The cobbles and ‘hellingen’ of the E3 kick off the Flemish Week with a bumpy ride. After 28 kilometres Katteberg (750 metres at 6%) is the first uphill test. Perfect to get a taste of what’s in store. A calm phase takes the riders to La Houppe (1,880 metres at 4.8%) and Kanarieberg (1,050 metres at 7.7%) before reaching the halfway mark shortly after the Hogerlucht climb (1,350 metres at 5%).
Actually, the first half of the race is just to get warmed up before the Flemish party really starts to get going in the second half, which is crammed with hills. The Knokteberg (1,260 metres at 7%) appears after 111 kilometres and from then onward the riders tackle a new uphill every 10 kilometres. But more often the intervals are even shorter, so the E3 is starting to catch fire.
Hotondberg (1,200 metres at 4%), Kortekeer (1,000 metres at 6.4%), Taaienberg (700 metres at 6.3%), Berg ten Stene (1,300 metres at 5.2%) and Boigneberg (1,000 metres at 5.2%) are tackled on the trot before the first cobbled ascent appears 57.4 kilometres from the line. The Stationsberg is just 700 metres at 3.2% and the race continues onto the flat cobbles of the Mariaborrestraat.
The riders enter a tricky section with Kapelberg (750 metres at 7.1%) and the cobbled combo Paterberg (400 metres at 12.9%) and Oude Kwaremont (2,200 metres at 4%) in rapid succession. The route continues over the Karnemelkbeekstraat (1,530 metres at 4.9%) and onto 2 kilometres of cobbles at the Varent.
The last ‘helling’, Tiegemberg (750 metres at 5.6%), is crested with 19.3 kilometres out. The finale is played out on the flat.
Last year, Bob Jungels attacked from far out. Greg Van Avermaet, Wout Van Aert, Alberto Bettiol and Zdenek Stybar chased the Luxembourger down inside the last 7 kilometres before Jungels’ team mate Stybar – who had been quietly sitting in the wheels – outsprinted Van Aert and Van Avermaet on the line.