E3 Harelbeke review: Imperious Cancellara

E3 Harelbeke logoFabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Leopard) fired a warning shot ahead of the major cobbled monuments, brushing off his rivals with a thrilling solo effort which saw him riding out front alone for 35km to take victory in E3 Harelbeke. It was the Swiss’ third win in the last four years, with Peter Sagan (Cannondale) and Daniel Oss (BMC) in second and third respectively.

Race summary

Eloy Teruel (Movistar), Anders Lund (Saxo-Tinkoff), Wouter Mol (Vacansoleil-DCM), Ruslan Tleubayev (Astana), Koen Barbe (Crelan-Euphony) and Stefan van Dijk (Accent Jobs-Wanty) were the riders who escaped in the day’s main breakaway though, as suggested by the absence of any riders from the favourites’ teams, they were never given any chance of staying away by the peloton.

In fact, the bunch made sure the six escapees were reeled in nice and early and with 65km left things were all back together – though not for long. On the climb of the Taaienberg with around 60km remaining Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) made the first move of the favourites, immediately closed down by a group of approximately eight riders containing Fabian Cancellara, Daniel Oss and Sky’s Edvald Boasson Hagen.

A third E3 victory for Cancellara (image courtesy of Danielle Haex)

A third E3 victory for Cancellara (image courtesy of Danielle Haex)

Conspicuous by his absence was Peter Sagan, whose mistimed bike change meant he missed both the initial escape and a four-man chase group which soon accelerated off the front of the peloton, including Lars Boom (Blanco), and Stijn Vandenbergh (OPQS), with Boonen’s team clearly looking to provide support for their leader in his bid for victory.

With 55km to go the chase group caught the leaders, while Cannondale looked to make up Sagan’s lost time by setting a mean pace on the front of the peloton. After around 10km of riding on the front, they had pulled it all back, completely shredding the entire field in the process.

Cancellara, though, was as strong as ever. Attacking off the cobbles of the famous Kwaremont with 35km remaining, he cranked up the speed, with no-one able to live with the pace. The gap grew out to over a minute in 10km, and while Sagan did his best to rally the troops behind, there was never any chance of a catch being made.

The Swiss crossed the line with over a minute in hand on Sagan and Oss, with Geraint Thomas (Sky) taking an impressive fourth place. Four seconds further back were Sebastian Langeveld (Orica-GreenEDGE) and Sylvain Chavanel (OPQS), while Boonen headed the bunch’s charge in seventh place, over two minutes behind the overall winner.

Analysis and opinion

With the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix just around the corner, in analysing this race one can’t help but focus on what this might reveal about what we’ll see there. There’s no doubt that Cancellara will be the hot favourite after riding such a flawless race, though today may well suggest that Boonen still has some work to do to – and may already have run out of time to find his form.

Perhaps he was sandbagging after he saw Cancellara ride off into the distance, though the fact he couldn’t even stay with the second group of riders doesn’t bode well. Winner of both Flanders and Roubaix Eddy Planckaert agreed, saying that neither Boonen nor his anonymous compatriot Philippe Gilbert (BMC), are in good enough shape to win. The latter has an excuse – he’s more interested in the Ardennes Classics – though Boonen certainly isn’t.

With Gilbert failing to deliver, BMC had their success story in the third placed rider Daniel Oss. The Italian certainly deserves praise after showing the power and promise which saw him snapped up from Liquigas in the winter. A strong, fast finisher, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t excel on these semi-Classics, as he did here.


1. Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Leopard) 5:08:28

2. Peter Sagan (Cannondale) 01:04

3. Daniel Oss (BMC) same time

4. Geraint Thomas (Sky) s/t

5. Sebastian Langeveld (Orica-GreenEDGE) +1:08

6. Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) s/t

7. Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) +2:15

8. Luca Paolini (Katusha) s/t

9. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) s/t

10. Sebastien Turgot (Europcar) s/t

Links: PreviewOfficial website

Friday Feature: The Volta a Catalunya by Ian Walton ‘The Musette’

We’re lucky at VeloVoices in that we have great photographers sharing their photographs with us from all kinds of races. This week, we’ve gone from Davide Calabresi’s snow-encrusted shots of Sunday’s Milan-San Remo to Ian Walton, aka The Musette, in sun-kissed Catalunya. We met Ian in our Friday Feature last month and we’re really taken with his grainy, old-school style, so we are thrilled that he offered to share his photographs from the opening stages of the Volta with us. (All photographs are ©Ian Walton.) Continue reading

Criterium International preview

You could liken the Criterium International to an amuse gueule (English: appetiser), particularly given that it’s been held on the French island of Corsica since 2010. It’s a 2.HC event on the UCI Europe Tour run by Tour organisers ASO and it’s where the 100th Tour de France will start in 99 days.

What kind of race is it?

It’s a two-day stage race run over a weekend, featuring three stages, with a short sprint stage and a short time trial on Saturday followed by a mountainous stage on Sunday. It attracts some of the sport’s biggest names and has been won in the past by such luminaries as Jacques Anquetil, Sean Kelly, Bernard Hinault, Miguel Indurain and Laurent Fignon. RadioShack’s Jens Voigt has taken overall victory five times, including three in a row between 2007 and 2009.

It was previously known as the Criterium National de la Route and first run in 1932. For many years it was viewed as an unofficial French national championship and was only opened to non-French cyclists in 1979.

The most recent winners are:

2008: Jens Voigt (CSC)

2009: Jens Voigt (CSC)

2010: Pierrick Fedrigo (Bbox Bouygues Telecom)

2011: Frank Schleck (Leopard Trek)

2012: Cadel Evans (BMC)

What happened last year?

Reigning Tour de France champion Cadel Evans (BMC) launched his Tour preparations in some style with victory at the Criterium International. Florian Vachon (Bretagne-Schuller) took the opening flat bunch sprint with Evans winning and taking the lead in Saturday’s time trial. The Aussie defended his lead in the final mountainous stage after coming in fourth behind stage winner Pierrick Fedrigo (FDJ-BigMat). Evans won the yellow jersey by eight seconds, with Fedrigo second and Michael Rogers (Sky) third overall.

1. Cadel Evans (BMC) 7:03:43

2. Pierrick Fedrigo (FDJ-BigMat) +0:08

3. Michael Rogers (Sky) same time

4. Lars Petter Nordhaug (Sky) +0:09

5. Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale) s/t

6. Maxime Monfort (RadioShack-Nissan) +0:23

7. Igor Anton (Euskaltel-Euskadi) +0:38

8. Thomas Lovkvist (Sky) +0:42

9. Hubert Dupont (Ag2r La Mondiale) +0:47

10. Christophe Riblon (Ag2r La Mondiale) +1:11

You can find our review of last year’s race here.

This year’s race

CI2013TTCARTE This year’s three-stage race, all starting in Porto-Vecchio, will cover a distance of 272km and offer the peloton rather different challenges.

The flat 89km first stage around Porto-Vecchio will give the sprinters an opportunity to strut their stuff, leaving the general classification contenders to keep their powder dry for the next two challenges. Later that afternoon, there’s a technical 7km individual time trial, which should shake up the overall classification.

Sunday’s final stage is  a 176km feast for the climbers where fireworks are anticipated on the final challenge, the Col de l’Ospedale (14.2km at an average of 6.2%). As is often the case, the average is misleading. There’s no steady gradient all the way to the top which would favour ‘diesel’-style riders able to grind a big gear all the way. Instead the gradient varies significantly with some sections over 10%. In addition, as the riders climb they can be buffeted by swirling winds. Though perhaps not this year as rainy conditions are forecast with average temperatures for this time of year, around 15°C.

Col de l’Ospedale profile

Who to watch

It might be run by ASO but this is not a WorldTour race, so there’s a mix of French squads and some big names. BMC, Sky, Garmin and RadioShack all come with strong squads. However, for the overall look no further than riders who can time trial and hang tough in the mountains and there’s an embarrassment of riches to choose from.

keeping faith with the defending champion (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

Worth keeping faith with the defending champion? (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

Defending champion Cadel Evans (BMC) is an obvious favourite. He’ll be riding with Paris-Nice‘s best young rider Tejay Van Garderen, the first and only time they’ll ride together before the Tour in July.

Michael Rogers (Saxo-Tinkoff) will be flying the flag in Alberto Contador’s absence – he’s recovering from flu picked up at a wet and windy Tirreno-Adriatico. Sky bring a two-pronged attack with Paris-Nice and Tour of Oman winners Richie Porte and Chris Froome. Paris-Nice runner up Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) will be looking to go one better here as will third-placed Jean-Christophe Peraud. RadioShack have Maxime Monfort, who’s always performed well in this race.

Hoping to secure wild-card invitations to the Tour de France, Europcar have double Tour stage winner Pierre Rolland, Cofidis have Jerome Coppel and Rein Taaramae, Sojasun have Jonathan Hivert and IAM have the Paris-Nice King of the Mountains, Johann Tschopp.

If I were a betting gal, I’d say that a French rider will win the sprint stage, the overall winner will take the time trial and a Colombian will win atop the mountain stage.

Race details

March 23rd (morning): Stage 1 – Porto-Vecchio to Porto-Vecchio, 89km

March 23rd (afternoon): Stage 2 – Porto-Vecchio, 7km individual time-trial

March 24th: Stage 3 – Porto-Vecchio to Col de l’Ospedale, 176km

The Criterium International takes place on Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th March. In the UK Eurosport will be broacasting coverage on Sunday. For other options check cyclingfans.com.

Link: Official website