The E3 Harelbeke saw a deserved winner in Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) who was able to best Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-Quickstep) for the top honours. Matteo Trentin (Etixx-Quickstep) rounded out the podium by winning a small group sprint.
MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung were in the thick of the action from early on with Kristian Sbaragli being one of the main instigators, representing our African team in the break of the day. Kristian was joined by 5 other riders as they pushed the early pace and forged out a 10 minute lead over the peloton.
Once again a number of crashes took its toll on the peloton with one of the pre-race favourites, Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) having to abandon in the early stages. MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung had its fair share of misfortune too with Edvald Boasson Hagen puncturing twice, at the most inopportune moments to boot.
As the pace hotted up with the peloton chasing the break, Kristian showed good strength to fight on and would eventually distance 4 of the other breakaway riders to make it a leading trio out front. With 45km to go Kristian and co. had a minutes lead as the race hit the defining Paterberg and Oude Kwaremont climbs.
A big attack would come from the now diminished peloton by Thomas, Stybar and Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo). The 3 pursuers would soon take the lead and ride their way into the winning positions. The chase from behind never really gained momentum on the tough parcours and it was only due to an apparent hunger knock that Sagan did not contest the finale in front. Despite the mechanicals Edvald still finished in the main group, crossing the line 19th.
Kristian Sbaragli – Rider
It was a really hard day of racing today. The break was good but there was a headwind which just made everything harder. My feelings were good though. Maybe if we had 20 seconds more would have passed the Kwaremont and been able to finish with the first group. Anyway it was good training for the upcoming races and also took some pressure off the team behind.
Michel Cornelisse – Sport Director
We had a few crashes today at key moments in the race. We lost Ciolek at the bottom of the Taaienberg who gave a wheel to Edvald. Eddy had to chase back for 25km with dropped riders. Still, he was very good but just alone in the final.