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E3: A perfect day on the bike

The organizers of the E3 Harelbeke, the premier warm-up race for the Tour of Flanders and generally one of the best races of the year in its own right, announced this years course yesterday. And let me tell you, not only is it a race you absolutely positively need to watch, it's a course every fan should dream to ride one day too.

e3 2015 course

To the untrained eye that thing in the middle looks like a plate of spaghetti. What it in fact is is an admirably executed effort to squeeze in every damn helling (short steep climb) in the area commonly known as the Flemish Ardennes in a race course. They didn't score 100% of course, it would be impossible but it'a a damn good try.

Start and finishes have been slightly altered, for practical reasons if I read it correctly, but that matters little. E3 is all about the climbs and the finale looks to offer about the same possibilities for tactics and gamesmanship as before, it's just on another street. They clearly make a conscious choice to miss the Koppenberg, electing to use it's gentler neighbor the Kortekeer. This is a good thing as the Koppenberg deserves to be used a little sparingly. In all essential parts this is the same course as last year when Peter Sagan outplayed the OmegaPharma duo of Terpstra and Vandenbergh plus Sky's Geraint Thomas to take his best cobbled classics win to date (yeah that's right Gent-Wevelgem, I'm saying you're worse than E3. I know it and you know it too).  It's a course that's almost guaranteed to produce a brilliant race.

The thing that strikes me when I look at the map though is that it's one that really everyone who rides bikes and loves bikeracing ought to print out and put in their back pocket. Then one time they should go to Flanders and use that map as a guide on a ride one day. It pretty much looks like the perfect day on a bike. I mean, I'm lazy and would cut out that big red loop and just stick to the final 100km and the Flemish Ardennes but the more ambitious could at least cut across and include Geraardsbergen and it's Muur. Either way it is a route that should inspire anyone to get on their bike even if it does seem to go out of it's way to avoid Brakel which may upset some locals.

E3 is now 49 days away, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is 22 days away. It's time to start getting excited about the Classics.