Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Leopard) has won the 2013 edition of the E3 Harelbeke one-day Classic.
The Swiss dealt a potentially telling blow to his rivals for the Monument Classics to come by riding clear of a host of riders who might be considered contenders for the biggest races of spring.
‘Spartacus’ launched a solo effort on the cobbled climb of the Oude Kwaremont, and had increased his lead to 1.04 by the time he crossed the line in the Flemish town of Harelbeke 35km later.
“It was intuition to go on the Oude Kwaremont and just see if I could break down the group a little more,” said Cancellara.
“We knew the Oude Kwaremont was an important key in the race, as it will be in the Tour of Flanders, as we watched some days ago the finale of E3 of 2011 and 2012 on the computer. Also this is part of the preparation for the race.”
Today’s victory was Cancellara’s third in E3 Harelbeke. The Swiss won the race, an event on cycling’s elite UCI WorldTour calendar, in 2010 and 2011.
His victory today came at the expense of Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) who had taken the initiative on the Taaienberg, ridding himself of all but the strongest riders in the peloton, before attacking again on the Paterberg.
But the attempts of the Belgian, whose all-conquering cobbled Classics campaign last year began with victory in Harelbeke, was unable to shake off Cancellara, and when the Swiss attacked on the Kwaremont, Tornado Tom was blown away.
Team Sky’s Classics squad produced another strong showing that concluded with fourth place for Geraint Thomas. The Welshman could perhaps consider himself unlucky not to have scored a podium finish after losing out to Peter Sagan (Cannondale) and Daniel Oss (BMC) in the final sprint for the line.
Directeur sportif, Serais Knaven, said: “The team did almost everything to plan but Cancellara was on great form and we couldn’t have done much more.
“It’s good to know what condition he’s in heading into the bigger races and we can now plan how to beat him.
“It’s so hard to win these races but we’re getting closer and closer. It’s good for our morale to know we have one of the strongest teams in the peloton and that will bode well for Flanders and Roubaix.”
The world’s best Classics riders will reconvene on Sunday in the Flandrian town of Ghent, there to begin another brutal assignment: the 230km race to Wevelgem and its dual ascents of the Kemmelberg.
E3 Harelebeke 2013 – result
1) Fabian Cancellara (SWI) – RadioShack-Leopard – 5.08.28
2) Peter Sagan (SVK) – Cannondale Pro Cycling – +1.04
3) Daniel Oss (ITA) – BMC Racing – ST
4) Geraint Thomas (GBR) Team Sky – ST
5) Sebastian Langeveld (NED) – Orica-GreenEdge +1.08
6) Sylvain Chavanel (FRA) – Omega Pharma-QuickStep
7) Tom Boonen (BEL) – Omega Pharma-QuickStep + 2.15
8) Luca Paolini (ITA) – Katusha – ST
9) Edvald Boasson Hagen (NOR) – Team Sky – ST
10) Sébastien Turgot (FRA) – Europcar – ST