Niki Terpstra (Quick Step Floors) is the winner of the 2018 E3 Harelbeke. The Dutchmen went solo with over 23 kilometers remaining and nobody succeeded in chasing the 2014 Paris-Roubaix winner. Terpstra succeeds in taking the second seasonal solo victory after the one achieved at Le Samyn and proves once again that his shape is one of the best among the classics favourites and that he’s one of the main pretenders for the following Monument races. Quick Step Floors leader wins ahead of his teammate Philippe Gilbert, who won the sprint over Greg van Avermaet (BMC Racing), Oliver Naesen (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Tiesj Benoot (Lotto-Soudal). The first non-Benelux rider is Gianni Moscon (Team Sky), who crossed the finish line in eighth.
Terpstra was in the lead from 68 kilometers to go, when he went clear together with his teammate Yves Lampaert. In that stage of racing the peloton had just splitted because of a huge crash that involved several riders and fractured the bunch into two groups, one made of 30 riders and another of about 100 men. Six out of the eight who were part of the breakaway were chased with over 72 kilometers remaining and in the lead sitted only Damien Gaudin (Direct Energie) and Pim Ligthart (Roompot – Nederlandse Loterij): the latter has just became a father and understandably wanted to grandstand today. Terpstra and Lampaert chased the duo at the front of the race with 66 kilometers to home and went on together until they hit the Eikenberg (61 kilometers to go), when Lighthart and then Gaudin gave up.
In the meantime the race break out in the chase: Peter Sagan and Philippe Gilbert went clear and Tiesj Benoot, Greg van Avermaet and Zdenek Stybar soon joined the duo. On the Stationberg (57 km to go) Daniel Oss, Florien Senechal and Luke Durbridge reeled in the chase and, together with the former leaders Gaudin and Ligthart sitted 40 seconds behind the duo in the lead until the cobbled section of Mariaborrestraat made the difference: Van Avermaet attacked and Gilbert with Benoot followed the Olympic Champion, in this manner forming a trio in pursuit of Quick Step leaders.
Pratically at the bottom of the Paterberg thirty riders chased Sagan’s group and, on the iconic Ronde van Vlaanderen climb, they gained 20 seconds over the lead. Terpstra started to show on the Paterberg that he was more in shape than his teammate and everything pointed to the waiting of the Dutchman’s attack. The following Oude Kwaremont established the balances that have been kept until the finish line: Oliver Naesen, Matteo Trentin, Sep Vanmarcke, Gianni Moscon, Jasper Stuyven, Zdenek Stybar, Stefan Kung and Jurgen Roelandts opened a gap over the rest of the bunch and chased Gilbert, van Avermaet and Benoot, so making up a group of 11 behind the lead.
With over 25 kilometers remaining at first Gilbert and soon after Benoot attacked: the expert Belgian attempt succeeded in opening a gap whereas the Lotto-Soudal rider’s one just put the group in a single-file line. Soon after Lampaert recognised that Terpstra‘s pace was too high to him and allowed his teammate to go solo. Until the sign indicating 15 kilometers remaining several attacks have been attempted in the chase but none of those had the result of jumping across the gap so the chasers started to set the pace in turns with quite good complicity. This strategy allowed the chase to come closer to Terpstra but, with 6 kilometers to go, the balances were broken by Stuyven’s attack, which was the first of a number, all of each intersepted with phases where the pace went down. This situation worked in favour of Terpstra, whose advantage held on at 20″ until he crossed the finish line raising his hands to the sky.
E3 Harelbeke 2018 Results
1 TERPSTRA Niki Quick-Step Floors
2 GILBERT Philippe Quick-Step Floors + 20″
3 VAN AVERMAET Greg BMC Racing Team
4 NAESEN Oliver AG2R La Mondiale
5 BENOOT Tiesj Lotto Soudal
6 STUYVEN Jasper Trek – Segafredo
7 VANMARCKE Sep Team EF Education First-Drapac
8 MOSCON Gianni Team Sky
9 STYBAR Zdenek Quick-Step Floors
10 KÜNG Stefan BMC Racing Team
11 TRENTIN Matteo Mitchelton Scott
12 LAMPAERT Yves Quick Step Floors