Traditionally, the route of the E3 Harelbeke included a number of famous cobbled climbs as Taaienberg, Eikenberg, Oude Kwaremont, Patersberg and others.
Astana Team was very active during the whole race. After 80 km of racing a group of riders broke away with Laurens De Vreese among them. Later, Michael Valgren with some other riders joined De Vreese and started chasing a small group of three leaders, who, finally, played the race victory.
- Finally, we went in a break with a few more riders. In the beginning, we did it easy because we had only 2 minutes of advantage. But afterwards, our gap has increased until something four minutes and I realized that this group could go until the finish. But, some riders started to attack too early on the climbs and that was not good for me. I did maximum that I could and a bit later a group with Michael Valgren caught me. We tried to work well together and to do a good result with both of us. And I think our tactic was perfect, we did the best possible in this race. I am really happy with our team, every year we are stronger and strong in this kind of races. All guys are motivated and two days ago and today we showed some nice results. I am looking forward to the future races with our Astana Proteam, - explained Laurens De Vreese.
Thus, Belgian rider Greg Van Avermaet won the E3 Harelbeke ahead of Philippe Gilbert and Oliver Naesen. Two more riders finished 40 seconds later for 4th and 5th positions.
Michael Valgren won the sprint from the following chasing group, taking a solid 6th place. Laurens De Vreese finished 17th.
- I am happy with the race. I was sixth today and I think, that five guys in front, maybe, were not stronger, but smarter. They could go away in a right moment. But anyway, we could do a strong race as well. I am happy with the shape, I am getting better every day and it is nice to take a high place in my first race here at the E3 Harelbeke. When we caught Laurens on a climb, we started working together for a team result. Our group tried to catch two riders in front, we were close to it. But, anyway, I knew I should prepare for a sprint at the finish. So, finally, I did 6th. I can say that I had a very good support from my teammates in the beginning of the race with Matti Breschel, Dmitriy Gruzdev and Andriy Grivko always around me. We did a good race. Honestly, the race was very hard and nervous, and don’t think I’ve ever seen so many crashes in a race like today. So, I hope everybody is ok, - said Michael Valgren.
Unfortunately, Astana riders did not avoid the crashes during today’s race. Thus, Matti Breschel, Alexey Lutsenko and Oscar Gatto we involved in a few crashes but, fortunately, without big consequences.
On Sunday, March 26th Astana Proteam will take part in another UCI WorldTour classic race Gent – Wevelgem.
Photo credit: © Bettiniphoto