The 3 Harelbeke is an emblematic Flemish Classic. The combination of cobbles and short and sharp (and often cobbled) climbs really wears the riders out. The 2019 route amounts to 204 kilometres and features fifteen ‘hellingen’. Most of them are crammed together in the second half of the race. Tiegemberg is the last uphill section and it’s crested almost 20 kilometres before the line.
In recent years, the decisive move took place earlier though. In 2018, Niki Terpstra attacked with his (then) Yves Lampaert with 70 remaining before he continued solo in the last 22 kilometres. Two years ago, Olive Naesen attacked at Oude Kwaremont with some 40 kilometres remaining. Greg Van Avermaet and Philippe Gilbert joined him before Van Avermaet won the three-up sprint.
Those scenario’s are quite common in the E3 BinckBank Classic, although the race also has seen its fair share of late attacks and sprints of select groups.
Terpstra (2018) and Van Avermaet (2017) succeeded earlier E3 winners Michal Kwiatkowski (2016), Geraint Thomas (2015) and Peter Sagan (2014). As Kwiatkowski and Thomas are not competing, Terpstra, Van Avermaet and Sagan are the only former winners at the the start.
Zdenek Stybar (Omloop Het Nieuwsblad) and Bob Jungels (Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne) were victorious in this year’s Flemish Classics until now, while Naesen is in fine form. The former Belgian champion took second place behind Julian Alaphilippe in Milan-San Remo.
Favourites E3 Harelbeke 2019
***** Oliver Naesen, Peter Sagan, Wout Van Aert
**** Philippe Gilbert, Greg Van Avermaet, Niki Terpstra, Bob Jungels
***Sebastian Langeveld, Zdenek Stybar, John Degenkolb, Yves Lampaert
** Dylan van Baarle, Alberto Bettiol, Tiesj Benoot, Matteo Trentin, Sonny Colbrelli
* Arnaud Démare, Jasper Stuyven, Magnus Cort, Danny van Poppel, Luke Rowe