The E3 Saxo Bank Classic serves as the entry to ten days of passionate racing in Flanders. The cobbles and ‘hellingen’ of the race kick off the ‘Flemish Week’ with a bumpy ride.
Katteberg (750 metres at 6%) is the first uphill test. The riders get a taste of what’s in store as early as kilometre 28 before a uneventful phase takes them to La Houppe (1,880 metres at 4.8%) and Kanarieberg (1,050 metres at 7.7%).
The calm before the storm is history when the riders enter the storm itself after 100 kilometres. They tackle nine climbs within less than 50 kilometres – Oude Kruisberg (800 metres at 4.8%), Knokteberg (1,260 metres at 7%), Hotondberg (1,200 metres at 4%), Kortekeer (1,000 metres at 6.4%), Taaienberg (700 metres at 6.3%, cobbled), Berg ten Stene (1,300 metres at 5.2%), Boigneberg (1,000 metres at 5.2%), Eikenberg (1,250 metres at 5.2%), and Stationberg (700 metres at 3.2%, cobbled).
The race continues onto the flat cobbles of the Mariaborrestraat. Still 56 kilometres and five climbs remaining.
E3 is expected to really catch fire when the riders enter a 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 quick 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’s E3 race was cancelled due to COVID-19, so Zdenek Stybar has been title holder for two years. In 2019 his then team-mate Bob Jungels tried his luck with a longe-range attack. Greg Van Avermaet, Wout van Aert, Alberto Bettiol and the eventual winner chased the Luxembourger down inside the last 7 kilometres. Stybar, who had been quietly sitting in the wheels, outsprinted Van Aert and Van Avermaet on the line.
Another interesting read: results 2021 E3 Saxo Bank Classic.
E3 Saxo Bank Classic 2021: routes, profiles, more
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