Our team is the most successful in the history of the event, with eight wins from 19 participations. Kasper Asgreen came home victorious last year, and the powerful Dane will wear bib number one for this tough but spectacular race which could once again revolve around the bone-jarring Paterberg – Oude Kwaremont combo.
Asgreen finishes 10th in E3 Harelbeke
Three weeks after riding to an impressive podium finish at Strade Bianche, Kasper Asgreen was again in the thick of the action in a World Tour one-day race – this time, E3 Harelbeke, which he started with bib number one on his back following last year’s success.
One of the hardest cobbled Classics of the year, the race exploded with 80 kilometers to go, when the peloton was blown to pieces on the Taaienberg. Only a handful of riders could match the fierce tempo, including Kasper, who was later joined in the front group by Davide Ballerini and Florian Sénéchal. While the former got distanced with 60 kilometers to go, the Frenchman remained with the reigning champion, but a cruel mechanical just ahead of the Paterberg took him out of contention.
Two riders got away on the brutal double-digit gradients of the short hill that next week will feature also on the Ronde van Vlaanderen course, and quickly opened a significant gap. On the Oude Kwaremont, Asgreen rode hard and managed to reduce the margin to 16 seconds, but a lack of cooperation between the chasers helped the leading duo take out their advantage to over a minute with 30 kilometers and just a few climbs left, more or less putting an end to the others’ hopes of fighting for victory.
The group that arrived behind winner Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) contested the minor placings, and Kasper – despite the massive effort he produced in the chase – could still produce a good turn of legs and take tenth in Harelbeke, a result that augurs well ahead of the next appointments.
“We knew it was going to be a hard race, and things complicated when we lost Mikkel before the start through illness. This meant we had to start in six, but even in these conditions Jannik and Stijn did a great job controlling the breakaway. Things still looked good as we headed to the Paterberg, as we could rely on three riders in the main group, but it all changed when Florian had a flat tire. On the other hand, Kasper did a solid race and can be satisfied with his effort. It wasn’t easy, but we don’t have to panic or be afraid, just head with confidence into the next races because we are getting there”, explained Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl sports director Tom Steels.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele / Getty Images