It started so calmly. It was a beautiful, warm spring day, the whole of Belgium was out by the roadside and conditions were perfect for E3 Harelbeke‘s first year as a WorldTour race. Odds were on Fabian Cancellara to make it a hat-trick but everyone wanted to see what kind of form Tom Boonen was in on the run-up to Ronde van Vlaanderen. Well, we found out.
Formerly known as the tongue-twister that was E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke, this year’s E3 Harelbeke is the 55th edition – but the first as a WorldTour event. This – and Sunday’s Gent-Wevelgem – is seen as a warm-up event for the brutality of the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) and Paris-Roubaix later in the month.
Defending champion Fabian Cancellara will be back to defend the title he won with a dramatic solo ride last year.
Tirreno-Adriatico may not have the glamour that Paris-Nice possesses, but it provides an equally searching examination of a stage racer’s all-round ability and can also boast being the platform on which Cadel Evans built his 2011 Tour de France-winning campaign. As such, the ‘Race of the Two Seas’ is an easily underestimated gem in a busy month of racing.
What kind of race is it?
This year sees the 47th running of Tirreno-Adriatico. As its name suggests, the week-long race follows a west-to-east route between Italy’s Tyrrhenian and Adriatic coasts, crossing over the Apennine mountains which run down Italy’s spine.