Teammate Bob Jungles went on the attack in the final 60km of the race, sweeping up and past the break of the day. When a very select group of chasers caught him with seven kilometres to go, it was up to Stybar to take over.
He tried an attack with 3.5km to go but was chased down by Alberto Bettiol (EF Education First), Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) and Greg van Avermaet (CCC Team). But after sitting on the wheels for the final 50km, Stybar was still strong for the sprint and had the speed to go past Van Avermaet, who lead it out.
Van Aert finished second, impressing again in his first full season at WorldTour level, with Van Avermaet third and Bettiol fourth. Jungels finished fifth and understandably joined in the victory celebrations as Stybar crossed the line ahead of him.
Nils Politt (Katusha-Alpecin) brought home a chase group, close to a minute behind. Surprisingly Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) was not there after suffering in the final 20km with a gear problem and perhaps fatigue.
The E3 BinckBank Classic is always an indicator of form for next weekend's Tour of Flanders and Stybar was not afraid to say he is ready for the Ronde.
"It's a pleasure for me to be there, with such good shape. Now I'm really looking forward to the Tour of Flanders," he said briefly before the podium ceremony.
How it happened
The riders signed on under an unusually warm Belgian sun and bright blue skies in Harelbeke. Many were happy about the spring weather but some of the big-name Belgian contenders made it clear they would have preferred more testing and selective conditions for 204km race on the kasseien (cobblestones) and hellingen (short, steep climbs).
After a few brief attacks and more organised chasing, seven riders went away after 30km to create the early break of the day. In there were Jaime Castrillo (Movistar), Marc Hirschi (Team Sunweb), Lionel Taminiaux (Wallonie Bruxelles), Stijn Steels (Roompot-Charles), Ludwig De Winter (Wanty-Gobert Cycling Team), Mihkel Räim (Israel Cycling Academy), Aksel Nommela (Wallonie Bruxelles) and Thomas Sprengers (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise).
They opened a lead of 2:30 after just 20km as the peloton eased up to save their legs for later. On the La Houppe climb after the first feed and 85km, the break led the peloton by 5:00. However as the climbs began to loom large, the Deceuninck-QuickStep finally blinked in the battle of nerves with their rivals and began to chase the attack.
The speed rose dramatically every time the peloton approached a climb or section of pave. The riders were itching to go on the attack. However crashes were always around the corner and Sep Vanmarcke (EF Education First) went into the ditch and struggled to get going again. His race was over with questions about his full spring campaign.
The Taaienberg, with 80km to go, is always a key point of the race and Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) seemed inspired by Tom Boonen's legendary surges here and led the peloton over the top of the narrow, cobbled lane. Sagan was there but did not look strong; fortunately, Bora-Hansgrohe teammate Daniel Oss closed down Van Aert to keep the front group together.
Ian Stannard played Team Sky's first card on the flat roads after the Taaienberg but with little wind, the rest of the peloton were able to follow him after an increase in speed. Later the big British rider flatted and took a wheel from a teammate. Marcus Burghardt (Bora-Hansgrohe) also needed a bike change, reminding everyone how a race can end in a split second.
With 63km to go, on the Boigneberg, Deceuninck-QuickStep started their roll out their strategy, with Zdenek Stybar attacking first to make a selection. The break was just 50 second ahead.
It was a perfect scenario for Jungels to try his hand when Stybar was brought to heel, and he jumped away just before the Kepelberg. His rivals foolishly let him hang off the front alone and so he switched to time trial mode and powered across to the break.
Other tried to go after him, with Nils Politt (Katusha-Alpecin) and Jasha Sütterlin (Movistar) eventually going across after a huge effort. With 50km left and some legendary final climbs to race, Jungels and the other adventurers led by 45 seconds. Deceuninck-QuickStep had taken charge of the race yet again, forcing their rivals to lead the chase and do the work.
On the Paterberg Jungles dropped everyone in the break. They got back to him but the same thing happened on the Oude Kwaremont. When they reformed again, 20-year-old Hirschi was ordered not to work but he was remarkably strong.
Behind, Van Avermaet set a selective pace on the Paterberg and then the Oude Kwaremont, sparking a natural selection in the front group. It was a quality group but Jungels was still 45 seconds clear.
Bettiol tried to attack over the top of the Oude Kwaremont but he was soon pulled back as the big-name riders watched each other. Jungels finally went solo on the Karnemelkbeekstraat asphalt climb, cracking the riders who tried to hang onto his wheel. He made himself aero over his bars and began a solo ride to the finish.
But behind they refused to give up hope, with van Avermaet often inspiring the chase. The gap slowly faded to below 30 seconds as a chase group desperately tried to join Van Aert, Sagan, Stybar, Naesen, Van Avermaet, Bettiol, Trentin and Keukeleire. Everyone was at their limit after a fast, aggressive race.
The final section of cobbles and the short Tiegemberg climb hurt Jungels and boosted the chances of the chasers with 20km to go. It also ended Sagan's chances. He seemed to crack but also dropped back to his team car for some work on his rear derailleur. Whatever the problem, his chances of victory were over.
Only Van Avermaet, Stybar, Bettiol and Van Aert remained up front after another van Avermaet surge. They set off after Jungels like a team pursuit quartet, with Stybar logically sitting on and collecting the tickets at the back of the line. Thanks to Jungels attack, Stybar had been able to sit in the wheels for the final 50km. It was clearly his race to lose.
The catch came with seven kilometres to go on the wide road back to Harelbeke. The finale of the finale began. The Trentin chase group was close to a minute behind, with Sagan's group even further back.
Jungels generously gave his all even after being caught, keeping the pace high to dissuade any attack and protect Stybar's chances. The Czech rider tried to repeat his late Omloop Het Nieuwsblad attack but was chased down by Bettiol and the other others. Jungels then tried one last time forcing Van Avermaet to close the gap, but everyone was thinking of the sprint and wonder just how fresh and strong Stybar would be.
Jungels led to the finishing straight and then Stybar showed he clearly was the strongest by jumping after Van Avermaet and then by surging past him to win.
Yet again, it was Deceuninck-QuickStep's day; it was a cycling Classic Groundhog Day.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Deceuninck-QuickStep||4:46:05|
|2||Wout Van Aert (Bel) Team Jumbo-Visma|
|3||Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) CCC Team|
|4||Alberto Bettiol (Ita) EF Education First|
|5||Bob Jungels (Lux) Deceuninck-QuickStep||0:00:03|
|6||Nils Politt (Ger) Katusha-Alpecin||0:01:04|
|7||Matteo Trentin (Ita) Mitchelton-Scott|
|8||Oliver Naesen (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale|
|9||Jasha Sütterlin (Ger) Movistar Team|
|10||Marc Hirschi (Swi) Team Sunweb|
|11||Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep||0:01:33|
|12||Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) EF Education First|
|13||Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Merida|
|14||Jens Keukeleire (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|15||Niki Terpstra (Ned) Direct Energie||0:01:37|
|16||Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal||0:01:42|
|17||Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|18||Yves Lampaert (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep||0:01:45|
|19||Marco Haller (Aut) Katusha-Alpecin||0:02:49|
|20||Magnus Cort Nielsen (Den) Astana Pro Team|
|21||Alexander Kristoff (Nor) UAE Team Emirates|
|22||John Degenkolb (Ger) Trek-Segafredo|
|23||Ivan Garcia (Spa) Bahrain-Merida|
|24||Baptiste Planckaert (Bel) Wallonie Bruxelles|
|25||Florian Senechal (Fra) Deceuninck-QuickStep|
|26||Carlos Barbero (Spa) Movistar Team|
|27||Matej Mohoric (Slo) Bahrain-Merida|
|28||Tom Van Asbroeck (Bel) Israel Cycling Academy|
|29||Nikolas Maes (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|30||Reto Hollenstein (Swi) Katusha-Alpecin|
|31||Dries Van Gestel (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|32||Dorian Godon (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale|
|33||Danny van Poppel (Ned) Team Jumbo-Visma|
|34||Arnaud Demare (Fra) Groupama-FDJ|
|35||Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale|
|36||Stan Dewulf (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|37||Daniel Oss (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|38||Silvan Dillier (Swi) AG2R La Mondiale|
|39||Michael Valgren Andersen (Den) Dimension Data|
|40||Lukas Pöstlberger (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|41||Eduard Prades (Spa) Movistar Team|
|42||Frederik Backaert (Bel) Wanty-Gobert|
|43||Tom Wirtgen (Lux) Wallonie Bruxelles|
|44||Laurens De Vreese (Bel) Astana Pro Team|
|45||Amund Grøndahl Jansen (Nor) Team Jumbo-Visma|
|46||Lilian Calmejane (Fra) Direct Energie|
|47||Sven Erik Bystrøm (Nor) UAE Team Emirates|
|48||Kasper Asgreen (Den) Deceuninck-QuickStep|
|49||Thomas Sprengers (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|50||Jack Bauer (NZl) Mitchelton-Scott|
|51||Mike Teunissen (Ned) Team Jumbo-Visma|
|52||Lukasz Wisniowski (Pol) CCC Team|
|53||Hugo Houle (Can) Astana Pro Team|
|54||Luke Rowe (GBr) Team Sky|
|55||Nathan Van Hooydonck (Bel) CCC Team|
|56||Stefan Küng (Swi) Groupama-FDJ|
|57||Christopher Juul Jensen (Den) Mitchelton-Scott|
|58||Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo|
|59||Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Bahrain-Merida|
|60||Iljo Keisse (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep|
|61||Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo|
|62||Luka Pibernik (Slo) Bahrain-Merida|
|63||Kristijan Koren (Slo) Bahrain-Merida||0:02:59|
|64||Julien Vermote (Bel) Dimension Data||0:03:46|
|65||Viacheslav Kuznetsov (Rus) Katusha-Alpecin|
|66||Stijn Steels (Bel) Roompot-Charles|
|67||Conor Dunne (Irl) Israel Cycling Academy|
|68||Damien Touze (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits|
|69||Jorge Arcas (Spa) Movistar Team|
|70||Kenneth Vanbilsen (Bel) Cofidis, Solutions Credits|
|71||Lawrence Naesen (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|72||Mihkel Räim (Est) Israel Cycling Academy|
|73||Lionel Taminiaux (Bel) Wallonie Bruxelles|
|74||Michael Schär (Swi) CCC Team|
|75||Aksel Nõmmela (Est) Wallonie Bruxelles|
|76||Koen de Kort (Ned) Trek-Segafredo|
|77||Pascal Eenkhoorn (Ned) Team Jumbo-Visma||0:03:48|
|78||Jean-Pierre Drucker (Lux) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|79||Gianni Moscon (Ita) Team Sky|
|80||Guillaume Boivin (Can) Israel Cycling Academy||0:10:39|
|81||Jaime Castrillo (Spa) Movistar Team|
|82||Benjamin Declercq (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|83||Pim Ligthart (Ned) Direct Energie|
|84||Mathijs Paasschens (Ned) Wallonie Bruxelles|
|85||Zico Waeytens (Bel) Cofidis, Solutions Credits|
|86||Maarten Wynants (Bel) Team Jumbo-Visma|
|87||Miles Scotson (Aus) Groupama-FDJ|
|88||Senne Leysen (Bel) Roompot-Charles|
|89||Maximilian Walscheid (Ger) Team Sunweb|
|90||Ian Stannard (GBr) Team Sky|
|91||Filippo Ganna (Ita) Team Sky|
|92||Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Wanty-Gobert|
|93||Lars Boom (Ned) Roompot-Charles|
|94||Michael Hepburn (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott|
|95||Ludwig De Winter (Bel) Wanty-Gobert|
|96||Rasmus Tiller (Nor) Dimension Data|
|97||Taco van der Hoorn (Ned) Team Jumbo-Visma|
|98||Tom Scully (NZl) EF Education First|
|99||Marco Marcato (Ita) UAE Team Emirates|
|DNF||Julien Duval (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale|
|DNF||Frederik Frison (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|DNF||Florian Stork (Ger) Team Sunweb|
|DNF||Søren Kragh Andersen (Den) Team Sunweb|
|DNF||Jesper Asselman (Ned) Roompot-Charles|
|DNF||Brian van Goethem (Ned) Lotto Soudal|
|DNF||Jasper Philipsen (Bel) UAE Team Emirates|
|DNF||Bert Van Lerberghe (Bel) Cofidis, Solutions Credits|
|DNF||Sjoerd van Ginneken (Ned) Roompot-Charles|
|DNF||Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Movistar Team|
|DNF||Asbjørn Kragh Andersen (Den) Team Sunweb|
|DNF||Jan Willem van Schip (Ned) Roompot-Charles|
|DNF||Filippo Fortin (Ita) Cofidis, Solutions Credits|
|DNF||Hector Carretero (Spa) Movistar Team|
|DNF||Cyril Lemoine (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits|
|DNF||Alex Frame (NZl) Trek-Segafredo|
|DNF||Roy Goldstein (Isr) Israel Cycling Academy|
|DNF||Edoardo Affini (Ita) Mitchelton-Scott|
|DNF||Bagdonas Gediminas (Ltu) AG2R La Mondiale|
|DNF||Alex Kirsch (Lux) Trek-Segafredo|
|DNF||Sondre Enger (Nor) Israel Cycling Academy|
|DNF||Juraj Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|DNF||Tom Bohli (Swi) UAE Team Emirates|
|DNF||Nico Denz (Ger) AG2R La Mondiale|
|DNF||Maciej Bodnar (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|DNF||Marcus Burghardt (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|DNF||Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Bel) CCC Team|
|DNF||Mads Pedersen (Den) Trek-Segafredo|
|DNF||Gijs Van Hoecke (Bel) CCC Team|
|DNF||Zakkari Dempster (Aus) Israel Cycling Academy|
|DNF||Kamil Gradek (Pol) CCC Team|
|DNF||Justin Timmermans (Ned) Roompot-Charles|
|DNF||Ignatas Konovalovas (Ltu) Groupama-FDJ|
|DNF||Olivier Le Gac (Fra) Groupama-FDJ|
|DNF||Ramon Sinkeldam (Ned) Groupama-FDJ|
|DNF||Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Dimension Data|
|DNF||Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Dimension Data|
|DNF||Justin Jules (Fra) Wallonie Bruxelles|
|DNF||Jay Thomson (RSA) Dimension Data|
|DNF||Jaco Venter (RSA) Dimension Data|
|DNF||Ivo Oliveira (Por) UAE Team Emirates|
|DNF||Emiel Planckaert (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|DNF||Logan Owen (USA) EF Education First|
|DNF||Damien Gaudin (Fra) Direct Energie|
|DNF||Alexandre Pichot (Fra) Direct Energie|
|DNF||Anthony Turgis (Fra) Direct Energie|
|DNF||Angelo Tulik (Fra) Direct Energie|
|DNF||Robbe Ghys (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|DNF||Willem Jakobus Smit (RSA) Katusha-Alpecin|
|DNF||Jenthe Biermans (Bel) Katusha-Alpecin|
|DNF||Lindsay De Vylder (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|DNF||Mads Schmidt Würtz (Den) Katusha-Alpecin|
|DNF||Vegard Stake Laengen (Nor) UAE Team Emirates|
|DNF||Chad Haga (USA) Team Sunweb|
|DNF||Jerome Baugnies (Bel) Wanty-Gobert|
|DNF||Loïc Vliegen (Bel) Wanty-Gobert|
|DNF||Roy Curvers (Ned) Team Sunweb|
|DNF||Jan Tratnik (Slo) Bahrain-Merida|
|DNF||Luka Mezgec (Slo) Mitchelton-Scott|
|DNF||Piet Allegaert (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|DNF||Callum Scotson (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott|
|DNF||Davide Ballerini (Ita) Astana Pro Team|
|DNF||Zhandos Bizhigitov (Kaz) Astana Pro Team|
|DNF||Jacopo Guarnieri (Ita) Groupama-FDJ|
|DNF||Dmitriy Gruzdev (Kaz) Astana Pro Team|
|DNF||Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) EF Education First|
|DNF||Tom Devriendt (Bel) Wanty-Gobert|
|DNF||Aime De Gendt (Bel) Wanty-Gobert|
|DNF||Christopher Lawless (GBr) Team Sky|
|DNF||Owain Doull (GBr) Team Sky|
|DNF||Leonardo Basso (Ita) Team Sky|
|DNF||Lukas Spengler (Swi) Wallonie Bruxelles|
|DNF||Mitchell Docker (Aus) EF Education First|
|DNF||Moreno Hofland (Ned) EF Education First|
|DNF||Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits|
|DNF||Yevgeniy Gidich (Kaz) Astana Pro Team|
Latest on Cyclingnews
HTC Cup: Nguyen Tan Hoai wins stage 9Domesco star rider still in the yellow jersey
Giro d'Italia organisers working on 'open doors' race'It will be up to others to set any eventual rules that we have to follow' says race director
Bora-Hansgrohe to hold June training camp in AustriaGerman team the first to plan a full pre-season training camp
'No one can take this away from me': Adam Hansen's Giro d'Italia stage triumphAustralian recalls revenge-fueled solo win in Pescara in 2013