Keukeleire sprints to 9th place at E3 Harelbeke

Fri 27 Mar 2015

Belgian Jens Keukeleire has sprinted to ninth place from a chase group at E3 Harelbeke, the second of three one-day races in his home country this week.

Ahead, Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) attacked from a late breakaway of three riders with four kilometres remaining to claim a solo victory.

After injuries and a crash at the Tour of Qatar hampered Keukeleire’s preparation, today’s performance showed the 26-year-old has raced himself back into form.

“This was Jens’ best race so far this year,” sport director Laurenzo Lapage said. “He started a little raw after the knee and crash in Qatar and then suffered a lot in Paris-Nice but I think we will see him continue to get better every day now.”

After suffering from poor positioning at Dwars door Vlaanderen on Wednesday, sport director Laurenzo Lapage said it was a pleasing turnaround to see the ORICA-GreenEDGE kit placed toward the front of the main group for much of the 215.3km race.

“It was a great team job today,” Lapage said. “Everyone followed the plan, including the guys at the beginning like Leigh Howard and Adam Blythe who did some great work for their teammates.”

“These races are crucial for that teamwork, you have to be in the right place at so many points, and it was a good reaction from the group following the mistakes earlier in the week.”

Six riders enjoyed a little extra room on the road as the day’s early break, whilst those in the peloton dodged countless crashes amongst them.  The first and largest featured many of the favourites, including Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) who was forced to withdraw from the race.

The six reduced to four remaining with 50km to go and the race was back together shortly after.

The second and successful attack of the day was the trio of Thomas, Peter Sagan (Tinkoff – SaxoBank) and Zdenek Stybar (Etixx - QuickStep) who forged ahead on the Oude Kwaremont climb, 40km out from the finish line.

The first chase group came within 20seconds of catching the trio with just over 15km to ride, but a crash towards the head of the group to Greg van Avermaet (BMC Racing) haltered momentum and the gap quickly extended back out to one minute.

Despite best efforts, the gap only reduced again for 40seconds before Thomas attacked his two breakaway companions with four kilometres to the finish. Stybar responded in an effort to chase, finishing second, Sagan was dropped and subsequently finished behind the chase group.