The first of the cobblestone classics – E3 Harelbeke – was one to remember, with a strong breakaway from Peter Sagan and Michal Kwiatkowski the defining moment in a hard-fought race. The World Champion looked strong, attacking from 30km out and contesting a two-man sprint finish that saw the Tinkoff team leader cross the line second, behind the Sky’s rider.
From the outset, the racing was fast and furious, with the top contenders pushing hard and forming a group ahead of the bunch. The World Champion was working hard for much of the early part of the race, making sure that when the decisive moment came, he was in a position to contest the win. The Slovakian rider’s experience in the race was clear, as he attacked after the race’s hardest climb, the Oude Kwaremont, 30km from the finish. The Kwaremont is a notorious climb, not only for its difficulty, but in the potential for riders to be caught on its narrow sections. With clear roads ahead, Peter saw his chance.
Sport Director, Tristan Hoffman, commended Sagan’s strategy “I think in the end Peter did a fantastic race today. He stayed calm until the Kwaremont, and was always at the front but not using too much energy. He sped up there and created a break before Fabian Cancellara came back after his mechanical.”
After the attack, the duo took it in turns, and from there the gap kept growing. Both riders looked comfortable and in control, and working together, the gap grew to as much as thirty-six seconds.
“It was a strong move when he got away with Kwiatkowski.” Tristan continued. “Together they worked really well and gave it their all. They both did their part and in the sprint he just ran out of legs, and today Kwiatkowski was stronger at the end.”
Peter concurred with his Sport Director’s comments. “I did my attack and we were working together, but in the finish I was without energy and he was stronger than me. I think I did a lot of work in the finale and was without legs. I’m happy with how it went though – I didn’t crash, I was in the front. I attacked to try to break the group after Cancellara came back to see what happened. Cycling is simple sometimes. I’ve got a fast finish but after a race like this, everything is different. In the last two kilometres the group was closing behind and I pulled a lot on the front and in the finale I ran out of legs.”
Tristan was positive about the outcome, however. “Of course we are disappointed and we try to analyse what we could have done better, but at the end there were more teams behind with more than one rider and attack is sometimes the best form of defence otherwise if he had waited until the flat roads he would have again been isolated and alone. At the hard best moments he had the best legs today and he made the race.“
The E3-Harelbeke is only the first of the cobbled classics and more races await, as Peter explained. “This is good training after Milano-Sanremo for Flanders, and I’m keeping in good condition. We’ll see after Sunday how things will be ahead of Flanders.”
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classics cobbles E3 Harelbeke michal kwiatkowski Peter Sagan Tinkoff tour of flanders world champion