This was the kind of race you wish you were at, anywhere, roadside on one of the 12 “hellingen” the short, steep killer climbs that define the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen – Harelbeke. Or just glued to a stool in some local bar screaming and shouting and knocking back the Amstels with your new 100 best friends.
It was that kind of race, a semi classic that beat its chest like a classic with all the tension, drama, tactics and the big names doing battle. We wish we’d been there but we did have a nice latte in the hot tub this morning. Life is trade-offs.
Tom Boonen decided the race with a brutal attack on the Paterberg climb. He made the winning move, unfortunately it was the second place move. His acceleration dumped the entire peloton and only Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) and Juan Antonio Flecha (Team Sky) were able to claw their way up to him. Three kings and 42 kilometers to the finish.
The desperate chase was on but few has the legs for the job. Metrosexual Filippo Pozzato (Katusha) and Marcus Burghardt (BMC) pushed hard but made little headway.
Eventually, Pozzato dumped the German rider, caught a fading Sebastien Rosseler (Radio Shack) and begged him for help. Maybe even promised him a fancy back tattoo. No luck.
In great form but having missed the crucial move, Pozzato forged on, pulling within 30 seconds before throwing in the towel. Boonen, Flecha and Cancellara worked well together, knowing that’d already decided the top three positions. E3 was Electric and came down to the 3 big names.
Missing from the action was Team BMC, a team that on paper was one of the strongest in terms of classics firepower. Marcus Burghardt has promised fireworks but he finished in 61st place while Alessandro Ballan took 57th and Karsten Kroon finished 31st. When three guys from Landbouwkrediet beat your best-placed rider, that’s a wet firecracker.
The headlines belonged to Sky, Quick Step and Saxo Bank. Knowing Boonen would kill them both in any sprint finish, it was up to Cancellara and Flecha to make the preemptive attack. With two kilometers left, the Swiss time trial World Champion hammered it. Flecha and then Boonen tried to catch his wheel but to no avail. Crossing the line eight seconds ahead, Fabulous Fabian had time to adjust the jersey and arrive in style.
E3 Rocked and it only gets better from here. Tour of Flanders here we come.