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Spring Classics Cycling Season
The Spring Classics season is underway in Belgium. It kicked off with Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde and a win by Quick-Step's Italian sprinter Viviani on Wednesday, then rolled into E3 Harelbeke today.
E3 is usually a good indicator for Flanders, hitting a few of the classic hills like the Paterberg and Oude Kwaremont. After being held up by a train crossing, a major crash took out a lot of favourites like Sagan and Vanmarcke and saw QuickStep drop the hammer. At one point late in the race they had three riders up the road, but Lampaert was hit by a falling piano after trying to hold teammate Terpstra's wheel, and Gilbert was unable to bridge up to the leading duo. (Not sure what the team orders were from the car, but it sure looked like they were working to keep him off.)
Anyway, Gilbert fell back to a small group of strongmen that include his podium mates from last year, Naesen and GVA. While that group was unable to work together, Terpstra showed his class and ground out the win by some 20 seconds. His teammate Gilbert recovered from his earlier effort to take the sprint for second, followed by Greg Van Avaermet, who must have been exhausted from the eight seconds that he accidentally spent "in the wind" at the front of the group some 60 kilometers earlier. (Context: GVA almost never rides in front, content to draft off Sagan or whoever else might be considered a favourite.)
Gent-Wevelgem, which adds another 50k or so of distance, is next on the calendar this Sunday. GVA won here last year, so will be looking to repeat, but I have a feeling that Gent comes down to a sprint - Cipo won this race once, so it's certainly possible for a pure sprinter to handle this course - and the teams have loaded up for it. Watch for Colbrelli (Bahrain), Viviani (QuickStep), Demare (FDJ), Kittel (Katusha), Matthews (Sunweb) or O'Doull (Sky), or a sneak attack from Moscon (Sky) (who looked good today) or Matteo Trentin (Mitchellton). It looks like Mark Cavendish is on the start list for Dimension Data, which just seems cruel after his MSR crash.