Greg van Avermaet’s (BMC Racing) excellent season continued today as he won the E3 Harelbeke from a three man sprint. Phillipe Gilbert (Quickstep-Floors) and Oliver Naesen (AG2R La Mondiale) were the two riders who had to settle for the minor podium placings.
With 15 hellingen and 5 cobble sectors squeezed into just 206km of racing, the E3 Harelbeke was always going to be a race that exposed any sort of weakness or misfortune. As the most pivotal points of the race loomed, the fight for position was intense and on the small roads, crashes were inevitable. Just before the race reached the Taaienberg with 70km to go, one of these crashes caught out our Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka riders.
While our riders did not go down, they were brought to a halt as a small portion of the peloton sped away. With Tom Boonen (Quickstep-Floors) stomping his authority on the Taaienberg, our African Team’s long day of catch up began. Scott Thwaites, Tyler Farrar and Edvald Boasson Hagen were our riders who still had a small chance of fighting their way back into contention as half of the peloton were forced to abandon.
Thwaites showed good strength to make it back to the main peloton, after also dealing with a double puncture, but once he had the decisive move of the day that contained Van Avermaet, Gilbert, Naesen and a handful of other riders had already slipped away. Another crash in the peloton, which took out race favourite Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) extinguished any hope for the main group to catch the leaders. Thwaites would cross the line in 30th position, just over 2-minutes behind Van Avermaet and was our best placed rider on the day.