For the second year in a row Fabian Cancellara has won E3 Prijs Harelbeke, a 202 kilometers long race including twelve climbs and several cobbled sectors that turn the race into a mini-Tour of Flanders. With a powerful move with 32 kilometers remaining in the race, Cancellara put in a huge attack on the Kwaremont, overcoming two untimely flats and an unfortunate mechanical trouble.
Cancellara attacked from a peloton that had been chasing multiple groups out front. “I was determined to win,” he says. “This win is even more special than last year, because of the punctures and the absence of radios. On the Taaienberg I had to go full gas to catch up with the bunch.”
Prior to Cancellara’s attack, Stuart O’Grady had been part of a seven-man break that formed about 50 km earlier. Cancellara: “Stuey did a fantastic job in the front. His presence in the breakaway group put me in a comfortable position, because I know he’s in a great shape.”
The mechanical problems experienced by the Swiss originated from a corrupt wheel change. When Cancellara punctured for the second time, Robert Wagner, his team mate at LEOPARD TREK, gave his captain his back wheel. But the change wasn’t done as it should be, which caused subsequent problems with the shifting.
After a bike change, Cancellara blasted past the groups that had previously been behind him. Riders that were able to muster the strength grabbed a hold of his wheel for a free ride to what they hoped would be the head of the race. Cancellara’s group quickly became the third group out on the road.
As word spread that Cancellara was in hot pursuit of those ahead, Cancellara made his intent clear. O’Grady dropped back to assist Cancellara in joining the front group on the road. That was only moments before Cancellara went solo, with a turn on the front so impressive that it forced those behind him to simply sit up and watch him ride away. Within a single kilometer, Cancellara had established a sizable gap and he hit the Tiegemberg with ten seconds on the group behind. The gap quickly increased to 30-seconds by the time he had ascended the final climb of the day.
Heinrich Haussler attempted to bridge up with Cancellara to no avail. While Bram Tankink (Rabobank) and Niki Terpstra (Quick Step) were willing and able to contribute to the chase, the other riders behind could only sit on their wheels. In the sprint for second place, Jurgen Roelandts beat Vladimir Goesev.
Cancellara’s decisive victory bodes well for the upcoming Tour of Flanders. “Of course this gives us a lot of confidence,” he said during the post-race press conference. “Still, we will race our race. The team is ready, and that’s what is important. We did a perfect race, the whole team. Everyone contributed to my win.”