E3 BinckBanck Classics kickstarts main cobbles season

The renamed E3 BinckBank Classic, formerly E3 Harelbeke, takes place on Friday 29th March and begins 10 days of glorious racing in Flanders. The parcours features 15 punchy climbs – ‘helligen’ – which are mainly concentrated into the second part of the 203.9km route. A number of cobbled section also appear in the latter stages, with increasing frequency in the final 50km, providing opportunities and danger in equal measure. The last 19km are flat, offering other opportunities, as last year’s second-placed Philippe Gilbert (Infinito R1 shoes) discovered – can he go one better this year? An impressive peloton of WorldTour riders line up including…


Belgium’s Jürgen Roeland’s leads the Spanish team and is assisted by a mainly Spanish cast including José Joaquin Rojas, Carlos Barbero and Jorge Arcas. The 33-year-old has enjoyed a relatively modest start to 2019 but has a style proven to suit this terrain and may go under the radar in his new blue Movistar jersey.


Sky has several chances of victory in the form of Luke Rowe, Gianni Moscon, Ian Stannard and Owain Doull. Rowe already has 26 days of racing in his legs so will be physically and tactically primed to challenge. Moscon has far fewer race miles in his legs but will look to improve upon his eighth in 2018. And don’t rule out Doull and Stannard. Doull recorded the best result of his career to date with second at the recent Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, while at 31, Stannard’s strength is suited to the cobbles and climbs of E3.


Three-time Cyclocross World Champion Wout van Aert leads the Dutch team, less than a month after joining. The 24-year-old Belgian’s certainly made an impressive impression, finishing third and sixth at Strade Bianche and Milan-Sanremo, respectively. Also look out for Danny van Poppel if E3 comes down to an albeit unlikely sprint finish.


Oliver Naesen is one of the race favorites and with good reason. The 28-year-old Belgian finished second at last Saturday’s Milan-Sanremo and third and fourth at E3 in 2017 and 2018, respectively. Naesen (Antares R1 saddle and Infinito R1 shoes) is supported by a strong sextet including 2018 Paris-Roubaix runner-up Silvan Dillier.


The French ProContinental team will look to the likes of experienced Belgian rider Dimitri Claeys to keep in contention of what’s sure to be a challenging opening to the main cobbles season.