Wout van Aert and Christophe Laporte finished off a superb team performance from Jumbo-Visma at the E3 Saxo Bank Classic, taking first and second after they attacked together over the Paterberg with 40km to race and time trialed to victory in Harelbeke.
Laporte occasionally struggled to come through and share the work with van Aert and so after a handshake and a hug, he allowed his team leader to cross the line first as they rode side by side in celebration.
Behind a chase-group of eight quality riders, including Milan-San Remo winner Matej Mohorič (Bahrain Victorious) and Kasper Asgreen (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl), could do nothing to close the gap despite working together for the last hour of racing. They lost seconds with every kilometre, eventually finishing two minutes behind van Aert and Laporte.
Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ) made a late attack to edge away and take third place, with Biniam Girmay (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert) winning the sprint for fourth place, but 2:36 behind van Aert and Laporte.
Other groups that were unable to go with Jumbo-Visma’s attacks on the Taaienberg with 80km to go or were distanced before the Paterberg, finished 3:30 and more behind. It was total domination by Jumbo-Visma.
Van Aert was tired as he celebrated with his partner and young son but happy to have won in such dominant style just over a week before the Tour of Flanders.
"The team was impressive. I have to thank every single one of the guys for setting us up in the final,” Van Aert said.
“Me and Christophe were supposed to be more defensive until the Paterberg and from then on we were together in front. Also a big thank you to Christophe to give me this victory. It means so much to win this big Classic in Flanders and I'm really proud of my team.
Van Aert promised to repay Laporte for his gesture later in the season after already allowing the Frenchman to win the opening stage at Paris-Nice.
"There was no discussion at all about the win. I think there are still a lot of races to come and we'll definitely end up in more difficult situations with more guys around us. Sooner or later Christophe or someone else will get this chance.
“This is how we want to race and this is the way everybody believes we can have the biggest chance of winning.”
Van Aert was happy but aware he had gone deep to win so dominantly.
"Bike racing is really hard. It's one of the hardest races of the spring season but I learned our team is really on top of it,” he said.
How it unfolded
The 64th edition of the E3 Saxo Bank Classic began under clear skies and 17°C temperatures in Harelbeke, with 173 riders taking the start after pre-race withdrawals from Mikkel Honoré (illness), Pascal Ackermann (a crash at the Classic Brugge-De Panne), and Lawson Craddock (a crash at sign-on).
The Belgian race is known as a mini Tour of Flanders at 203.9 kilometres in length and packed with several of the same climbs that fill out the route of 'De Ronde' next Sunday. 17 major climbs and 11 cobbled sectors lay between the peloton and the finish, with the Taaienberg, Stationsberg, Tiegemberg and the Paterberg-Oude Kwaremont double chief among them.
An early crash saw Tosh Van der Sande (Jumbo-Visma) and Guy Sagiv (Israel-Premier Tech) abandon due to injury, reducing the peloton to 171 men. Up front, the pace was high to begin the day, with attackers struggling to break away from the peloton.
Luke Rowe (Ineos Grenadiers), Lewis Askey (Groupama-FDJ) and Jenthe Biermans (Israel-Premier Tech) were among a nine-man group that attempted to break away after 40 kilometres, though a closed level crossing put paid to their brief foray off the front.
Shortly afterwards, the Bora-Hansgrohe duo of Ryan Mullen and Lukas Pöstlberger jumped away, with seven more riders quickly sensing that it was the move to follow. Daniel Oss (TotalEnergies), Jelle Wallays (Cofidis), Brent Van Moer (Lotto Soudal), Mathijs Paasschens (Bingoal-Pauwels Sauces-WB) and Lasse Norman Hansen (Uno-X) made it across, securing the break of the day after a fast opening 60 kilometres of racing.
The nine-man group was given some time – but only two minutes – by a peloton keen to keep things under control ahead of a hard race. A relatively calm period of the race following the establishment of the break was broken after 20 more kilometres as the riders reached the real start of the hill zone with La Houppe, Kanarieberg and Oude Kruisberg kicking things off.
The two-minute gap to the break held firm over the early hills as top teams Ineos Grenadiers, QuickStep-AlphaVinyl, Jumbo-Visma, and Trek-Segafredo shared the workload in the peloton. Numerous small spills hindered several riders' races, while Victor Campenaerts (Lotto Soudal) was held up by a very slow bike change before Kortekeer.
The cobbled climbs
With 80 kilometres to go, the race hit the Taaienberg – affectionately nicknamed the Boonen-berg after the Belgian rider’s legendary surges, with Jumbo-Visma flying onto the cobbles.
Wout van Aert hit the front and blew the race apart, going over the top with teammates Christophe Laporte and Tiesj Benoot, Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ), Kasper Asgreen (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl), Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo), and Matej Mohorič (Bahrain Victorious). It was a show of things to come.
The attack group pushed on over the flatland that followed the descent, catching the break at 75km to go. Following a push by Benoot on Berg Ten Stene, only Oss remained among the leaders, who lay 45 seconds up on the Ineos-led peloton.
Ineos Grenadiers charged up the cobbled Eikenberg, with Jhonatan Narváez putting in a move which saw him bridge to the break. He took teammate Dylan van Baarle, plus Biniam Girmay (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Florian Sénéchal, Davide Ballerini (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl), Michael Gogl (Alpecin-Fenix), Valentin Madouas (Groupama-FDJ), and Anthony Turgis (TotalEnergies) with him to spark a regrouping at the head of the race.
After the descent, Mike Teunissen bridged across to make it four Jumbo-Visma men up front, with Rasmus Tiller (Uno-X) going with the Dutchman. The group stayed together on the Stationsberg and Marieborrestraat, despite several changes of pace at the front, while the peloton lay a minute down.
On the steep cobbled slopes of the Paterberg, it was Van Aert again as the protagonist, accelerating on the toughest part of the hill to take teammate Christophe Laporte along with 41 kilometres to go as Girmay led the chase. It was another masterclass of Classics riding, with everyone else distanced and unable to chase.
Van Aert and Laporte switched to two-up time trial mode but the Frenchman struggled to even stay in his leader’s slipstream.
At the base of Oude Kwaremont, 25 seconds separated the Jumbo-Visma duo and the chase, led by Asgreen. Stuyven, Gogl, Teunissen, Tiller and Turgis lost contact on the climb, joining Ballerini (dropped) and Sénéchal (mechanical) out the back.
The eight-man chase that remained gave their best effort and worked together but couldn't close the gap on the flat roads.
35 seconds separated them from the lead duo on the Karnemelkbeekstraat with 30 kilometres to go. Their lead was up to 1:00 with 20km to go and then 1:30 with 15km to go. Behind, they knew they were racing for third place.
|Pos.||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Wout Van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma||4:38:04|
|2||Christophe Laporte (Fra) Jumbo-Visma|
|3||Stefan Küng (Swi) Groupama-FDJ||0:01:35|
|4||Matej Mohoric (Slo) Bahrain Victorious||0:01:36|
|5||Biniam Girmay (Eri) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|6||Jhonatan Narvaez Prado (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers|
|7||Valentin Madouas (Fra) Groupama-FDJ|
|8||Dylan van Baarle (Ned) Ineos Grenadiers|
|9||Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Jumbo-Visma|
|10||Kasper Asgreen (Den) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team|
|11||Rasmus Tiller (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team||0:03:30|
|12||Mike Teunissen (Ned) Jumbo-Visma|
|13||Anthony Turgis (Fra) TotalEnergies|
|14||Michael Gogl (Aut) Alpecin-Fenix||0:03:31|
|15||Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo||0:03:34|
|16||Ivan Garcia Cortina (Spa) Movistar Team||0:05:34|
|17||Marco Haller (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|18||Nathan Van Hooydonck (Bel) Jumbo-Visma||0:05:43|
|19||Dries De Bondt (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix|
|20||Michael Valgren (Den) EF Education-EasyPost||0:05:44|
|21||Oliver Naesen (Bel) AG2R Citroen Team||0:05:57|
|22||Joris Nieuwenhuis (Ned) Team DSM|
|23||Olivier Le Gac (Fra) Groupama-FDJ|
|24||Mads Pedersen (Den) Trek-Segafredo||0:06:00|
|25||Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Bahrain Victorious|
|26||Alex Edmondson (Aus) BikeExchange-Jayco|
|27||Ben Turner (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers|
|28||Cedric Beullens (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|29||Gianni Vermeersch (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix|
|30||Alex Aranburu Deba (Spa) Movistar Team|
|31||Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|32||John Degenkolb (Ger) Team DSM|
|33||Barnabás Peák (Hun) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|34||Arjen Livyns (Bel) Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB|
|35||Damien Touze (Fra) AG2R Citroen Team|
|36||Tobias Ludvigsson (Swe) Groupama-FDJ|
|37||Fabian Lienhard (Swi) Groupama-FDJ|
|38||Jenthe Biermans (Bel) Israel-Premier Tech|
|39||Daniel Oss (Ita) TotalEnergies|
|40||Lindsay De Vylder (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|41||Victor Koretzky (Fra) B&B Hotels-KTM|
|42||Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) AG2R Citroen Team|
|43||Mikkel Bjerg (Den) UAE Team Emirates|
|44||Hugo Houle (Can) Israel-Premier Tech|
|45||Fabio Felline (Ita) Astana Qazaqstan Team|
|46||Luis Mas Bonet (Spa) Movistar Team|
|47||Nikias Arndt (Ger) Team DSM|
|48||Erik Nordsaeter Resell (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team|
|49||Rui Oliveira (Por) UAE Team Emirates|
|50||Silvan Dillier (Swi) Alpecin-Fenix|
|51||Fred Wright (GBr) Bahrain Victorious|
|52||Julian Mertens (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|53||Davide Ballerini (Ita) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team|
|54||Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team|
|55||Alex Kirsch (Lux) Trek-Segafredo|
|56||Dries Van Gestel (Bel) TotalEnergies||0:06:05|
|57||Florian Senechal (Fra) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team|
|58||Jannik Steimle (Ger) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team|
|59||Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo||0:06:10|
|60||Otto Vergaerde (Bel) Trek-Segafredo||0:06:22|
|61||Iñigo Elosegui Momeñe (Spa) Movistar Team||0:10:53|
|62||Tom Van Asbroeck (Bel) Israel-Premier Tech|
|63||Luka Mezgec (Slo) BikeExchange-Jayco|
|64||Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) EF Education-EasyPost|
|65||Bob Jungels (Lux) AG2R Citroen Team||0:11:15|
|66||Brent Van Moer (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|67||Stan Dewulf (Bel) AG2R Citroen Team|
|68||Peter Sagan (Svk) TotalEnergies|
|69||Michael Schär (Swi) AG2R Citroen Team|
|70||Lasse Norman Hansen (Den) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team||0:12:28|
|71||Mathias Norsgaard (Den) Movistar Team|
|72||Nils Politt (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|73||Lewis Askey (GBr) Groupama-FDJ|
|74||Tom Wirtgen (Lux) Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB|
|75||Sébastien Grignard (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|76||Michele Gazzoli (Ita) Astana Qazaqstan Team|
|77||Aimé De Gendt (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|78||Luke Rowe (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers|
|79||Magnus Sheffield (USA) Ineos Grenadiers|
|80||Anders Skaarseth (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team|
|81||Marijn van den Berg (Ned) EF Education-EasyPost|
|82||Davide Gabburo (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'|
|83||Dimitri Peyskens (Bel) Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB|
|84||Ben Healy (Irl) EF Education-EasyPost|
|85||Ryan Mullen (Irl) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|86||Artyom Zakharov (Kaz) Astana Qazaqstan Team|
|87||Quentin Jauregui (Fra) B&B Hotels-KTM|
|88||Lukas Pöstlberger (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|89||Kevin Van Melsen (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|90||Hugo Page (Fra) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|91||Aaron Verwilst (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|92||Martin Urianstad (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team|
|93||Niklas Märkl (Ger) Team DSM|
|94||Aaron Van Poucke (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|95||Luke Durbridge (Aus) BikeExchange-Jayco|
|96||Scott Thwaites (GBr) Alpecin-Fenix|
|97||Yukiya Arashiro (Jpn) Bahrain Victorious|
|98||Alessandro Tonelli (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'|
|99||Imanol Erviti (Spa) Movistar Team|
|100||Vegard Stake Laengen (Nor) UAE Team Emirates|
|101||Piet Allegaert (Bel) Cofidis|
|102||André Carvalho (Por) Cofidis|
|103||Laurenz Rex (Bel) Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB|
|104||Johan Jacobs (Swi) Movistar Team|
|105||Leonardo Basso (Ita) Astana Qazaqstan Team|
|106||Ben Swift (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers|
|107||Ward Vanhoof (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|108||Mathijs Paasschens (Ned) Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB|
|109||Wesley Kreder (Ned) Cofidis|
|110||Alexander Konychev (Ita) BikeExchange-Jayco|
|111||Stefan Bissegger (Swi) EF Education-EasyPost|
|DNF||Edoardo Affini (Ita) Jumbo-Visma|
|DNF||Tosh Van Der Sande (Bel) Jumbo-Visma|
|DNF||Lars Saugstad (Nor) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team|
|DNF||Adrien Petit (Fra) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|DNF||Jonathan Milan (Ita) Bahrain Victorious|
|DNF||Simone Consonni (Ita) Cofidis|
|DNF||Kamil Gradek (Pol) Bahrain Victorious|
|DNF||Stijn Steels (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team|
|DNF||Filip Maciejuk (Pol) Bahrain Victorious|
|DNF||Victor Campenaerts (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|DNF||Frederik Frison (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|DNF||Michael Schwarzmann (Ger) Lotto Soudal|
|DNF||Rüdiger Selig (Ger) Lotto Soudal|
|DNF||Niklas Larsen (Den) Uno-X Pro Cycling Team|
|DNF||Manuele Boaro (Ita) Astana Qazaqstan Team|
|DNF||Karl Patrick Lauk (Est) Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB|
|DNF||Gianni Moscon (Ita) Astana Qazaqstan Team|
|DNF||Antoine Raugel (Fra) AG2R Citroen Team|
|DNF||Davide Martinelli (Ita) Astana Qazaqstan Team|
|DNF||Felix Groß (Ger) Uae Team Emirates|
|DNF||Kévin Geniets (Lux) Groupama-FDJ|
|DNF||Leon Heinschke (Ger) Team DSM|
|DNF||Søren Kragh Andersen (Den) Team DSM|
|DNF||Luca Colnaghi (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'|
|DNF||Kevin Vermaerke (USA) Team DSM|
|DNF||Jordi Warlop (Bel) B&B Hotels-KTM|
|DNF||Cyril Lemoine (Fra) B&B Hotels-KTM|
|DNF||Quinn Simmons (USA) Trek-Segafredo|
|DNF||Campbell Stewart (NZl) BikeExchange-Jayco|
|DNF||Alexys Brunel (Fra) UAE Team Emirates|
|DNF||Kelland O’Brien (Aus) BikeExchange-Jayco|
|DNF||Oliviero Troia (Ita) UAE Team Emirates|
|DNF||Julien Morice (Fra) B&B Hotels-KTM|
|DNF||Tobias Bayer (Aut) Alpecin-Fenix|
|DNF||Edward Planckaert (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix|
|DNF||Maciej Bodnar (Pol) TotalEnergies|
|DNF||Edvald Boasson-Hagen (Nor) TotalEnergies|
|DNF||Niki Terpstra (Ned) TotalEnergies|
|DNF||Alexis Gougeard (Fra) B&B Hotels-KTM|
|DNF||Daan Hoole (Ned) Trek-Segafredo|
|DNF||Jens Debusschere (Bel) B&B Hotels-KTM|
|DNF||Jonas Koch (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|DNF||Jordi Meeus (Bel) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|DNF||Tom Bohli (Swi) Cofidis|
|DNF||Kenneth Vanbilsen (Bel) Cofidis|
|DNF||Jelle Wallays (Bel) Cofidis|
|DNF||Owain Doull (GBr) EF Education-EasyPost|
|DNF||Sander De Pestel (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|DNF||Lukasz Wisniowski (Pol) EF Education-EasyPost|
|DNF||Filippo Fiorelli (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'|
|DNF||Jenno Berckmoes (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|DNF||Danny van Poppel (Ned) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|DNF||Ludovic Robeet (Bel) Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB|
|DNF||Kim Heiduk (Ger) Ineos Grenadiers|
|DNF||Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Israel-Premier Tech|
|DNF||Matthias Brändle (Aut) Israel-Premier Tech|
|DNF||Taj Jones (Aus) Israel-Premier Tech|
|DNF||Guy Sagiv (Isr) Israel-Premier Tech|
|DNF||Enrico Battaglin (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'|
|DNF||Enrico Zanoncello (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'|
|DNF||Sacha Modolo (Ita) Bardiani CSF Faizane'|
|DNS||Lawson Craddock (USA) BikeExchange-Jayco|
|DNS||Mikkel Honoré (Den) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team|
|DNS||Pascal Ackermann (Ger) UAE Team Emirates|
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