|Local name(s)||E3 Harelbeke (in Dutch)|
|Nickname(s)||The little Tour of Flanders|
|Competition||UCI World Tour|
|Organiser||Hand in Hand VZW|
|Race director||Philippe Vermeeren|
|Editions||60 (as of 2017)|
|First winner||Armand Desmet (BEL)|
|Most wins||Tom Boonen (BEL) (5 wins)|
|Most recent||Greg Van Avermaet (BEL)|
E3 Harelbeke, previously known as Harelbeke–Antwerp–Harelbeke and E3-Prijs Vlaanderen, is an annual road cycling race in Flanders, Belgium. The race starts and finishes in Harelbeke, covering 203 kilometres, mainly in the Flemish Ardennes.
First raced in 1958, it is one of the more recently founded one-day classics, but has developed into a prestigious and desirable event. It is on the UCI World Tour calendar, as part of a series of cobbled classics in Belgium and Northern France in March and April.
E3 Harelbeke is held on the last Friday of March and marks the start of the Flemish Cycling Week, starting a fortnight of WorldTour racing on the cobbles and bergs of Flanders. It is the second in the series of cobbled races in Belgium and northern France that take place over a two-week period from the Wednesday after Milan–San Remo until Paris–Roubaix. E3 Harelbeke is the race that resembles the Tour of Flanders the most.
In 2010, UCI made some calendar changes, most notably positioning the Pro Tour race Gent–Wevelgem on the day after E3 Harelbeke, causing a dispute between the two races. In 2012, when the E3 race was upgraded to World Tour status as well, organizers changed the date of their event to Friday to meet the demands of UCI, who requested a day of rest between two arduous World Tour events.
Because of its place on the calendar, the race has built a reputation as the final rehearsal for the more prestigious Tour of Flanders, the Flemish monument race coming nine days after the E3 Harelbeke. With a distance of 200–215 km, the E3 route is shorter than the Tour of Flanders, but addresses many of the same roads and hills of the Flemish Ardennes. With cobbles, steep climbs, winding and narrow roads, and often affected by wind, it offers all race circumstances that characterize Flemish classic races. Favourites for the Tour of Flanders often do well in Harelbeke, eager to win the race and using it as the perfect testing ground. Because of the similarities, Flemish media have dubbed the race The little Tour of Flanders.
The E3 Harelbeke was created in 1958. The first editions were raced from Harelbeke to Antwerp and back, hence the event was named Harelbeke-Antwerp-Harelbeke. Belgian cycling icon Rik Van Looy won the race four times in the 1960s. E3 does not refer to a race sponsor; the race was renamed E3-Prijs Harelbeke in the early 1960s, as a reference to the former European route E03, a series of European highways from Lisbon to Stockholm. The Belgian part of the E3 - now called E17 - connected Antwerp and Kortrijk, close to Harelbeke.
Although the race is much younger than many other cycling classics in Flanders, it quickly became a desirable entry for specialists of the cobbled races. Many winners on the roll of honour have also won the Tour of Flanders or Paris–Roubaix in their careers. Classics specialist Jan Raas won the race three consecutive times in the early 1980s. In the 1990s Johan Museeuw and Andrei Tchmil won their first important one-day races in Harelbeke, before winning cycling's most prestigious cobbled classics.
Since the first edition until 2011, the race was held on a Saturday in the weekend before the Tour of Flanders, forming a tandem with the Brabantse Pijl on Sunday. From 2005 until 2011 the race was part of the continental UCI Europe Tour, where it was classified as a 1.HC race. Belgian Tom Boonen, claiming four consecutive wins, and Swiss Fabian Cancellara were the main protagonists with some spectacular victories, and the event garnered a lot of prestige on the international calendar.
In 2012 the race was upgraded to World Tour level, cycling's highest level of professional races. Tom Boonen won the edition, setting a record of five victories, and the race was officially named E3 Harelbeke. In 2013 Fabian Cancellara claimed his third win after a long-distance attack on the Oude Kwaremont and a 35 km solo raid to the finish. The most recent winners of E3 Harelbeke are Michał Kwiatkowski and Greg Van Avermaet, thereby cementing its reputation as a foremost cobbled classic.
Usually a little over 200 kilometres long and always starting and finishing in Harelbeke, the E3 Harelbeke contains anything between 12 and 17 short, sharp, cobbled climbs, mainly in the last 90 kilometres. As usual in Flemish one-day racing, local knowledge can be crucial.
The race starts on Harelbeke's Grote Markt and travels east on mainly flat roads towards Oudenaarde and Zottegem. The riders reach the most easterly point in Ninove after 85 km, before returning west via Geraardsbergen, after which the race addresses the bergs and cobbled roads of the Flemish Ardennes in the south of East Flanders. The race unfolds in the hill zone with a succession of short, sharp climbs as the course loops between Ronse and Oudenaarde.
The last climbs in the Flemish Ardennes – Paterberg, Oude Kwaremont and Karnemelkbeekstraat – are notoriously difficult and the sites where the race tends to split apart for good; before the race re-enters West Flanders for a mainly flat run-in to the finish. The Tiegemberg, the last climb of the day, comes at 20 kilometres from the finish in Harelbeke.
Hills and cobbles
In 2017 there were 15 categorized hills. The climbs, in order of appearance, are Katteberg, La Houppe, Kruisberg, Côte de Trieu, Hotond, Kortekeer, Taaienberg, Boigneberg, Eikenberg, Stationsberg, Kapelberg, Paterberg, Oude Kwaremont, Karnemelkbeekstraat and Tiegemberg. The Paterberg is a cobbled 300m climb that averages 12.5%, while the Oude Kwaremont is 2200m, of which 1500m cobbled, with a gradient average of 4.2%. In addition to the climbs, there are four flat stretches of cobbled roads.
Riders in italics are still active.
|5||Tom Boonen (BEL)||2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2012|
|4||Rik Van Looy (BEL)||1964, 1965, 1966, 1969|
|3||Jan Raas (NED)||1979, 1980, 1981|
|Fabian Cancellara (SUI)||2010, 2011, 2013|
|2||Eddy Planckaert (BEL)||1987, 1989|
|Johan Museeuw (BEL)||1992, 1998|
|Andrei Tchmil (BEL)||1994, 2001|
Wins per country
|1||Australia, Denmark, Moldova, Norway, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, United Kingdom|
- The fastest edition was in 2003 when Dutchman Steven de Jongh won at an average speed of 45.9 km/h.
- It is one of the only one-day cycling races in Flanders not organized by Flanders Classics.
- In 2012 the famed Muur van Geraardsbergen was included in the E3 Harelbeke for the first time. It was organizers' whimsical response to Flanders Classics' decision to exclude the climb from the Tour of Flanders, an action that caused great upheaval among Flanders' tradition-loving cycling aficionado's.
- In 2015 a publicity poster for the race caused severe controversy. The poster showed a woman's bare legs, with a cyclist's gloved hand apparently going to pinch the woman's bottom. It was a reference to Peter Sagan's actions after the 2013 Tour of Flanders, when he pinched a podium miss' bottom during the after-race ceremony. The poster was considered "demeaning" and "misogynistic" and was criticized by UCI and the Belgian Jury of Advertising Ethics. It had to be withdrawn and replaced.
- "E3 gaat terug naar de roots en wordt korter en spannender, 26 november 2015". Sporza. Sporza staff. Retrieved 29 November 2015.
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- Axelgaard, Emil. "E3 Harelbeke preview". Cycling Quotes. Retrieved 29 November 2015.
- "E3 Harelbeke: "Dit is misschien laatste editie"". Sporza. Retrieved 29 November 2015.
- "E3 Harelbeke eerste Vlaamse Worldtourwedstrijd volgend seizoen op vrijdag 23 maart" (in Dutch). Nieuwsblad. 15 June 2011. Retrieved 31 July 2011.
- Benson, Daniel. "Preview: E3 Harelbeke preview: More than a Flanders warm-up". CyclingNews. Retrieved 29 November 2015.
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- Kins, Steve. "'E3 is kleine Ronde van Vlaanderen' (VIDEO)". Sport.be. Retrieved 29 November 2015.
- Eppinga, Hendrik. "Ronde van Vlaanderen: Favorieten (in Dutch)". Retrieved 29 November 2015.
- Kins, Steve. "'Kleine Ronde' telt even veel hellingen als de grote 28.03.2014". sport.be. Retrieved 29 November 2015.
- "Historiek". e3-harelbeke.be. E3 Harelbeke staff. Retrieved 28 November 2015.
- "Spring Classics: How to win cycling's hardest one-day races". BBC Sport. Retrieved 27 March 2015.
- Brown, Gregor. "Boonen follows in the footsteps of Van Looy. Four in-a-row for Belgian super-hero". Cycling News. Retrieved 30 November 2015.
- Recap of the 2007 race (Flemish television)
- Decaluwé, Brecht. "Cancellara claims E3 Prijs Vlaanderen - Harelbeke. Time trial champion drops Boonen and Flecha in final kilometre". Cycling News. Retrieved 30 November 2015.
- "Cancellara cruises to victory in late solo breakaway Leopard Trek team leader shows he is on form for the Tour of Flanders". Cycling News. Cycling News staff. Retrieved 30 November 2015.
- "E3 Harelbeke 2013: Fabian Cancellara lays down marker for the classics with majestic triumph in Flanders". telegraph.co.uk. Telegraph Sport. Retrieved 29 November 2015.
- Pedersen, Andy. "Defending champion Sagan returns to E3 Harelbeke". cyclingquotes.com. CyclingQuotes. Retrieved 29 November 2015.
- "Sagan victorious in E3 Harelbeke". cyclingnews.com. CyclingNews. Retrieved 28 November 2015.
- "60e Record Bank E3 Harelbeke - CAT 1.UWT: Parcours" (PDF). E3 Harelbeke. Kon. Wielerclub Hand in Hand VZW. Retrieved 23 March 2017.
- "60e Record Bank E3 Harelbeke - CAT 1.UWT: Technische Gids / Le Guide Technique / Technical Guide" (PDF). E3 Harelbeke. Kon. Wielerclub Hand in Hand VZW. Retrieved 23 March 2017.
- "De E3 Prijs vist de Muur van Geraardsbergen op". Sporza. Sporza staff. Retrieved 29 November 2015.
- Clarke, Stuart (23 February 2015). "E3 Harelbeke advert causes controversy". Cycling Weekly. Time Inc. UK. Retrieved 27 March 2015.
- Richards, Victoria (5 March 2015). "E3 Harelbeke: 'Sexist' cycling poster withdrawn". The Independent. Retrieved 27 March 2015.
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