Difficult day of racing at E3 Harelbeke for ORICA-GreenEDGE

Fri 25 Mar 2016

Belgian Jens Keukeleire and former Australian champion Luke Durbridge were the best placed finishers on a difficult day of racing at E3 Harelbeke for ORICA-GreenEDGE.

Keukeleire and Durbridge finished 29th and 37th respectively, as both ORICA-GreenEDGE riders came home in the second group of chasers that had formed when the race split on the final climbs of the day. Sam Bewley was unfortunate to crash after the halfway point and needed a bike change but thankfully was not seriously injured.

The race was won by Michael Kwiatkowski (Team-Sky) after attacks by Fabian Cancellara (Trek-Segafredo) and then Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) proved to be the key moments of the race.

“We got caught out of position when the attacks came on the Taaienberg,” said sports director Laurenzo Lapage. “It is so important in these races to get into the right positions going into the final climbs.”

“We were doing a great job with Sam (Bewley) and Svein (Tuft) on the front in the first half of the race and up to that point we were happy with our plan.”

“The second half of the race we were in the wrong place when Cancellara attacked and with that kind of attack you end up using all your energy chasing for the rest of the race. Today is a good wake up call for us, we have a lot of races coming up and we will use what we have learned today in those races.”

How it happened:

The peloton rolled out from the start line in Harelbeke on a mild and almost sunny Northern European lunchtime. For the first 40kilometres the field remained together with the peloton marshalling closely the few half–hearted breakaway attempts.

Eventually a group of six riders slipped away and began to develop a lead. Three more riders made it across from the bunch as the six leaders became nine and began to work together more coherently, gaining a lead of over four minutes on the peloton.

Olivier Gac (FDJ) lost contact with the breakaway group as the now eight riders increased the advantage to over five minutes. As the race passed over the climb of La Houppe, Etixx-Quickstep and Lotto-Soudal began to take control at the front of the peloton. With 100kilometres left to race the lead over the bunch was down to under three minutes.

Tinkoff began to make their presence felt at the front of the bunch with Sagan directing proceedings alongside Etixx-Quickstep. With 80kilometres to race the breakaway of eight riders had seen their lead drop to nearly one minute as Team Sky joined the pace making at the front of the peloton. The narrow residential roads started to bring the race to life with positioning an important factor going into the short, sharp climbs such as the iconic Taaienberg.

A second group including Sagan, Tom Boonen (Etixx-Quickstep) and Cancellara split from the peloton with 69kilometres left to race and developed an advantage of 40seconds over the main field. Almost immediately Cancellara suffered a mechanical, throwing his bike down in frustration as the leaders sped away. Ten kilometres later and the initial breakaway of eight riders had been caught and absorbed into the Boonen group, who had an advantage of over one minute on the peloton.

Cancellara mounted a chase through the cars and the back of the main bunch but at the time the effort seemed futile. Etixx-Quickstep had control of the lead group with Boonen and Tony Martin dictating the pace. On the Oude Kwaremont Sagan attacked and split the front group. Surprisingly, Cancellara was making up ground with teammate Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) and with 34kilometres to go the leaders group had come back together.

The next attack came from Sagan and Kwiatkowski who together developed a lead of 35seconds over the chasing group. The pair managed to hold off the bunch all the way to the finish. Working together for the final 15kilometres, a mistake by Sagan in the finale saw Kwiatkowski gain two bike lengths and sprint away for the victory. Sagan took second with Ian Stannard (Team-Sky) in third place.

The next race for ORICA-GreenEDGE takes place on Easter Sunday at Gent-Wevelgem.

E3 Harelbeke results:

1.   Michael Kwiatkowski (Team-Sky) 4:49:34
2.   Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) 0:00:04
3.   Ian Stannard (Team-Sky) 0:00:11
29. Jens Keukeleire (ORICA-GreenEDGE) 0:04:48