Pre-race favorite Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) emerged victorious in today’s E3 Harelbeke, after out-sprinting Philippe Gilbert (QuickStep Cycling) and Oliver Naesen (AG2R-La Mondiale).
A small breakaway group of six riders containing Alexis Gougeard (AG2R-La Mondiale), Laurens De Vreese (Astana), David Per (Bahrain-Merida), Gijs Van Hoecke (Lotto NL-Jumbo), and Taco Van der Horn (Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij), marked the first breakaway group in today’s cobbled classic.
From there, the sextet went on to establish an advantage of more than four minutes over the main field.
However, after several attempts by the peloton to reclaim the escapees, a small group led by Van Avermaet, Naesen, Gilbert and Sep Vanmarcke (Cannondale-Drapac) eventually bridged their way to the leaders with 59 kilometers to go.
The lead group continued to dwindle from there however, to where only Van Avermaet, Gilbert and Naesen remained out front with 35 kilometers to go.
Behind, several riders found themselves stuck in purgatory as they tried to make their way from the peloton to the leaders, with World Champion Peter Sagan (Bora-hansgrohe) getting caught up in crash which later caused him to lose contact with the peloton due to mechanical problems.
Back up front, the trio continued to work well together, as they were still holding onto a lead of around two minutes with only 3 kilometers to go.
As the escapees hit the final climb of the Tiegemberg, Gilbert attacked, briefly putting Naesen in trouble, but unable to shake Van Avermaet.
However, they were soon back together again, as they proceeded to increase their gap to more than two minutes over the chase, ultimately paving the way for an inevitable sprint showdown amongst the three leaders.
Top 25 Finishers
1 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team 4:48:17
2 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Quick-Step Floors
3 Oliver Naesen (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale
4 Luke Durbridge (Aus) Orica-Scott 0:00:40
5 Lukas Pöstlberger (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:00:41
6 Michael Valgren Andersen (Den) Astana Pro Team 0:00:52
7 Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
8 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick-Step Floors
9 Dylan Van Baarle (Ned) Cannondale-Drapac
10 Alberto Bettiol (Ita) Cannondale-Drapac
11 Fabio Felline (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
12 Jens Keukeleire (Bel) Orica-Scott
13 John Degenkolb (Ger) Trek-Segafredo
14 Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal
15 Luke Rowe (GBr) Team Sky
16 Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) Cannondale-Drapac
17 Laurens De Vreese (Bel) Astana Pro Team
18 Ignatas Konovalovas (Ltu) FDJ
19 Niki Terpstra (Ned) Quick-Step Floors
20 Daniel Oss (Ita) BMC Racing Team
21 Tony Martin (Ger) Katusha-Alpecin
22 Matteo Trentin (Ita) Quick-Step Floors 0:00:57
23 Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Cannondale-Drapac 0:01:53
24 Magnus Cort Nielsen (Den) Orica-Scott 0:02:12
25 Borut Bozic (Slo) Bahrain-Merida
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