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E3 Prijs Vlaanderen: Vlaamse Wielerweek Heats Up

E3 Prijs Vlaanderen: The Basics

When: Saturday, 7am Pacific (supposedly)
Distance: 203km
Bergs/Hills: 12
Founded: 1958
Most wins: 4 (Boonen, Van Looy)
Website: here, partly in English
Broadcast: Cycling.TV (live); check for free options
Did you know? The race is named after the E3 Motorway whose opening it celebrated in its first running. Also, the E3 Motorway is now the E17.

This is the first race of the year that you really have to see. Well, besides Het Volk, which I missed, so let's just move on. The E3 Prijs (Prize) has everything you could want in a Flemish race that's not the Tour of Flanders. To wit:

Timing: ideal. A week before Flanders-Gent-Roubaix week begins, everybody who matters needs to be testing their form. And unlike Dreidaagse de Panne next week, nobody should be concerned about having time to recover.

Climbs/Cobbles: More than the other races in Vlaamse Wielerweek (Flemish Cycling Week), E3 Prijs has got the course to prep you for de Ronde. Below are the list of hills, with indicating it's a cobbled climb and (RVV) indicating it's also featured in the Tour of Flanders.

  • La Houppe
  • Berg Stene (RVV)
  • Boigneberg
  • Eikenberg
  • Stationsberg
  • Taaienberg (RVV)
  • Oude Kruiskens
  • Kapelberg
  • Paterberg (RVV)
  • Kwaremont (RVV)
  • Knokteberg
  • Tiegemberg

In particular, this race replicates the midsection of de Ronde, hills 5, 6, 9 and 10 of de Ronde's 17 ascents. It's also a heavily cobbled stretch, and the Kwaremont is the highest point of the race. Really, it's the next best thing to rehearsing the run-in over the Muur, which is far too sacred to host rehearsals. So E3 Prijs is it.

Action: At 203km and with some tough roads, it's a classic, in that you won't have 65 guys setting up a sprint. Watch last year's finale where Boonen, Cancellara, Quinziato and Burghardt escape and battle for the win. An epic finish, where Cancellara nearly bests Boonen in a sprint. In 2006 Boonen beat Alessandro Ballan in a two-man escape. In '05 his victims were Andreas Klier and Peter Van Petegem. If these names ring a bell, then you're probably getting the idea. This is a big-time race.

Startlist: Here. Quick Step will have most of its starting lineup from Wednesday out there, minus Wouter Weylandt. Silence! Lotto counters with Van Avermaet and ol' \o/ himself (Hoste), plus Roelandts and Gardeyn, so this is looking like their Ronde lineup as well, maybe. CSC bring Cancellara, O'Grady, and some workers. High Road bring Klier, Hammonds, Reynes and Eisel, an experienced group. (Kirchen is listed but I think he's out?) Nuyens is the only big name missing. Other attendees: Ballan, Pozzato, Freire, Flecha, Horrillo, Elmiger, Hushovd, Gusev, Vaitkus, Quinziato, Eeckhoudt, Wesemann, and my personal favorite Jesus Del Nero. Self-explanatory. Picks? Can Boonen drive for #5?