Laporte (right) finishing second behind teammate Wout van Aert at E3 earlier this spring.

Jumbo-Visma makes it as easy as 1-2 at E3

Transfer season pickups are quickly paying dividends for Jumbo-Visma.

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For all of Wout van Aert’s talents, if there has been a reason to doubt his chances as a Classics favorite so far in his career, it is the notion that a strong team like Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl might be able to launch one attack too many for Van Aert to follow.

As Van Aert and his Jumbo-Visma teammate Christophe Laporte claimed the top two spots on the E3 podium on Friday, however, fans could be forgiven for wondering how anyone could have ever doubted this newly emerged Classics juggernaut.

Van Aert and Laporte shot away from a select lead group on the Paterberg. Although the chase group that formed behind them featured big engines and two teams with multiple riders, theoretically helping to organize a pursuit, there would be no catching the two riders off the front. Tiesj Benoot gave Jumbo representation in the chase group as well, just for good measure. When all was said and done, Van Aert rolled over the line just ahead of Laporte with Stefan Küng taking third more than a minute and a half behind, and Benoot’s eighth-place finish gave his team three riders inside the top 10 on the day.

“The team effort was impressive,” Van Aert said after taking his first-ever E3 win. “I have to thank every single one of the guys who set us up in the final. Me and Christophe were supposed to be a bit more defensive until the Paterberg, and from there on we were together in front. Also a big thank you to Christophe who gave me this victory. It means so much to win this big Classic in Flanders and I’m really proud of my team.”

It’s not often a team makes a transfer season investment that pays dividends as quickly as we’ve seen at Jumbo-Visma, who brought both Laporte and Benoot aboard for this season to bolster the squad’s Classics credentials. It can sometimes take time for newcomers to adjust at a new team. Quite often, new transfers don’t work out at all, but the proof was in the pudding on Friday.

Things did not get off to a great start, as Tosh van der Sande crashed out of the race, but Jumbo-Visma overcame the early setback. Benoot was a constant presence at the front of a select group as the riders made their way into the most difficult part of the course, and then Van Aert’s massive acceleration on the Paterberg went unchallenged – except that Laporte was able to stick with him. Within a few minutes, it was clear that the win would come from one of the two Jumbo riders out front.

Wout van Aert and Christophe Laporte at the E3 Saxo Bank Classic.

Van Aert was ultimately the rider who crossed the line first. He said afterwards that there was no question of who would win, and that he expects Laporte and Co. to get their chances in the future. After watching Friday’s performance, it’s hard to disagree.

“There are still a lot of races to come and we’ll definitely end up in more difficult situations with maybe more guys around us, and sooner or later Christophe or someone else will get their chance,” Van Aert said. “This is how we want to race, and this is the way everybody believes we can have the biggest chance of winning.”

For his part, Laporte acknowledged that Van Aert was second to none on the day. Just the same, the Frenchman also acknowledged that it was “really incredible just to have so many riders from the team being so strong at the front of these races.” That’s probably particularly true from the perspective of a rider who spent years with the Cofidis organization, which was rarely at the pointy end of Classics like these.

Friday was already the second time on the young season that Laporte was involved in a finale where his team had the chance to simply decide who would take the win. Laporte, Primož Roglič, and Van Aert arrived at the finish of stage 1 of Paris-Nice together, in that order, earlier this month.

It’s early yet, of course, but Laporte and Benoot both seem to be great fits in a new environment that also includes a solid Mike Teunissen and Nathan Van Hooydonck too. In Van Aert, the Classics unit has a clear leader who can win one-day races in a variety of ways, but newcomers Laporte and Benoot make for excellent lieutenants. Laporte has a very fast finish of his own, while Benoot is one of the most versatile riders in the bunch who is a threat to launch an attack on practically any terrain.

As the Tour of Flanders looms, Jumbo-Visma can be cautiously optimistic about the team’s chances of keeping things up through next weekend after such a strong showing at a race often described as a “mini” Tour of Flanders.

“Bike racing is really hard. It’s one of the hardest races of the spring season,” Van Aert said of Friday’s E3. “I learned that our team is really on top of it. It’s very unfortunate that we lost Tosh already in the beginning of the race. I think it’s not going really good, I hope his injuries are still OK, that’s a shame. On the other hand, we stuck to the plan we had and every single one of us was impressive.”

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