Wout Van Aert defended his title at the E3 Prijs Harelbeke Saxo Classic Etc. today by outfoxing perpetual rival Mathieu van der Poel who left a little too much on the roads of the Vlaamse Ardennen and couldn’t match the Jumbo man’s turn of speed in the last 50 meters. The two, plus UAE’s Tadej Pogačar, had long since left the rest behind, thanks to accelerations by van der Poel starting on the Taaienberg and by Pogačar on the Paterberg and Oude Kwaremont, which separated them from a group with a few teammates and compatriots (Mohorič, Van Hooydonck, Kragh) as well as the main field of Cobbles aces, none of whom were either willing or able to keep up with the big favorites. Of the three, Van Aert looked occasionally like he was barely holding on, especially on the Oude Kwaremont where he was briefly dropped before the gradient eased and he ground his way back to contention. From there it was a long uneventful trudge back to Harelbeke for the sprint.
Pogačar started things but van der Poel tracked him down, then came around from some distance. Van Aert, though, had played his hand better, countering a few seconds later and winding up to a speed which was just a touch beyond what the Alpecin man could muster. Maybe it was that extra chain lube he got on the road back into town.
Movistar’s Matteo Jorgenson soloed away from the chasers for fourth place, the best finish by an American in the race’s history and the best Movistar performance — with neither the team nor the country having ever placed in the top five. Iván García Cortina got Movi fifth too, a nice statement that maybe they belong here at last.
- VAN AERT Wout, Jumbo-Visma, 4:44:59
- VAN DER POEL Mathieu, Alpecin-Deceuninck, s.t.
- POGAČAR Tadej, UAE Team Emirates, s.t.
- JORGENSON Matteo, Movistar Team, at 0:33
- GARCÍA CORTINA Iván, Movistar Team, at 0:44
- KÜNG Stefan, Groupama - FDJ, at 0:56
- MOHORIČ Matej, Bahrain - Victorious, s.t.
- MADOUAS Valentin, Groupama - FDJ, at 1:25
- KRAGH ANDERSEN Søren, Alpecin-Deceuninck, at 1:31
- GANNA Filippo, INEOS Grenadiers, s.t.
Harelbeke - Harelbeke 202.1 km
The big party-Friday of the Flanders weeks. The biggest riders racing with more aggression and less pressure than in the Ronde which makes for a fun day almost always.
Estimated finish time: 16:40-17:15 CET.
Party animal of the Day: Matej Mohoric
Call it a hunch, he’ll strike lucky at some point.