|English name||E3 Harelbeke|
|Local name(s)||E3 Harelbeke (Dutch)|
|Competition||UCI Europe Tour (2005–2011)
UCI World Tour (2012–)
|Editions||57 (as of 2014)|
|First winner||Armand Desmet (BEL)|
|Most wins||Tom Boonen (BEL) (5 wins)|
|Most recent||Peter Sagan (SVK)|
The E3 Harelbeke is an annual cycling race in the Flanders area of Belgium. The race starts and finishes in Harelbeke over 210 kilometres. The event is organised by the Hand in Hand Cycling Club of Harelbeke and is on the UCI World Tour calendar.
It is used as preparation race for the Tour of Flanders. The route is shorter but many of the climbs are tackled. The conditions are also comparable as cobbles, wind and climbs decimate the bunch. The route takes a large lap around East Flanders including 12 hills. Some riders even prefer this race instead of the tactical, but more prestigious Tour of Flanders.
The E3 takes place on mid-March and marks the start of Vlaamse Wielerweek, a week of cycling which continues with the Brabantse Pijl on the Sunday and the Driedaagse van De Panne stage race midweek before the Tour of Flanders on the following Sunday. Until 2011, the race was held on a Saturday; when the race was upgraded to World Tour status in 2012, the race moved to the Friday to have a day of rest between the E3 race and World Tour race Gent–Wevelgem, held on Sunday.
The first E3 Prijs Vlaanderen took place in 1958 although there had been similar events in the area since 1955. In the early days the event was named Harelbeke-Anvers-Harelbeke. It has also been known as the GP E3 Harelbeke. The race took its name from the E3 motorway (now A14) built in the mid-sixties. From the 54th edition in 2011 on the word Prijs has been removed from its name and the cycling race is now known as E3 Harelbeke.
The race starts from Harelbeke's Grote Markt and travels east, the first 110 km flat with cobbles around Oudenaarde and Zottegem. The riders reach the most easterly point at Ninove after 85 km and after swinging west and going through Geraardsbergen and Brakel, the tough part begins with a succession of short, sharp climbs some of which are cobbled as the race loops between Ronse and Oudenaarde.
The 12 hills in order are La Houppe, Berg Stene, Boigneberg, Eikenberg, Stationsberg, Taaienberg, Oude Kruikens, Kapelberg, Patersberg, Oude Kwaremont, Knokteberg and Tiegemberg. The Paterberg is a cobbled 500m climb that averages 12.5% while the Oude Kwaremont is cobbled for 1500m of its 2200m although its gradient averages 4.2%. The Tiegemberg is 16 km from the finish.
Records and statistics
Belgian cyclist Tom Boonen holds the record for the most wins in the race with five victories, coming in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2012. Rik Van Looy won the race four times in 1964, 1965, 1966 and 1969, and Dutchman Jan Raas took three successive victories between 1979 and 1981 after finishing second in 1978. Swiss rider Fabian Cancellara has also won the race three times, in 2010, 2011 and 2013. Andrei Tchmil and Johan Museeuw have won it twice. The fastest race was in 2003 when Dutchman Steven De Jongh won at an average speed of 45.9 km/h.
- "E3 Harelbeke eerste Vlaamse Worldtourwedstrijd volgend seizoen op vrijdag 23 maart" (in Dutch). Nieuwsblad. 15 June 2011. Retrieved 31 July 2011.
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