Report – Peter Sagan wins E3 Harelbeke


In a thrilling four up finish after being 1-2’d by Quickstep, Peter Sagan showed no mercy in powering to an easy win in E3 Harelbeke

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Report – Peter Sagan wins E3 Harelbeke

In a race that was a perfect example of why the Spring Classics are so loved by the fans, four riders was all that was left after a selection caused by the power of the leading riders as well as numerous crashes and mechanicals.

With a chase group containing Fabian Cancellera and Tom Boonen to name but two of the stars, Geraint Thomas, Peter Sagan, Niki Terpstra and Stijn Vandenbergh powered away from them and after some great 1-2 moves by the Omega Pharma Quickstep riders, the race came down to a sprint. After Vandenbergh opened up the sprint, Thomas taking his wheel, Sagan quickly got on the wheel of Thomas and then powered clear to win the race with Terpstra coming past Thomas to claim second with Thomas third.


It was the Slovakian Champion’s third victory of the season after stage wins at Tour of Oman and Tirreno-Adriatico. This is also Sagan’s 61st career victory.

“This win in Harelbeke it’s very important for me and the competition with so many strong riders makes the success more precious. I’m very happy for me and for my teammates, who worked a lot for this result,” said Sagan, who last year finished second.

“After Milano-Sanremo, I immediately turned the page. This morning, I was really determined to test my condition in a normal situation and the result was great. It has been the best way to start the Belgium classics season and a big boost of confidence for the next events.”

“After 100 km I was involved in a crash with my teammate Oscar Gatto, and I had to change my bike with Marangoni, the only one who has my same frame. I had to ride 40 km with different measures and finally, when I had the chance to have my bike from the team car, I had to recover. The feeling was good only in the second part of the race. To win a classic you need to ride hard, to have a good condition and to be also lucky.”

“In the finale I wasn’t sure to have many chances to win. I wasted a lot of energy due to the crash and on the Kwaremont I’ve been also distanced. In that moment I just thought to stay in the front and to see the development of the race. I knew Terpesta could be a strong competitor as well as Thomas. Only when I sprinted and I saw that no one able to pass me I understood I could win.”

The race was blighted by many a crash and luck was needed as much as strong legs. Geraint Thomas certainly had them and he forced the selection on the Oude Kwaremont when he blew the race apart as he attacked on the famous cobbled climb.

That move saw the decisive break go clear, with Thomas and Sagan (Cannondale) being joined by Omega Pharma – Quick-Step duo Niki Terpstra and Stijn Vandenbergh after John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) had quickly dropped off the pace.

Watching the footage, he looked a likley winner, doing a lot of work on the front to keep the move clear. Afterwards he spoke to t”I think I rode it as best I could,” he said.

“Going up the Kwaremont, I thought I’d just get stuck in, attack and see what happens. Obviously it forced that group away but heading into the final with two Quick-Steps and Sagan it was pretty tough. I just felt I didn’t have the punch that Sagan and Terpstra had, so I thought I’d just gamble it all in the finish. You never know if you don’t see what happens”.

“When Vandenbergh went I wanted to be first to go after him and hopefully get a bit of a run to hold off a couple of the others. Unfortunately Terpstra got round me on the line but I gave it everything. That’s all I had and I’m pretty happy with that.”

Thomas also revealed that an early crash ahead of La Houppe had put the team onto the back foot early on. “We were pretty far up in the top 20 or so but the crash was right in front of us. I just got caught up in it,” he added.

“My bars were a bit skewed all day. That’s not an excuse for the sprint.”

The big losers were Omega Pharma Quickstep. They had two in the break of four but no matter what they did, they couldn’t shake Sagan and didn’t look strong enough to shift the Slovak rider. Vandenbergh did his best to try and attack several times, but Sagan was able to make his way back. Terpstra also tried to accelerate, but everything was neutralized by Sagan in anticipation of the bunch sprint. Tom Boonen finished 11th.

“It was pretty hectic,” Terpstra said. “In the beginning I had pretty sore legs because I was still a little bit tired from Wednesday of course. That was a hard effort. So at the beginning I wanted to spin the legs, but there were narrow roads, a lot of crashes, up and down, left right, it was really chaotic.”

“That was tough, but we came through really well. In the end, almost all of the team was in front. It pays off to be two guys in the front group. There was a crash, which created a small gap, then we had the Patersberg, the Oude Kwaremont, and it was full gas racing. I felt Sagan was in good shape on the small hills. He had good accelerations.”

“Also, when Stijn and I started to attack, he closed the gap easily with a big acceleration. We were already going like 50 kilometers per hour in the last kilometers, so it was hard to attack because you had to go 60 kilometers or something. So, it was a sprint. I knew it was going to be really tough to beat him. He showed he was the fastest one today”.

Vandenbergh meanwhile said “It was hard race. After the hills, I stayed good in front pulling for Keisse and Stybar. After the Patersberg, I pulled for Stybar and Tom, but on the Kwaremont the race exploded. Then I was in the second group, but I made the jump to the first group where Niki was. That was a good moment otherwise maybe my race was finished”.

“So, then we were with two guys, but Sagan was really strong. On the second to last climb he was also pulling so the guys of the original breakaway lost contact. That was also a good situation. But in the final we tried not to go to the finish with Sagan. But he closed every gap. So did Geraint Thomas.”

Tom Boonen crashes
“Today started OK, but at La Houppe, the first climb of the day where the race really starts there was a big crash at the bottom of the climb.” Boonen said. “We were near front of the peloton, 15th position. I hurt my thumb of the right hand in the crash.”

“We were there with five guys of the team in the crash. Straight away I knew it was going to be a very difficult day because that’s where the race starts. So we had to go faster uphill than the first guys. IAM and Trek were going full speed as there were a lot of favorites in the crash.”

“So, we had to go faster uphill and then try to have the same speed downhill because they were going 100 percent on the descent. So it took us a lot of time to catch them back. When we did we had all the misery because guys were crashing and having flat tires, so it was hard to make it back into good position. So it was very dangerous to get back.”

“Finally we made it back to the front and I think we regained control over the race. I told Stijn and Niki they had to pay attention as I had a lot of pain in my hand. I was trying to do the maximum but I knew it would be difficult. On the cobblestones it really hurt. On the handlebar it was OK, but on top of the handlebar it was really painful and I couldn’t really accelerate out of the saddle. So, on the Kwaremont, I tried for a certain moment, but at a certain point it’s just enough.”

One of the riders of the race was Fabian Cancellera. He rode himself into the cobble stones after being delayed by a crash and even with the help of a teammate (Stijn Devolder) he was unable to bring the four leaders back

“The crash happened and I was in the middle and it took a while before the back wheel was changed and I could continue,” explained Fabian Cancellara about the critical crash that cost him a chance at victory.

“I did what I could do after this to continue the race and not give up, but it was the most important point of the race to be in the front here with the Paterberg and Kwaremont coming.”

“In the end I am still happy. I did what I could, the team did a great job for me all day. And Stijn at the end gave his all,” continued Cancellara. “It was still important to see how others riders and other teams are going. It was an interesting day we saw a strong Peter [Sagan], we saw a strong QuickStep that did not get the win – I am not sure why as I had Tom [Boonen] and Stybar on the back, that in my opinion were almost stronger, but that is how it is, that is racing.”

“Yes I am not on the podium, but the weather was warm and no wind, a different parcours this year, and all these things play a part in making a race different each year. The focus was there, and now we close today and are looking to Sunday.”

Stijn Devolder was the only Trek Factory Racing teammate that managed to claw his way back after the decisive crash, and he immediately went to the front to help Cancellara chase back the leaders. At one point they were within 14 seconds and it appeared they might be able to close the gap, but the final climbs of Patersberg and Kwaremont would change that. Ahead, the leaders attacked over the last of the cobbled steep climbs, increased the time to the chasers, and never looked back.

Stijn Devolder, prominent in his Belgium champions jersey on the front of the chase group, explains more: “The race stayed took very long to get going, and that was frustrating for us. When the racing finally began on the Kapelberg, the crash happened right before this and blocked the road. We had to run through the field to get around it. We lost 40 seconds there and it took a real big effort to come back to the front.”

“It was a mess at this point with riders everywhere, and we don’t know where everyone from the team is. Then Fabian and I came together and we went a bloc on the Kwaremont and we were with many favorites to win the race but they all looked to us to do the work. That was very frustrating, as the others had a chance, too, to go for the win there and they didn’t.”

“I felt pretty good, maybe a little blocked from the crash Wednesday. I had to go to my Osteopath for my back and I felt that a little today. But I think we did a good race and it’s too bad that the results don’t’ show this. It’s disappointing that the other teams did not help us. In the end we all lost.”

1 SAGAN Peter Cannondale 04:56:31
2 TERPSTRA Niki Omega Pharma – Quick-Step
3 THOMAS Geraint Team Sky
4 VANDENBERGH Stijn Omega Pharma – Quick-Step
5 VANMARCKE Sep Belkin-Pro Cycling Team 01:16
6 GALLOPIN Tony Lotto Belisol
7 BOZIC Borut Astana Pro Team 01:19
8 FARRAR Tyler Garmin Sharp
9 CANCELLARA Fabian Trek Factory Racing
10 VAN AVERMAET Greg BMC Racing Team
11 BOONEN Tom Omega Pharma – Quick-Step
12 ROELANDTS Jurgen Lotto Belisol
13 PAOLINI Luca Team Katusha
14 SENECHAL Florian Cofidis, Solutions Crédits
15 DEGENKOLB John Team Giant-Shimano
16 DE VREESE Laurens Wanty – Groupe Gobert
17 BOASSON HAGEN Edvald Team Sky
18 KONOVALOVAS Ignatas MTN – Qhubeka
19 STYBAR Zdenek Omega Pharma – Quick-Step
20 DEVOLDER Stijn Trek Factory Racing 01:21

22 HUTAROVICH Yauheni AG2R La Mondiale 03:14
29 CHAVANEL Sylvain IAM Cycling
46 HOOGERLAND Johnny Androni Giocattoli – Venezuela
63 VALVERDE Alejandro Movistar Team
90 VON HOFF Steele Garmin Sharp
94 KEISSE Iljo Omega Pharma – Quick-Step
107 MILLAR David Garmin Sharp


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