E3 Harelbeke review: Geraint Thomas wins with style

Geraint Thomas (Sky) delivered a long-awaited victory on the Flanders cobbles with power and panache. Long-time breakaway companion Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-QuickStep) claimed second, with teammate Matteo Trentin winning the bunch sprint for third.

Rider of the race

It simply can’t be anyone other than Geraint Thomas. Out-sprinted into third place last year, he made absolutely sure of the top step of the podium this time.

G screams

Geraint Thomas (Sky) delivers at E3 Harelbeke

Sky worked hard to keep Thomas well protected in the crash-strewn early part of the race, and delivered him into the bottom of the Oude Kwaremont in the perfect position. The attack he put in on this climb was impressive – as he powered away, only Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Stybar could match him.

The trio never looked like being caught by the chasing group and with four kilometres to go Thomas kicked again and put his team pursuit skills to excellent use. There was little Stybar or Sagan could do except admire the silky smooth style of a Welshman in his prime. After crossing the finishing line with time to spare he said:

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.

Four things we liked

1. BMC Racing Team. When the decisive break went away on the Oude Kwaremont, many of the race favourites were left in the chasing peloton. Strangely not many were willing to commit teammates to help chase the break down. In fact, it was left to Greg Van Avermaet and his posse of red-and-black-clad warriors to do the lion’s share at the sharp end, at least until their team leader’s nasty crash. Stand up and take a bow Daniel Oss, Jempy Drucker and Marcus Burghardt.

BMC whooo hoooo copy

BMC warriors chasing the breakaway

2. Sep Vanmarcke. Oh my, what can you say about the rotten luck of the LottoNL-Jumbo team leader? Once again he looked so strong, putting in a blistering attack on the Paterberg, only for his right foot to upclip from the pedal. Surely one day his fortune will change and his undoubted ability will be rewarded. With Fabian Cancellara crashing out for the rest of the spring (at least), the next two weeks’ races are wide open now.

3. Not so ridiculous?? Matti Breschel took a lot of unpleasant public criticism from his team owner Oleg Tinkov after Milan-SanRemo. What better way to answer his critics than a sweet sixth place today, to go with the other top ten finishes this year.

4. The parcours. Isn’t it just fantastic to watch exciting racing across this tough, windswept landscape? It never fails to make me shiver even when bathed in spring sunshine as it was today. The battle for position as the hellingen approach, the awe as the riders power up the steep cobbled ascents… it is without doubt my favourite time of the year.

General classification

1. Geraint Thomas (Sky) 5:14:57

2. Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-QuickStep) +0:25

3. Matteo Trentin (Etixx-QuickStep) +0.38

4. Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) same time

5. Sep Vanmarcke (LottoNL-Jumbo) s/t

6. Matti Breschel (Tinkoff-Saxo) s/t

7. Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto-Soudal) s/t

8. Jack Bauer (Cannondale-Garmin) s/t

9. Jens Keukelaire (Orica-GreenEDGE) s/t

10. Daniel Oss (BMC) s/t

Link: Official race website

Header image: Team Sky Website

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