Geraint Thomas wins E3 Harelbeke cobbled classic in Belgium
Welshman claims biggest victory of his road career
By Matt Westby
Last Updated: 27/03/15 6:21pm
Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas claimed the biggest win of his road racing career by soloing to a superb victory in the Belgian cobbled classic E3 Harelbeke.
Thomas formed part of a three-man lead trio alongside Zdenek Stybar (Etixx – Quick-Step) and Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) just over 35km from the finish but then left both of them behind with an attack around 4.3km out.
Sagan was unable to chase and although Stybar initially countered, Thomas continued to pull away from him and eventually won by 25 seconds.
His victory comes a month after team-mate Ian Stannard won Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and carries on what has so far been an outstanding season for the British squad, who now have 15 wins to their name in 2015.
The result was also a major statement of intent ahead of the two biggest cobbled classics on the calendar, the Tour of Flanders on April 5 and Paris-Roubaix on April 12.
The day was partly marred, however, by a large crash early in the 215.3km race in which Fabian Cancellara, a three-time winner of E3 Harelbeke and one of the favourites for both the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, fell and broke his back in two places.
But even if the Swiss rider had remained in the race, he would have had a tough time keeping up with the imperious Thomas, who backed up his relentless performance at Milan-San Remo on Sunday with another outstanding display.
The peloton was first blown apart on the notorious Paterberg climb around from 42km from home, but then a second selection was made when Thomas and Stybar attacked on the Oude Kwaremont climb and Sagan later followed.
The trio combined well to stretch out a lead of almost a minute going into the final 5km, but then all teamwork ceased and Thomas wasted little time in delivering the decisive blow.
Sagan ended up being caught by the chasing group, who were led over the line by Matteo Trentin (Etixx - Quick-Step) in third place, 38 seconds down on Thomas.
1 Geraint Thomas (GB) Team Sky, 5:14:57
2 Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Etixx – Quick-Step, +25secs
3 Matteo Trentin (Ita) Etixx – Quick-Step, +38
4 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha, same time
5 Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) LottoNL-Jumbo, st
6 Matti Breschel (Den) Tinkoff-Saxo, st
7 Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Lotto Soudal, st
8 Jack Bauer (NZ) Cannondale-Garmin, st
9 Jens Keukeleire (Bel) Orica-GreenEdge, st
10 Daniel Oss (Ita) BMC Racing, st