Plagued by threats of discontinuation and ceding its turf to Gent-Wevelgem as the primary warmup for the Ronde van Vlaanderen, the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen (a/k/a Harelbeke) has made two critical changes to ensure its survival: running a day earlier and receiving World Tour status. More on the flip!
Sporza has the details, which are thus:
- World Tour status was the big issue. We saw this year that without it, E3 could not attract the field that Gent-Wevelgem could. The biggest blow was Tom Boonen's non-participation in favor of G-W and the quest for World Tour points his team needed. This despite Boonen's stature, history of wins, and personal assessment that E3 was a better race for his pre-Flanders program.
- The UCI offered World Tour status to the race provided they would move from the Saturday before Flanders -- and the day before Gent-Wevelgem -- to Friday, a day earlier. Presumably the UCI's reasoning was that this gives G-W adequte breathing room. E3 organizers decided that was an acceptable trade. Somehow I suspect Flemish fans will find a way to get out of work early on Friday. And the presence of all the big teams will more than make up, in race stature, for the shift from the weekend.
- E3 organizers promptly dropped their interest in partnering with Flanders Classics, a consortium of the owners of all the other races in Vlaamse Wielerweek and de Ronde. That was another route to survival, but is no longer needed, and the contentious relations between E3 and FC puts that idea to bed. Perhaps someday, but not now.
- Current schedule: Wednesday, Dwars door Vlaanderen; Friday, E3; Sunday, Gent-Wevelgem. Presumably the rest of the calendar stays as is.