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.
The E3 Saxo Bank Classic starts at 12.15 and the race is expected to finish around 17.15 – both are local times.
E3 Saxo Bank Classic 2021: routes, profiles, more
Click on the images to zoom