E3 Harelbeke: A GREAT G

Embedded image permalinkThat's how Team Sky works. They are fanatics, you know. Their aim is perfection as we have been told again in Mallorca and even if bad luck had been a factor in last year 'disappointing' season - according with Team Sky stellar standards - they set new goals, corrected their approach, re-thought their racing and as a result their new season is already a success. In the Classics especially, where they used to be weaker. 
No more. After Stannard, just like Stannard, Thomas went and just took it. Perfect. As it's supposed to be, right? That's Team Sky.
Embedded image permalinkA very bad crash put Cancellara off the game, true. But Thomas had shown consistency since the start and I'm not sure that Trek's champion should have made a difference.
According to TFR's report: "On the cobbled descent of the Haaghoek, less than 40-kilometers into E3 Harelbeke an alluded dropped water bottle caused a large crash that took down numerous riders including Fabian Cancellara.
Later at the hospital X-rays and CT scans confirmed the worst: two transverse process fractures in two vertebrae bones of the lower back.

On that crazy Belgian roads, paved paths crossing green field and the E3 of course... there was a breakaway: Sbaragli, Devenyns, Turgot, De Bie and Van Ginneken. The last one got dropped with a 60 km to go and caught, Sean De Bie did a great race but the chasing group reached him just before the Oude Kwaremont. 
Here, on the holy ground of cycling, Sagan, Stybar and Thomas catch Devenyns, immediately dropped, while several other riders are trying to bridge. Sep Vanmarcke attacks... and he loose his pedal! he's going to change his shoe but the moment is gone.
Karnemelkbeekstraat: Sagan, Stybar and Thomas have a gap and it keeps growing. Tiegemberg: Tiesj Benoot attacks. The gap decrease. Shoe problems fixed, Vanmarcke leads the peloton on this short descent, when Van Avermaet  crash and his race is over. 
Embedded image permalinkPeter Sagan, Zdenek Stybar and Geraint Thomas go: 16 km to go their gap is 50''. Now only Team Katusha is chasing.
Four km to go Thomas attacks. Sagan is immediately dropped, Stybar responds but can't follow. Geraint Thomas has already won.

Geraint Thomas
“I can’t quite believe it. That last attack took me back to my track days and I imagined I was trying to hold Ed Clancy’s wheel in the team pursuit. I felt pretty good during the second half of the race and committed at the end.
It was hard out there. The three of us worked well together and I wasn’t sure if they were bluffing a bit near the end – panting and pulling faces – but fortunately they weren’t, and it was great for me.
This six-week period we’re in from Paris-Nice to Paris-Roubaix is my big focus of the season. The way Paris-Nice finished was disappointing, but I felt good again at Milan-San Remo, and to get the win now is really special.”

Fabian Cancellara:  
“It all happened so fast. Someone slammed the brakes and there was no way to go, just straight into it. I flew over a couple of riders and then landed in a pile of bikes. There were riders everywhere. I fell so hard, and felt pain everywhere. It was sort of reflex to get back on the bike but the pain was hard, in my lower back, left wrist, and my ribs on the back.
I felt right away that it was a serious crash, but I wanted to try to keep going.  I had to stop; the pain was too much. We went to the hospital for scans and this confirmed the pain.
There is nothing you can do with this injury – no cast, no surgery – but just biting the pain."

Peter Sagan:
“I don’t know. I was on the front but after I don’t know. I was turned off. I think you can see also in television how I felt.”
I felt good on the Kwaremont but there was still a long way to go to the finish. It’s ok. It’s the race. One time it’s good, one time it’s not.
I ate but I don’t know what happened. Maybe I needed a little bit of rest after Milan-San Remo. I came here and it’s another hard race, but for sure I believe Sunday [Gent-Wevelgem] will be better. I’m ok because I did good work on the Kwaremont and then also in the breakaway. We will see now on Sunday and there is another two weeks [the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix] after that.”

Zdenek Stybar:
"The team worked perfectly for me todayMy teammates brought me to the front going into the Oude Kwaremont. The group was pretty together at that point, so we knew something would happen then and for sure some guys would ride away. Thomas went, I took over on the Kwaremont, and on the top we were ahead with only three. We immediately found a good rhythm together. The last 15 kilometers were really hard, it was all headwind. But OK, we were riding well with maybe some energy left in reserves. I think it was possible for us to speed up if the peloton came closer. With four kilometers to go, Thomas went. He went really fast and Sagan didn't really react. I hesitated for maybe two seconds too long and the race was over. I was very disappointed in that moment because I felt I could win today. But it is what it is. That's cycling. I'm happy with my podium place and have to think about the upcoming races. I'm also encouraged that Matteo was able to win the sprint behind me. It shows we have a strong team that is always in the actions and can do well in different situations of the Classics."

Matteo Trentin:
"I saw Oss going full gas going on the Taaienberg and at that point in the race, that is normally when a group of eight, ten, sometimes more riders go away from the pelotonThen the race can change constantly after that point. With all the hills ahead, if you are in a small group, there is maybe a little less stress even if you are pulling a little bit. But it didn't work at the time I went with a small group. There was only four riders ahead and we knew Katusha was pulling behind, and also Lotto. So we waited for them to catch us. Then by the time we got to the Oude Kwaremont I paid a little bit for the efforts I did earlier. In this race you pay for everything you do. I was in front at that point but I was losing position after position. I tried at that point to hang on and then we came back with a group of 10 guys on the first group. As for the sprint, the guys did a good job. We started in the last kilometer because we had Stybar in the front. We stayed in good position in anticipation. Then the last kilometer Stijn Vandenbergh started going full gas, then Yves Lampaert made the leadout for me and it was perfect. To beat guys like Alexander Kristoff in the field sprint is something good and says something great about my condition. This is my first podium in Belgium and I proved I can be there in this race and the actions of the Northern Classics." 

Sep Vanmarcke:
“The whole day I felt strong, just like the past few days. That makes me happy. Thanks to my team-mates, I was well-positioned on the crucial points.
I know that he can sprint well in a hard race like today’s. I didn’t dare squeeze into small gaps in the sprint because I didn’t want to cause any crashes. It took very long before a big enough gap emerged and so I had to settle for fifth.
I made a mistake by riding on the side of the road. I suddenly shot through the mud and my clip broke loose. I was only able to push, I couldn’t pull afterwards. It was like riding a city bike. I had to limit the damage until I could change my shoe in the last 20 kilometres.”


1 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky
2 Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Etixx - Quick-Step
3 Matteo Trentin (Ita) Etixx - Quick-Step
4 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team Katusha
5 Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Team LottoNL-Jumbo
6 Matti Breschel (Den) Tinkoff-Saxo
7 Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Lotto Soudal
8 Jack Bauer (NZl) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team
9 Jens Keukeleire (Bel) Orica GreenEdge
10 Daniel Oss (Ita) BMC Racing Team

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