Lotto Belisol: Preview E3 Harelbeke and Ghent-Wevelgem
The Flemish spring races all follow each other closely. Tomorrow the E3 Harelbeke is scheduled, Sunday it’s time for Ghent-Wevelgem. Both races are part of the WorldTour. Let’s take a look at the different courses.
Preparation for the Tour of Flanders
The E3 Harelbeke is 212.2 kilometers long and goes straight through the Flemish Ardennes. It’s a real preparation for the Tour of Flanders, which will take place only ten days from now. In the E3 the riders have to cover seventeen hills, just like is the case in the Ronde. In the past the Taaienberg was often the place where the race broke loose. That hill lies at just over 80 kilometers from the finish line now. Fifteen kilometers further the riders have to get over four little climbs in a row. Next there are again four hills with in the middle the Paterberg and Oude Kwaremont. The Tiegemberg is the last hill of the day, then the riders still have to cover 15.7 kilometers.
The Great War
In commemoration of the beginning of the First World War hundred years ago Ghent-Wevelgem will get the sub title ‘In Flanders Fields’ from now on. In the logo of the race we find a poppy, the symbol of the Great War. The organization wants to help to keep the memory of the First World War alive and honour the heroes and 600.000 victims from the Westhoek. The course was adapted as well for the commemoration. The race doesn’t go to Oostende anymore but via Veurne it goes to De Moeren. The distance between the two ascents of the Kemmelberg is longer, this to pass places that are linked to the First World War. Sunday’s course is 233 kilometers long and has nine hills. The Kemmel is climbed at 79 and 40 kilometers from the end. After the Monteberg it’s 36 kilometers left to go until the riders arrive in Wevelgem.
The E3 is one of the most intensive races
Jürgen Roelandts: “The E3 Harelbeke is one of the most intensive races. It has as many hills as the Tour of Flanders, but isn’t as long. I am the leader for the E3 Harelbeke and I have a strong team around me. Tony Gallopin has joined us. Jens Debusschere is there as well, he became sixth in Dwars door Vlaanderen yesterday. We shouldn’t wait, but make the race. The Oude Kwaremont will be a crucial point, then it’s less than 35 kilometers to go.”
Stronger than last year
“I have to score now, since November I’ve been preparing for the races of the next three weekends. The faster I can win a classic, the better. I feel stronger than last year. In 2013 I could ride an entire season, while a year before I crashed hard in the Tour Down Under and missed a big part of the season. By completing a whole season last year, I’m a few per cents stronger than in 2013 and those can make the difference. In Milan-Sanremo I rather pulled the card of one man, that was Greipel. If he got over the Poggio, we aimed for the win with him in the sprint and he was only some tens of meters behind at the top. Helping André is one of my tasks, but in the classic spring races I’m the leader.”
Playing a role in the final
Tony Gallopin: “In the week before Milan-Sanremo I suffered some consequences of my crash in the last stage of Paris-Nice. I felt good on Sunday, till the Poggio. There I lost contact with the first group, partly because of the cold. The fact that I rode almost 300 kilometers, is in any case positive for the classics. The difference with my previous team, RadioShack, is that at Lotto Belisol they expect me to play a role in the final. That brings responsibility with it and pressure. Jürgen Roelandts has proven in the past that he’s a man for the spring. I respect his results and will help him if necessary.”
Home game for the team
“I will ride the E3, Ghent-Wevelgem, the Tour of Flanders, Amstel, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Both types of races can definitely be combined. Gilbert and Van Avermaet already proved that. I see that the Flemish classics create a special atmosphere in a Belgian team like Lotto Belisol. It feels like a home game and that brings extra expectations. As a team we might be an outsider, but an outsider who wants to mean something.”
Selection E3 Harelbeke: Lars Bak, Vegard Breen, Jens Debusschere, Kenny Dehaes, Tony Gallopin, Pim Ligthart, Jürgen Roelandts and Marcel Sieberg.
Selection Ghent-Wevelgem: Lars Bak, Kris Boeckmans, Jens Debusschere, Tony Gallopin, André Greipel, Jürgen Roelandts, Marcel Sieberg and Frederik Willems.