has Gilbert on his wheel, who is trying to block the chase of Terpstra.
Terpstra takes a last swig from a bidon. He is ticked low on his drops but does not seem super strong or fresh. however his legs tick round smoothly.
The in is blowing from riders' right and so the chasers form an echelon on an exposed section.
The gap is down to 32 seconds.
Van Avemaet can also count on Jurgen Roelandts in the chase group.
His two BMC teammates could prove vital
13km remaining from 206km
The chasers know that the bergs are over now. The road to the finish in Harelbeke is flat and fast.
The gap is now 34 seconds.
Behind not everyone is working in the chase. Stybar and Gilbert are trying to block and disrupt the chase but others are playing smart and trying to miss turns.
Up front the Quick-Step moves alongside Terpstra, giving him a final boost and also protecting him from the cross wind.
11km remaining from 206km
The race is balanced on a knife-edge. It could either way.
Terpstra gets out of the saddle to try to find some extra speed but he looks tired and heavy legged.
8km remaining from 206km
The gap is down to 20 seconds but the gap is still over 200 metres. Some of the chasers seem scared to go after Terpstra too soon.
There's a game of poker underway behind Terpstra.
There are 11 riders in the chase group.
7km remaining from 206km
They re working more smoothly now and eating into Terpstra's lead.
On a straight section they can see Terpstra up the road.
Here we go! Van Avermaet attacks from the chase group.
The race is on, with Trentin going next.
He is caught and so Stuyven goes solo.
5km remaining from 206km
But still the elastic does not snap.
Terpstra is only 14 seconds ahead.
GVA goes again, with Gilbert on his wheel.
4km remaining from 206km
Terpstra seems to be waiting for the inevitable but the chasers are racing each others.
3km remaining from 206km
The gap is down to 10 seconds as the chasers come back together again.
2km remaining from 206km
Kung is now leading, riding to catch Terpstra for van Avermaet. Can he do it?
Roelandts attacks now.
2km remaining from 206km
Gilbert marks him and Vanmarcke follows too. But they're running out of km to catch Terpstra.
They're all watching each other and Terpstra is still 20 seconds ahead.
What a tactical finale for E3!
Roelandts goes again but Trentin is on him, as is Stuyven.
Gilbert and Stybar have played a big role in helping Terpstra stay away.
1km remaining from 206km
He's in the final km now. He's going to win.
He does it ! The Dutchman stays away and wins alone.
Behind Giblert wins the sprint for 2nd place.
He is tired, disappointed but hugs Terpstra.
Terpstra pointed to his Quick-Step logo on his jersey as he crossed the line, highlighting the team's strength and ability in the Classics.
Lampaert finishes 3:00 back but also played a key role in Quick-Step win today.
Terpstra could hardly stand up as he got off his bike but he stayed away to win E3 Harelbeke.
Van Avermaet finished third behind Terpstra and Gilbert but it is again Quick-Step floors day.
Terpstra soloed to victory after initially getting away on the Taaienberg with Lampaert with more than 70 kilometres remaining.
This is an in-race shot of Terpstra and Lampaert together.
This is a big psychological win for Quick-Step Floors as the holy week of the cobbled Classics begins.
They again showed their strength in depth and now everyone else will be under pressure to win Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday and of course the Tour of Flanders on Easter Sunday.
This is the top ten.
1 Niki Terpstra (Ned) Quick-Step Floors 5:04:18
2 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Quick-Step Floors
3 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team
4 Oliver Naesen (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale
5 Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal
6 Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
7 Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale
8 Gianni Moscon (Ita) Team Sky
9 Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Quick-Step Floors
10 Stefan Küng (Swi) BMC Racing Team
It shows the quality of the chasers and further complicates things when they try to explain why they failed to catch Terpstra.
Van Avermaet was given a chocolate bike at the start of the race but he was left to eat the crumbs at the finish.
BMC had three riders win the 11-rider chase group with Kung and Roelandts but they failed to close down Terpstra, instead focusing on racing their rivals in the group behind him.
Van Avermaet can only wave and try to smile on the podium as Terpstra and Gilbert celebrate their 1-2.
Terpstra lifts the winner's trophy over his head and celebrates his big win as the Dutch national anthem rings out across Harelbeke.
The riders on the podium now open the magnums of beer and spray the crowd. Terpstra even runs down the stage to spray the crowd. He seems to have quickly recovered from his big effort to win alone.
This is the first image we have of Terpstra winning the E3 Harelbeke.
Terpstra shouted out his happiness as he won. He seemed especially happy to have beaten his big rivals by staying away.
This year's E3 was shaped by a huge crash mid-race. These images show just some of the riders who went down.
Peter Sagan went down in a later tumble. That left him chasing the race. The world champion finished in a group, three minutes behind Terpstra.
Here Sagan tries to go across to an attack with Gilbert before his second crash.
Gilbert calls on Sagan to work but the world champion does not seem on a great day.
The crash forced some riders into the nearby fields.
For our full photo gallery of 50 images and our full race report, click here.
Terpstra spoke briefly on Belgian television about his victory at E3 Harelbeke, saying:
"We just wanted to race," he said.
"We wanted to sit in front and when that fall happened, the whole group broke up. It was hard, but we had to drive on. Tim Declercq drove very hard for us, then on the Taaienberg I went."
"This is one of the most beautiful races in Flanders and I have already become second here, so to win is of course great!"
In some initial post-race reaction, some riders have criticised Quick-Step for not waiting after the big pile up mid-race. Indeed there are accusations that the boys in blue pushed the pace, while other riders scrambled for bike changes, wheels and medical assistance.
Of course the debate and discussion about the racing is all part of the Cobbled Classics.
We'll have full reaction from the big-name riders, Terpstra and others very soon on Cyclingnews.
Thanks for joining us for live coverage of this year's E3 Harelbeke.
We'll be back on Sunday for full live coverage of the men's and women's editions of Gent-Wevelgem. Before then we'll have all the news and reaction from Belgium thanks to Barry Ryan and Patrick Fletcher on the ground in Gent.
We'll also have full coverage of all the news and racing from the final stages of the Volta a Catalunya thanks to Alasdair Fotheringham.
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